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How do I discuss my hobbies and interests in a job application or interview?

Ivonna Beches guides you through a section of your CV or interview that’s never as simple as it seems.

As a current, hopeful or potential employee, you may have already come across the problematic ‘personal hobbies / interests’ section of a job application. If not, brace yourself for it, because it can be a fairly common requirement. In fact, some employers advise potential employees to have such a section incorporated into their CV. It may seem like a completely harmless requirement, but just like the ‘Tell us a bit about yourself’ question in an interview, the personal interests section on an application can be both hard to complete and have more pitfalls than a carefully planned ambush.

Why does it exist?

The first and most important thing to mention here is that the question is not intended as a trap. In fact, it’s most likely there to give the application you are filling in a more human aspect.  Many other people could have your qualifications for example, but you alone have a set of unique experiences that set you apart. An interesting hobby mentioned in a resume could potentially lead to an engaging conversation in the subsequent interview and in turn could be the deciding factor between being rejected or accepted for the job..

However, remember that one thing you shouldn’t be too concerned with at an interview is becoming friends with your future boss. While information about hobbies and interests is an important aspect, like any other information you give out it must be carefully chosen and filtered to present the best possible version of you as a person.

What does it say about you?

In an article on The Interview Doctor, author Katherine Burik mentions that questions about hobbies tend to be very silly but sometimes inevitable. Probably the most relevant tip is to 'Stick with something related to the job.' No employer wants to hear about your rare coin collection if it doesn’t help illustrate an indispensable skill for the job you applied for.

On the other hand, if you have a particularly quirky or exciting hobby, keep it 'interesting and kind of generic...something that might spark a conversation.' People are drawn to other people who are fascinating and passionate. But do not lie in a bid to make yourself look more interesting. Remember, employers want to know if the real you is suitable for the position they are offering, and the main reason for a rejection will never be that ‘you were just not charming enough.’

How do I make it relevant?

Always return back to the main point; ‘and this is why I believe I would be a perfect candidate for the position.’ Each and every section or question on an application form or in an interview has a set purpose. They are all meant to test the way you think and react, and tell the employer standard things about every applicant while also helping to differentiate between applicants.

Never underestimate the silly questions; the answers you choose to write down for them may be the ones potential employers read through most carefully. 

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