How to Answer: "What Are You Passionate About?"

When you go to an interview, you expect questions about your work history, skills, and drive to succeed. The last thing you expect is for the hiring manager to ask you a personal question like, “What are you passionate about?” Can they even ask that?

whats your passion

They can and do. Asking about your passions isn’t among those interview questions that aren't allowed. In fact, it’s one of the more popular in hiring managers’ repertoire. Here’s why that is and how you can best prepare for it.

Why ask what you are passionate about?

Like any good interview question, the hiring manager uses it to assess if you’re qualified and will fit within the company’s culture. This one feels odd because passions—whether hobbies, volunteer work, social gatherings, or intellectual pursuits—are typically seen as something to do outside work.

But your passions say a lot about you. People who pursue passions are self-motivated. They have a zest for life that prevents mere coasting. And they often develop hard and soft skills in pursuit of their best life. All of which are beneficial for employers.

The question also begins the process of building rapport and opens up more introverted candidates. You can see why hiring managers use it.

Your passions and you

Your goal is to develop an answer that demonstrates the skills employers value. A couple things to note right away.

First, don’t answer the question with, “My job!” That may be true, but it comes across as forced and insincere. The hiring manager wants to know what passion makes you you.

Second, it doesn’t have to be job specific. A more personalized passion is preferable and can still demonstrate your skills.

Say you are passionate about cheese. The hiring manager may not know her Brie de Meaux from her Irish cheddar with whiskey veins. However, that European trip you planned with your cheese-connoisseur group required coordination, communication, a willingness to explore and learn, and the ability to engage with people of diverse backgrounds.

Pursuing passions requires skills. The key is to recognize them and devise an answer to highlight them.

Developing a passionate answer

Obviously, your answer will depend on your passions. Gardening, painting, and coaching each have different skill sets. Even so, these helpful tips should help anyone craft a terrific response.

Pick a true passion. Don’t say what you think the hiring manager wants to hear. It’s difficult to fake passion; go with something you truly love. The hiring manager may have follow-up questions, too, so you’ll want that intimate knowledge.

Consider your audience. Some passions are not fit for the office. Set those aside for the interview. Also, don’t discuss a passion at odds with the position or the company’s values.

Relate it to the job. Review the job posting for its desired hard and soft skills. Then consider how your passion and those skills match. This can help you connect your passion to the position naturally. A competitive runner, for example, could incorporate his commitment and goal setting skills in his answer.

Give concrete examples. Examples invigorate interview answers and help the hiring manager visualize how your passion connects to the job or company culture. Our runner could tell the story of how he trained for a year (commitment) to succeed in running a 10k in under 45 minutes (goal setting and completion).

Explain why you’re passionate. This helps build rapport, adds sincerity, and gives the hiring manager some insight about you. You’ll want to show your passion in your tone and body language, too. Just be careful to not overemphasize.

Stand out by being you

Companies want you for your skills and your smarts, but they also need to find someone who will fit the company culture, can grow within the position, and whose individuality makes them a joy to have as a coworker. Your passions reveal these things about you and show what makes you one-of-a-kind. Given this, "What are you passionate about?" shouldn't be seen as a peculiar question but as a welcomed opportunity.

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