“What are you passionate about” is a common interview question that seems straightforward. However, answering it can be trickier than you’d think!
This resource goes over how to answer this question and make a great impression in the process.
The Reason Interviewers Ask This Question
When interviewing for a new job, hearing a question that seems unrelated to the position can catch you off guard. But while “What are you passionate about?” might seem unrelated to the job, it unveils some important information about you.
Interviewers ask about your passions for a few different reasons.
The first is to learn more about who you are as a person. They genuinely want to know what your interests are and how you choose to spend your time when you’re not at work.
Interviewers may also ask this question to take some of the pressure off during the interview and give you the opportunity to talk about something that is truly important to you.
“What are you passionate about?” is a great way to show interviewers that your life doesn’t necessarily revolve around work. You have other things to keep you happy, which could ultimately benefit your work performance.
Another reason this question comes up is that it helps interviewers gauge your fit. While your passions don’t necessarily have to relate directly to the job, they can unveil more about what you have to bring to the table. For example, the skills you employ in your hobbies can translate to your job.
Every bit of information interviewers can gather about you makes a difference. Even seemingly unrelated questions like this matter.
How to Answer “What Are You Passionate About?”
You might think that sharing what you’re passionate about is easy. However, this question still requires a bit of thought. While there’s no universally correct answer, preparing your response to this question strategically can give you the upper hand.
Here are a few tips for developing an impactful answer that can work in your favor.
1. Be Honest
Here’s an important tip to remember when answering this question. Be honest and talk about something you’re truly passionate about in life.
Many job-seekers make the mistake of making assumptions about what the interviewers want to hear. They make up a hobby or try to talk about a hobby they believe the interviewer wants to hear.
That’s not the right approach. It doesn’t matter whether the interviewer is genuinely interested in your hobbies or if they share the same passions. The goal is to show that you’re a passionate and energetic person with things you care about beyond work.
Making something up on the spot only comes off as disingenuous. Interviewers can usually see through those lies (especially if they ask you to elaborate). Not being honest could hurt your chances of getting a job.
Don’t make that mistake. Think of something you care about and talk about it honestly.
2. Pick a Passion You’re Engaged In & Knowledgeable About
The best way to respond to this interview question is to discuss a passion you’re actively engaged in. Avoid hobbies you’ve only performed a handful of times or something you haven’t practiced in years. Instead, choose a passion you’re well-versed in and know a great deal about.
Think about what you do in your off time or what passions led you to the career you have. Doing this will benefit you in a couple of ways.
First, answering with something you’re knowledgeable about adds authenticity to your response. It’s often painfully obvious when you’re making things up on the spot. You might sound ill-informed if you talk about something you don’t have a grasp of in your answer.
But if you bring up a passion where you have tons of experience under your belt, you can pepper in facts that show you know what you’re talking about. That knowledge solidifies your honesty.
Secondly, choosing a passion you’re engaged in prepares you to answer follow-up questions. These topics can easily branch out, and your interviewer may ask you to share more. For example, they may ask about your toughest adventure if you say you’re passionate about rock climbing.
Answering those on-the-spot follow-ups can be tough unless you have true experience and knowledge.
3. Relate It to the Job
It always pays to relate your passions to your job in some way. Interviewers love to hear this, and it can reaffirm your interest in the position.
Again, it’s important to refrain from being disingenuous and discussing passions you think the interviewer wants to hear. But think about time management, dedication, communication skills or other broad skills you may have developed as a result of being active in pursuing your passion.
The connection may not be obvious initially, but you can frame your answer in a way that ties everything together. Think about how your passions relate to your career or helped you grow. You may not have realized it, but they could play a substantial role in who you are today.
For example, say that you’re passionate about charity work. You love to spend your free time volunteering with organizations that support causes you care about and enjoy making your community better. That’s something that you can easily connect to many jobs.
If you’re getting a job in sales, you could mention that your ability to help people find products that meet their needs fulfills that side of your personality. If you work in customer service, that passion feeds into your capacity to empathize with others and find solutions that make a difference.
There are many ways to connect the dots. Think creatively and relate it to the position to leave a lasting impression.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Provide Details & Examples
Most people have no problem sharing what they’re passionate about, especially if they have a lot of knowledge in the area. But in an interview setting, you might feel like you have to err on the side of caution and pull back on your enthusiasm.
However, interviewers usually appreciate it when you go into detail. Don’t provide simple one-word answers. Talk about why this means so much to you. You can even talk about an important moment or specific example of something that happened that illustrates your passions in action.
Going into more detail is a great way to cement your love for the things you care about most. It adds a touch of authenticity and can put your personality on display.
“What are you passionate about?” isn’t an interview question that requires a long-winded answer. However, it’s always a good idea to have a response with meat to it. That said, if the interviewer asks you to elaborate and provide more details, be prepared to do so.
Mistakes to Avoid In Your Answer
Discussing what you’re passionate about seems easy enough, but there are many avoidable mistakes you can make. The quality of your response matters, and it’s important to keep the following missteps in mind when forming your answer.
Avoid Anything That’s Not Appropriate for Work
This should go without saying but stick to safe-for-work topics. Never talk about passions or interests that can be misconstrued. Hobbies that are controversial or polarizing can work against you.
Follow best practices for the workplace environment. If it’s not something you can talk about at the water cooler, it’s definitely not something you should bring up during an interview. While interviewers try not to use their biases against candidates, there’s always a chance that you might paint a picture of yourself that they don’t like.
Please keep it clean and avoid anything remotely controversial.
Don’t Make Things Up on the Spot
This tip goes beyond lying.
One of the biggest mistakes you can avoid is not preparing responses before your interview. It’s impossible to know what questions interviewers will ask you, but you can prepare as much as you can to avoid stumbling over your words.
Spend some time considering what you’re passionate about and have something in mind when the question comes up. Knowing and doing are two separate things. It always pays to practice your answer out loud at least once to see how it sounds and feels.
Steer Clear of Passions That Affect Your Work
This is a mistake that you could easily make. Overemphasizing your hobbies could give hiring managers the wrong idea about how much time you devote to them. The last thing you want to do is talk about something that’s exceedingly time intensive.
For example, you might want to talk about how traveling and seeing the world is the most important thing to you. But if you choose to use this example, it would be wise to make it clear that work is a priority.
An interviewer can take an answer like that as a cue for not-so-great things to come. They might assume you’ll constantly be asking for time off to indulge in your traveling hobby. As a result, hiring managers might think twice about extending an offer.
Avoid Responses That Make You Sound Transitory
Finally, ensure that your answer doesn’t make it sound like you view work as a hurdle to your dream job. Again, this is a mistake that’s surprisingly easy to make. There should be a clear distinction between what you’re passionate about, and your career. Otherwise, interviewers might think you’re there for all the wrong reasons.
Say that your passion is music. If you go into detail about how you’ve been a musician your entire life and always envisioned yourself as becoming a professional artist, hiring managers will think that your career takes a backseat. They may worry that you’ll jump at the first opportunity, making your job at the organization nothing more than a way to make money until you can go full-time with your hobby.
There are many ways to approach this question. Every response is different, and there’s no universally correct way to answer. However, these examples will serve as a great jumping-off point to inspire you as you develop something unique to your life and career.
In our first example answer, the interviewee is seeking employment with an organization looking for a front-end developer. Their passion is directly linked to the job, but they discuss how it relates to the position in detail. It works because it illustrates why this individual is a prime candidate who will deliver the best work possible.
“My biggest passion is technology. I’ve always been interested in computers. Ever since my family got our first PC with dial-up, I’ve worked to understand as much as I can about technology and how it changes lives.
It led me to pursue a degree in Computer Science and continues to be something that fascinates me. As a front-end developer, I get to be part of the user experience. I love that I have a role in shaping the Internet as we know it and seeing how sites evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of users.”
Our second example isn’t as cut-and-dry as the first one. However, it’s a good response that shows dedication to self-improvement and development. Interviewers love to hear answers like this because it shows that candidates are willing to improve and avoid complacency.
“One thing that’s important to me in my life is self-improvement. It’s a passion that I apply to both my career and personal life. I believe you’re never too old to stop learning, and I strive to challenge myself as much as possible.
That’s why I got into marketing. This industry presents challenge after challenge. A big part of being successful in the marketing world is to solve one problem before moving on to the next, ensuring the continual improvement of campaigns and strategies.
I’ve learned a lot about problem-solving and communication, and it never gets old working in this field.”
Our final example involves a unique passion you don’t hear about too often. The candidate is interviewing for a position in customer service. Their response perfectly connects their passion to the job while providing food for thought.
“One thing that’s important to me is destigmatizing mental health. I’m a big advocate for incorporating therapy as part of normal self-care, and I often volunteer at crisis centers and counseling facilities. I believe that taking care of your mental health can benefit your life in many ways.
Not only does it help you manage your emotions more effectively, but it can lead to more productive relationships, better work performance, and all-around happier living.
I’m lucky to be able to utilize some of the things I learned volunteering in my career. A big part of reaching out to those in need and reassuring them that they’re not alone is to practice empathy. I do that every day in customer service, and I truly believe that it’s a skill that every agent in this industry needs to have to be successful.”
“What are you passionate about?” isn’t hard to answer once you know how to approach it. And that’s a good thing because it’s a question you’ll almost certainly get asked!
Be honest, stay professional, connect it to the job whenever possible, and you’ll be just fine.
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.