“What do you enjoy doing in your free time?”
This is a great early interview question to get because it’s open-ended, low-pressure, and sets a comfortable tone for the rest of the interview.
While this is one of the easier questions on the roster, there are still a few pitfalls to watch out for. This article will break it all down.
Variations Of This Question
The first step is to know the different variations of this interview question, as some interviewers will phrase it another way.
These are the usual suspects:
- What do you like to do for fun?
- What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time?
- What do you like to do in your spare time?
- What do you like to do on your days off?
- How do you enjoy spending your time off work?
- How do you like to spend your days off?
- What things do you like to do when you’re not working?
What The Interviewer Really Wants To Know
Interviewers ask this question to get a feel for your hobbies and interests.
This will also help them to see how you may fit into the company culture, and if you’ll get along with your colleagues.
What you do in your spare time says a lot about your personality, especially when comparing team-oriented interests (like playing sports) to solo endeavors (like writing poetry).
They also want to see that you do something with this time, as studies show people who have a life outside of work are usually more productive at work.
These are just a few of the benefits associated with having outside interests:
- They give you a sense of accomplishment
- They provide you with new challenges and problems to solve
- They can be a form of stress relief
- They help increase focus and energy levels
How To Answer: “What Do You Enjoy Doing In Your Free Time?”
Your answer should ideally consist of three parts, and they work best if presented in the order listed below:
1. Tell Them Your Hobby Or Interest
Start by telling the interviewer what your hobby or interest is. And no, it doesn’t have to be related to the job you’re applying for.
In fact, offering up something totally unrelated to your professional life shows depth in your personality, and leaves ammunition in the chamber for more work-related questions later on.
Whatever your hobby is, make sure it’s something you’re passionate about and requires a fair amount of dedication and effort on your part.
Make a list of everything you do regularly in your spare time (that includes everything from gaming to knitting), and use the one that demonstrates your most admirable skills and traits.
If you enjoy watching movies, that’s great, but it doesn’t really give you much to offer other than crushing it during your local pub’s trivia night.
If you write a blog about movies, that’s different. That requires you to learn skills associated with creating a website and content.
2. Explain Why You Enjoy It
What about this hobby or activity interests you, specifically?
Saying “it’s fun” isn’t going to cut it. You need to be able to articulate the different components that actually make it fun.
These are some questions to ask yourself:
- Is it something that excites me?
- If so, why does it excite me?
- Is it something that challenges me?
- If so, how does it challenge me?
- Is it something relaxes me?
- If so, why does it relax me?
For example, let’s take rock climbing.
It’s exciting because there’s an element of risk involved. One mistake can lead to injury and sometimes even death. It’s challenging because it requires strategic movement and a strong grip that takes time and practice to develop.
It doesn’t take a fellow rock climber to understand or even resonate with these reasons, and that’s exactly what you need to aim for when finding your justification.
Dig deep. Find your why.
3. Mention Any Related Goals (Optional)
Talking about your hobbies and activities outside is a great segue into your personal goals, ambitions, and values.
In other words, you can talk yourself up without it sounding forced or unnatural.
For example, you might enjoy playing the guitar, and that’s a craft that takes years to master. Even then, you’ll probably always be developing it.
So, by telling the interviewer your goal is to eventually master playing the guitar, you’re also communicating a level of commitment and determination most people simply don’t possess.
These are personality traits that reflect well on you as a potential employee.
Putting It All Together (Example Answers)
How about we put the theory into practice?
Below are some examples following the interview answer structure we laid out above. Feel free to use these and change them as needed.
Example #1: Cooking
“I really enjoy cooking when I’m not at work.
Unlike a lot of people, I find it relaxing to prepare food. I get a lot of satisfaction from putting together a meal from scratch and feel a sense of pride when I sit down to devour my creation.
There’s also an endless supply of recipes that one can get lost in. It pushes me to try new things and refine my skills in the kitchen.
Additionally, I also gain a lot of insight into different cultures through the ingredients and preparation techniques they use for their dishes.”
Example #2: Bladesmithing
“I recently took up a new interest in bladesmithing, which is the art of making knives, swords, and other blades.
It requires a lot of knowledge as well as physical exertion, which challenges me every time I start a new project.
Not every blade goes as planned, so you have to be resilient when it comes to accepting your failure and seeing it as a stepping stone toward making progress with the craft.
From the types of metals that can be used, to the designs, to the techniques used to create them, and even selecting the proper handle materials, I love that there are endless possibilities that can be explored.”
Example #3: Lap Swimming
“I really enjoy staying active, and lap swimming is my go-to activity.
I’m not really one for exercising at the gym, so I like that it’s a full body workout that produces great results in as little as 30 minutes.
Lap swimming is also a good way to clear my mind after a long day at work, and I find that being in water has therapeutic benefits that other exercise programs can’t match.
I’ll also add that beating my personal record each week is a challenge I look forward to, and is probably one of the main reasons I’ve been so consistent with going.”
How NOT To Answer
As flexible as you can often be with your answer to this question, there are certain things you should always avoid.
Let’s talk about them:
Don’t Say You Have No Hobbies
If you don’t currently have any hobbies or interests, you’re going to have find one. Fast.
When you answer this question by saying you don’t really do anything outside of work, it makes you come across as boring and one-dimensional.
Employers want to see that you’re a well-rounded individual who others can talk to and relate to. If you have zero interests outside of work, you’re probably not going to be the most popular person at the water cooler.
Don’t Mention Any Controversial Hobbies
You should avoid talking about hobbies that can potentially upset people.
If you inadvertently offend the interviewer by engaging in something they personally disagree with, they may skip over you regardless of how well you handled this question or any that follow.
Examples of controversial hobbies include hunting, taxidermy, shooting, and protesting.
Avoid Anything Related To The Big 4
There’s an old saying that you shouldn’t ever bring up politics, religion, race, or sex during work hours, and there’s certainly some truth in that.
Although we live in a fast-paced, progressive world, the big 4 are still highly divisive issues.
Similar to controversial hobbies, you should avoid bringing up any outside interests that link you to the big 4 if you want to make a great first impression.
- Learn the different variations of this question.
- Familiarize yourself with the most likely lead up questions.
- Tell them your hobby or interest.
- Explain why you chose it (why you enjoy it).
- If possible, tie it to a positive personality trait.
- Avoid any controversial hobbies.