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How to Answer: What Are You Passionate About?

Make the interviewer want to get to know you better

A designer working on sketches she is passionate about
Photo courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio

We’re so much more than our work. When your interviewer asks, “what are you passionate about,” you have the chance to talk about your hobbies, side-hustles, and whatever else motivates you in life. Your response will reveal more about who you are than they can deduce from your resume, and if you’ll likely fit in with the company culture. Plus, there are smart ways to tie your answer back to the job or company in the interview.

How to answer: What are you passionate about?

1. Talk about a passion you’re actively involved in

When choosing a passion to talk about, make sure that you’re currently involved in that passion somehow. Never give a fake answer just because you think you’ll impress your interviewer. It’s important to show how your interests fit into your life and prove that you follow-through on what you believe in.

I love fostering shelter animals. I’ve always loved animals, and I’ve fostered over ten dogs in the past year. I love pampering these animals who’ve been neglected and abused their entire lives—it gives me a real purpose. I was so excited when I saw [Company Name] had a dog-friendly office policy!

2. Make sure you’re knowledgeable about the passion

There’s a 99 percent chance your interviewer will ask you follow-up questions about your passion, so it’s in your best interest to pick a passion that you can easily talk about. Don’t say you’re passionate about reading if you can’t discuss any recent books you’ve read.

Reading is one of my greatest passions. I love getting lost in stories and feeling the joy or pain of fictional characters—it’s so powerful. I just read The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict, and it was incredibly thought-provoking. It’s about actress Hedy Lamarr and her secret life as a scientist and inventor. It made me think about human potential and what we’re all capable of achieving.

3. Give concrete examples

Don’t just say, “I’m passionate about running,” and stop there—dig a little deeper and tell a story related to your passion. This is your chance to open up and talk about something that honestly excites you.

I absolutely love running. Years ago I used to hate it, but I forced myself to run to get some exercise. Once I got in the routine of running my favorite trails, I fell in love with it and run all the time to clear my head now. I spent the past year training, and I actually just ran my first marathon in Portland a few weeks ago. Now I’m committed to running a marathon every two years.

Read more: How to Answer: Do You Want to Tell Us Anything Else About You?

4. Make a connection to the job or company

When possible, tie your answer back to the job, and communicate why your passions would make you an asset to the company. Before your interview, familiarize yourself with the hard and soft skills required for the position and tailor your answer accordingly.

I love writing about food. In college, I started a simple food blog so I could write restaurant recommendations and share recipes I concocted at home. I’ve developed it over the years, and it’s become a real passion project for me. I think the skills I honed from developing my own website will help me succeed here at [Company Name].

5. Explain why you’re passionate

Explaining the background behind your passions adds sincerity and gives more insight into who you are and how that’ll translate into being an employee. For example, explaining that your passion for art stems from a desire for a creative outlet and way to unwind after work will mean more.

I'm passionate about creating art. I take an evening art class once a week and try to find time each weekend to just create something, whether it’s sketching, painting, or collaging. I was looking for a way to destress after a busy week at work, and I found that art was the perfect outlet for me. It’s also great to tap into my creative side and let my imagination run wild. I’ve found that it helps me to be more creative in other aspects of my life, and some of my best work ideas come to me while I’m creating art.

Read more:How to Ask for a Professional Reference (with Examples)

Best practices when answering this question

  • Choose a passion that shows your authority: There’s no better way to show your competence than by being an authority on a subject. Pick something that shows your depth of interest.

  • Be honest: Don’t make something up or oversell something you’re only casually interested in. What if there are follow up questions that you can’t answer? Be yourself to avoid being called out.

  • Keep the passion PC: All passions are exciting to be a part of, but not all of them are appropriate to share in the workplace. If you wouldn’t share your passion with your grandparents, keep it to yourself during an interview.

  • Be enthusiastic: You’re passionate about knitting! How exciting. Be proud of who you are, and show that pride by explaining how long it took you to master your craft.

  • Practice your answer beforehand: To draw a natural connection to the company where you’re applying, practice what you want to talk about and why.

11 hiring managers, recruiters, and career coaches on why they're asking & what they're looking for

1. Authenticity with an eye for business

“I've served as a search committee member and interviewed candidates. I usually look for an authentic response that speaks to culture fit. Most candidates go with something generic like,‘I'm passionate about helping your customers!’ However, I like to hear what they're actually passionate about, whether that's social justice, binge watching Netflix, or something totally different. Be engaging; share a fun fact about your passion. Tell me what you're passionate about then explain how that makes you an asset to the company.” —Kaila K., Coached by Kaila

2. Authority & delivery

“Like most interview questions, more than anything I’m trying to suss out how the individual candidate thinks and communicates. An answer of‘I’m not really passionate about anything to be honest’ is just as good as a deep dive into the ins and outs of K-pop stan culture for my purposes. It’s really about giving the candidate space to speak to something they’re the authority on—their own personal passions—and taking note of how they go about it.” —Daniel S., InHerSight

3. A strong tie to the company

“It has to relate to the job you’re going to get. I’ve literally had people say,‘Gosh, what I’m really passionate about is racecars.’ Um, okay, we’re hiring for life insurance. [laughs] So it has to relate to the job, and I’m looking for someone who, when they answer that question, I can see in their body language that they mean what they’re saying. Most people who are super passionate are teachers about what they’re passionate about. I want to learn something from them when they tell me about this passion. I also want to be drawn in by it, to feel the contagiousness. But I want it to be, then, something that I can put to use.” —Melinda H., The HUB Leadership Consulting and Ball State University

4. A quick personality assessment

“I’ve asked toned-down versions of that question with the intent of understanding what types of activities, at a high level, get them excited. Are they an organizer? Are they a builder? Are they a strategist? Are they a caretaker? Are they a peacemaker? It’s not really about the specific activity or interest, but how it speaks to the way they think, operate, and communicate.” —Barbara C., InHerSight

5. Diversity of thought

“As a hiring manager, I am looking for someone whose eyes light up with enthusiasm, and who articulates a clear narrative on what they value. Interviewees often give the answer they think employers want to hear. That's a cop out, and it shows. Research confirms that diverse perspectives, life experiences, fields of education, hobbies, volunteer work, and even favorite literature or movies—these things all fuel diversity of thought and creative problem solving. Dissimilar perspectives are invigorating and incredibly valuable. Such contributions actually encourage dynamic teamwork, cultivate rewarding work environments, and fuel successful careers. Help me see where you shine bright so I can envision how you could lift up my team.” —Deborah H., Duke University

6. Relatability

“I’m looking for if I can relate to or learn from this person outside her work realm.” —Sunny L., InHerSight

7. Like-minded enthusiasm

“In all likelihood, an interviewer wants to hear your enthusiasm and excitement when answering this question, so be authentic in your answer... and also think about how you might relate your passions back to the company, job, or company values. For example:‘I love samba because it is a beautiful art form and something that really challenges me to continue to learn and push my body and my ability to express myself. I know learning together is one of the company values here, and it's something that I really try to live in my samba practice and in life.’” —Dana H. and Jenna R., Career Cooperative

8. To connect with you

“When I ask that question, I really just want to know what they love to do or engage with. It’s one step away from, ‘What do you do for fun?’ for me, and the difference in what I'm hoping to get with the passion question is some indication of the why and maybe how people might know them. If they said‘nothing,’ I’d probably be disappointed but would appreciate the honesty.” —Ursula M., InHerSight

9. To make the interview more relaxed

“Whenever I've asked a question similar to this, it's generally just to learn a little more about them. Interviews are often very buttoned-up affairs and sometimes when you ask a question like this and get them talking about something non-work-related (or work-related but that they are passionate about) you can see their real personality a little more clearly. I wouldn't say I'm looking for any sort of answer in particular, and I probably would be turned off by an answer of 'nothing,' whether that is fair or not.” —Ashely H., InHerSight

10. Your ability to see beyond yourself

“Honestly? I’m looking for any answer. I want to hear the person’s engagement and intensity towards something beyond themselves. Some might call it a‘fire in the belly.’ I want to know that there is an idea, cause, or interest that moves them to action. I also want to know what exactly have they done to further or support this passion. And the final thing I want to know is‘why’ this is their passion.” —Amy R., Soul Advantage

11. To see the real you

“For my company, we are trying to crack through the stiff interview-speak and find the real you in there. We want to see you let your guard down and get excited. We want to see your eyes light up. We want to understand what motivates you—something that drives you forward. And we want to connect and be excited right along with you! We have learned that people who have genuine passions outside of work tend to be happier and more engaged, productive team members, and just more interesting coworkers.” —Judy H., Punchcut

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