How to answer “What are you passionate about?” in a job interview

Job interviews can be awkward, especially when you think about sharing your innermost hopes and dreams with a total stranger. That’s why candidates stress out about how to answer one particular question: what are you passionate about? Find out what employers really mean by this question and examples of great responses to reduce stress before your next job interview.

What Does it Mean? Decoding the Passion Question

It may sound corny, but it’s true: Employers want to know who they’re hiring, including what motivates that person. The question is intended to get at things like drive and professional interest, but employers do want something a touch personal here. If you’re passionate about something that totally lines up with the job (say hiking and you’re interviewing to be a park ranger), then it’s natural to come up with a great answer.

The trouble is, if you go on about your abiding love of a hobby or passion for a subject that’s not germane to the job at hand, they could wonder whether you’ll last if hired. Or if you’re not super passionate about anything because you’re still figuring it out, you risk coming off as wishy-washy.

“If you are a self-motivated worker with a strong work ethic and passion for your success. This is the place for you.” – anonymous employer review at Sleep Insights

How to Answer “What are You Passionate About?”

While this question can be stressful, the good news is you can anticipate it–it’s one of the commonly asked job interview questions. That gives you time to prepare a response ahead of time–and to think about ways to connect the activities you enjoy back to the job, even if it feels like a stretch.

Start by thinking about what you actually like doing. If you’re one of those people who feel like they’re not sure what their passion is, think about how you spend your time. One a three-day weekend, what would you do with that extra day?

“Riverland listened to my passion about my job and knew I would be a great fit.” – anonymous employer review at Riverland Nursery

A few examples that fit the bill might include running marathons, baking, watercolor painting, volunteering in your community, or attending live music events. Select one (or even a few). While it’s less important what you say than how you pivot the question to a related skill, you’ll want to avoid anything that could be too controversial–say, a pole dancing hobby.

Once you’ve got your interest selected, brainstorm a few examples of how you pursue that passion. Example answer: For the last three months, I’ve been volunteering with a children’s art program every Tuesday night. I’m currently teaching an intro to the watercolor course. I love it because the children are so creative and it’s so fun to give back to the community. 

How to Relate it Back to the Job

What people sometimes forget to do (and what you’ll want to do to stand out) is to relate your passion back to the job. That’s easy if your passion is volunteer work and the job would allow you to continue to serve that community. It’s a natural next step for you!

If your passion feels unrelated, like running or baking, think about the soft skills that passion demonstrates. There may be ways to relate the skills more directly toward the role, so read over the job description while preparing.

“Your passion for innovation, and the pride that comes with doing what you do best, will be rewarded at every level.” – employer statement at UPS

Example answer:  

I’m a passionate baker, and recently I had the opportunity to bake a cake for my sister’s baby shower. Baking helps me unwind on the weekend. Not only do I love bringing in yummy treats to share with coworkers, but I’ve honed skills like attention to detail and ability to follow directions through my hobby. 

Example answer:

I’m currently training for a marathon–my third. I do long runs twice a week after work and once over the weekend. It’s a great way to stay in shape and make new friends. I like to think the endurance and grit I’ve built through running carry over to my professional life. 

Need more job interview help? Don’t forget to bone up on other commonly asked job interview questions.

This article first appeared on Kununu.