how do I tell an interviewer about my hobbies when my hobbies are kind of boring?

A reader writes:

I’m new to the job market (I went straight from college to law school and only just graduated this spring), and it’s going pretty well so far, but there’s one thing I’ve gotten conflicting information about/reactions to.

I don’t put hobbies on my resume, but they have come up in some of my interviews. I’ve been advised by career services and my parents to mention hobbies that speak to my career/personality in some way (for example, being an avid runner might indicate dedication despite hardship, or skydiving might show risk-taking).

My problem is, I’m a homebody, and my hobbies are honestly kind of boring. I knit, I bake, I read, I watch Netflix, I spend time with my significant other … and that’s about it. I do put effort into my crafty hobbies (I like teaching myself new knitting techniques or recipes), but they’re not particularly unique or interesting, nor am I an expert in them by any means. I’m afraid of giving the impression that I’m a grandma trapped in a 20-something’s body. Am I overthinking this and should just be honest about my hobbies when I’m asked about them? Should I try to put some sort of career-ish spin on them when asked?

The thing with hobbies, when they come up in interviews, is that they’re very unlikely to get you rejected (assuming they’re not, like, binge drinking or B&E’s). Occasionally they’re a plus, but more often then not, they’re a neutral.

The times when they’re a plus are when they spark rapport with your interviewer (“You forage for wild mushrooms? So do I!”), make you more interesting or memorable in some way (although I tend to think that’s overrated; if you’re a strong candidate, it’s better to be remembered for … being a strong candidate), or, as you said, reinforce something positive about you (dedication, resilience, interest in helping others, etc.).

It doesn’t make a lot of sense to try to figure out which hobbies might do one of those things, because it will vary from interviewer to interviewer. One interviewer might love seeing that you run marathons, while the next couldn’t care less but would be thrilled to hear you read a book a week.

So I would answer honestly if you’re asked about how you spend your time outside of work, and don’t worry about trying to find a way to put a career-ish spin on it.

That said, I think you can and should flesh out your answer beyond just something like “I like to read” — to give a little more information and give your interviewer something to react to. For example: “I’m a big reader. I’ve recently been on an Indian literature kick, and I’ve been reading Jhumpa Lahiri and Khushwant Singh.” Or, “I love baking, and I try to experiment with at least one new recipe a week. Some of them are disasters, but it’s a fun way to use a different part of my brain than I use at work.” Or whatever — the idea is just to show you can carry on a pleasant conversation.

In fact, much of the time, interviewers don’t really care what your hobbies are; they just want to see if you can make pleasant small talk about a topic that’s comfortable for you. So you’ll answer this better if you look at the question as an attempt to engage you in conversation and learn a bit more about who you are, rather than as an attempt to divine who you really are as a professional.

{ 437 comments… read them below }

  1. MuseumChick*

    OP, I feel your pain. I have a very strange interest that is pretty inappropriate to mention in a job interview: True Crime. I watch crime shows and documentaries, listen to crime podcasts (SSDGM), read crime books, am part of several true crime communities online etc.

    I agree with Alison, its all about how your frame in. “I like to read a lot, recently I helped start a book club. I also spend a lot of time watching documentaries.”

    1. Anonysand*

      Fellow murderino here! I let it slip one day at work to a coworker hat my lunch plans were to grab some drive-thru and listen to a murder podcast in my car… Thankfully it went well, but the spin is the most important part. I’d mentioned my love of podcasts to my coworkers before so that foundation was already in place, and I’m lucky to have an open and understanding workplace.

      1. GlitsyGus*

        I had a similar situation when I told a coworker my plan for lunch was to take a walk and listen to a podcast because it’s #pornomonday. He knew what I was talking about, but the other person in the kitchen didn’t, which meant I had to explain the hilarity that is “My Dad Wrote a Porno.”

        1. Leelee*

          I actually bought my friend a Steels Pots and Pans mug for her new job. It’s innocuous enough that no-one who doesn’t listen will think she’s weird, but is like a bat signal for fellow MDWAP fans. It helped to break the ice with new colleagues who have the same sense of humour.

          Definitely not one to bring up in an interview though!

      2. SarahTheEntwife*

        I’m not sure if I just run with a weird crowd, because true crime seems like a pretty normal interest, so long as you don’t go into gory details at the interview.

      1. many bells down*

        Oh gosh I was on a HUGE “disaster” kick in adolescence. In school I turned in dioramas of the Hindenburg, oral reports on the Titanic, history papers on Pompeii and the Cocoanut Grove Fire … there must have been two straight years where any project I did was about some massive loss of life. It’s honestly a wonder the school didn’t refer me for counseling.

        1. SignalLost*

          I did all of mine about wars. But I picked unusual wars, because I’m a hipster. :) Now I would love to do similar work on disasters.

            1. AnnaBananna*

              I am obsessed with musician interviews normally, and it’s really interesting how often the 30-something year old musicians of today claim that 9/11 impacted their music in a large way (good example: MGMT), stating that it was the first time in their young lives that they realized that their world wasn’t perfect, and in fact could be a very bad and scary place.

              Disillusionment: the art maker.

        2. Kelsi*

          My boss was super into Lizzie Borden and Charlotte Corday when she was in school, and apparently her mom was called in after the presentation where she dressed up as Lizzie and told the class how she committed the murders (according to Boss’s theory of how it happened).

          That was before they referred kids for counseling, but her mom apparently got an earful.

      2. Solidus Pilcrow*

        I think I found my people. :)

        I’ve been doing an “Air Disasters” kick on the Smithsonian Channel lately (has some crossover with “Why Planes Crash” on the Weather Channel). Before that there used to be a show called “Seconds from Disaster” on NatGeo (I think?) and a couple other shows in the same vein.

        1. Renamis*

          I’m in love with Air Disasters! Unfortunately Netflix hasn’t updated their seasons, and I can’t afford 100 odd dollars and a DVR just to watch it. T.t

        2. Shark Whisperer*

          My partner is obsessed with Air Disasters! He and our neighbor downstairs who is studying to be a pilot talk about it all the time

        3. Editrix*

          Part of my actual job involves analysing and writing about disasters at sea. Though I tend to prefer the ones that were narrowly averted :)

          1. Boatcrew*

            Oh Editrix, as a casual crew member I try to read the tales of How They Survived. I’d love to know your favored reads.

      3. hermit crab*

        I think I may have said that exact thing during an interview for my current job, but then again I work in climate change/disaster resilience. :) There’s actually a super cool “climate fiction” blog on the Chicago Review of Books website that my fellow disaster nuts might want to check out – it’s called Burning Worlds.

      4. Erin W*

        My mom is a 9/11 buff (she will read/watch anything on the subject) but she doesn’t really know how to explain it to people.

        1. AnnaBananna*

          (shudder) I still can’t watch anything about it and I was on the west coast at the time! I don’t know how she does it. She’s got much stronger mettle than me!

        2. Fergus*

          So am I but I kinda lived it, and my future father in law did live it, he was trapped in the Pentagon on 09/11 after the plane hit, for 3 days.

        3. Erin W*

          She worked (is retired now) in Emergency Management. So she has studied all the sort of inner workings of how, logistically, the disaster and its aftermath was dealt with at an institutional level. And that has led her to reading all these survivor and/or surviving relative memoirs and such.

        4. Lily B*

          She could frame it as being a “history buff” with a special interest in modern Middle Eastern conflicts and their origins.

    2. AmazinglyGuileless*

      I love true crime stuff! And you’re probably not the only “closeted” TC fan at your work place. Several of my coworkers are also into that sort of thing, and we’re not murderers (probably…I mean we are a lobbyist group in DC, so…).

      1. Doug Judy*

        Once I told someone I was a TC fan, and they responded “Oh me too! I looooovvveee NCIS.” No Karen, that is not what true crime means.

    3. Penny For Your Thoughts*

      One interview I attended ask me about the last book I read. I’d never had that asked before (usually it was favorite book, not the last one) so I blurted out the truth: The Devil In The White City, a book the serial killer who created a murder house of trap doors and death chambers in Chicago. And yes, they asked me what it was about and I told them.

      I felt awful afterward, like it was a big black mark, but I ended up getting that job! After I’d been there a few months, I asked my coworker who was my interviewer why a book about a serial killer hadn’t been a red flag for her. She said she didn’t care what I said I read, as long as I said I was a reader and didn’t struggle to come up with a title and summary like I was lying about it.

      1. I woke up like this*

        Wasn’t The Devil In The White City a New York Times best seller and a finalist for the National Book Award? Heck, I don’t like true crime, and even I’ve read it!

        1. Bee*

          Yeah, that was a hugely popular and very well-respected book! I would say, “Ah, this person is well-informed and interested in a wide range of subjects,” not, “Well, they must be reading for tips.”

        2. Cousin Itt*

          Yeah, I’m slightly confused by this thread – we’re in the golden age of true crime right now (bestselling books, popular podcasts, buzzed-about tv shows, etc). Unless you’re displaying framed photos of serial killers on your desk or recounting the gory details of your favourite crimes to coworkers I doubt it would raise a red flag.

          1. I woke up like this*

            There was a letter (to Dear Prudence, I think?) about someone who’s dorm roommate lovingly put up pictures of serial killers all over their walls. THAT is crossing a line, I’d say.

          2. I woke up like this*

            There was a letter (to Dear Prudence, I think?) about someone whose dorm roommate lovingly put up pictures of serial killers all over their walls. THAT is crossing a line, I’d say. (Reposted with typo corrected)

            1. Cousin Itt*

              Haha, that’s exactly what I was thinking of! Bizarrely, a lot of commenters suggested the OP was over-reacting and should just get used to falling asleep under the watchful gaze of Ted Bundy(!)

          3. the elephant in the room*

            Just what I was thinking. I let it slip that I was listening to My Favorite Murder to everyone in my open office and nearly EVERYONE chimed in with a murder podcast or documentary series that they’re currently obsessed with. It’s chic right now.

        3. Essess*

          It’s also a big read for the architecture buffs because it intersperses the crime with the history of Danial Burnham and the planning of the Chicago World’s Fair plus involves many other famous architects of that era.

      2. Lara*

        Oh, I talk about The Devil in the White City to anyone who will listen! The key is to emphasize the undertaking of the Chicago World’s Fair–that makes it seem less weird!

        1. wendelenn*

          Undertaking–I see what you did there :) (Great book. I just finished “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark”, about the Golden State Killer who was finally caught a year after the author passed away; and am currently reading (for the first time) “The Stranger Beside Me”.

        2. MysteryFan*

          OK.. now y’all have got me interested! Just put a hold on the ebook of Devil in the White City at my local Library.

      3. jb*

        I was reading Devil in the White City on the train a while ago. The only single time it got a response was when some dude from a local church group saw me and started trying to give me literature. He said my book freaked him out and asked if he could give me some “better” reading material. The book was, at the time, already a best seller and widely discussed and known among most people. And we were on a train *in Chicago*, where the book takes place.

        If curious, no, no he could not give me “better” reading material.

      4. From the High Tower on the Hill*

        Side note, absolutely love that book and Erik Larson. Highly recommend his other book In the Garden of Beasts. He is a fantastic author that writes historical books in a way that isn’t just “in 1856 xyz happened” but more of a story. I usually explain that book as the interrelationship between the World’s Fair in Chicago and America’s first serial killer and quickly move on.

      5. Seisy*

        Oh, I would do so badly with such a question, because I would have to stop and think of an acceptable answer, because it’s really hardwired into me at this point not to be honest with people about what I’m reading. It’s not that I feel there’s anything to be ashamed of, but, eh, you’re honest and say something like “oh yes, it was a very interesting book about memory and identity and the way you are shaped by your past but done in the framework of a variation on a locked-room mystery in which the murder victims are all clones on a generation ship who are then trying to solve their own murders, which is complicated because someone sabotaged their memory backups so they don’t remember the last fifty years,” and people get sort of weird. There’s still a stigma there…or at least, a set of assumptions that conflict with the image they are otherwise forming of me. (Though to be fair, I get that reaction way more from people who are like, one book a year people, not “the librarians know me by name” people)

        1. TardyTardis*

          It sounds like one of the Peter Hamilton SF books to me, where a murderer erased his own memory of the murder, too.

    4. Yojo*

      Two candidates make jewelry. One says that she likes it because “I just like pretty things and it’s cheaper to make it than buy it.” Not terrible. But the other one talks about how she likes being organized and meticulous, being creative and thoughtful, and always experimenting with new methods to see what works best. The second one has answered the question a lot better and made it clear that she understands why it’s asked.

        1. Red Lines with Wine*

          You put this a little more bluntly than I would have, but I tend to agree. Sometimes people like doing things because they prefer to make things rather than buy them, or because they just like to do it, both of which are perfectly legitimate reasons. If a candidate tried to explain it how Yojo’s fictional second character did, I’d probably internally roll my eyes. Furthermore, this reasoning can be used for a lot of hobbies, and it doesn’t show me the candidate’s true personality.

          1. The Dread Pirate Buttercup*

            OTOH, the way accounting finally really clicked over in my head was using the scaffolding of the language and concepts of embroidery, and I’m beginning to suspect knitting is going to be rather helpful when learning to code—- not that I’d ever tell a prospective employer that!

            1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

              I think you could totally tell an employer a version of that! “I like how the crafts I do let me use that logical, methodical part of my brain. It might sound odd, but I feel like embroidery helped me get a more intuitive feel for accounting because they’re both about organizing information in a really specific way, and I keep noticing parallels between knitting and the coding I’m studying.”

              A friend just gave me a book called Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes written by a mathematician who realized that her craft hobby was a great way to visualize complicated geometric concepts. Biologists are using the same methods to simulate coral, which grows using hyperbolic geometry. If it’s good enough for the PhDs it’s good enough for you!

              1. peachie*

                Yes, definitely! I have an artistic background and recently started working in a data-type job. People (not just interviewers!) are surprised when they find that out, but, truthfully, I like the kind of data stuff I do because it involves a lot of creativity and problem-solving.

              2. Geillis D*

                I’m an accountant and a quilter, I love the pretty fabrics but the patterns are balm to my organized soul.

              3. TardyTardis*

                In FLEDGLING and SALTATION by Lee and Miller, the heroine makes a weird kind of lace to work through mathematical concepts.

              1. Kate*

                Actually the first coding machines were based on knitting machines! Knitpurlknitpurl looks a lot like 0101.

              2. TardyTardis*

                One recalls Madam Defarge’s knitted registers in A TALE OF TWO CITIES. (I wonder what codes Molly Weasley works into those jumpers?)

        2. Gingerblue*

          I tend to agree, and I’m not thrilled with the weird modern idea that every moment should be in some way self-improving. I mean, I can come up with ways to pitch my hobbies as work-related–I enjoy experimenting and learning new techniques in the kitchen, I find the organizational challenges in meal planning fun, and I like expanding my cultural horizons!–and those things are true, but most nights I really just want to eat mac and cheese and watch Attack on Titan. And that’s fine.

          Hiring for the quality of slick patter that someone can disgorge about their personal time seems weird to me. What does it tell you beyond the fact that they have some memorized patter about their hobbies?

    5. Temperance*

      FWIW, I am a huge crime fan and talk about it. It may be a bit different for me because I’m a past intern at an Innocence Network org, so everyone sort of expects me to be creepy.

    6. irene adler*

      Gosh, if I’d interviewed you and you told me your hobby was an interest in True Crime, I’d think you were an interesting person with curiosity. And an interest in pursuing what intrigues you.
      All plusses in my book.
      Now I’m feeling self-conscious about my interest in crime shows.

      1. MuseumChick*

        I never thought about it that way! I just feel weird about talking about it to people who are not in the TC community because some people react really weirdly when you start talking about serial killers, lol.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          I don’t think it’s all that weird though. Think about television shows like CSI, NCIS, Dexter, (all of the) Law and Order(s), etc., etc., etc. All of them have been/were on for years and had huge followings.

        2. irene adler*

          You interest is NOT in wanting to emulate serial killers and the like-right? Your interest is in how they are discovered and caught, what things they do to remain undetected, proclivities, etc. So I would glean from this that you have curiosity and are probably well above average in intelligence. I want that in my hires.

          1. Pickle*

            Ok but do any of you have any idea how this comes off to people who’ve lost someone to murder? It’s not cute or fun or entertaining when someone close to you has actually been killed. You might want to consider exploring some healthier hobbies.

            1. Dance-y Reagan*

              People who have lost a loved one to murder want to discourage people from being interested in how the perpetrators get caught? That makes less than no sense.

      2. Coffee Isn't Helping*

        I am glad to hear it. It is difficult to say you are interested in serial killers without sounding like a crazy person. I usually don’t bring it up because my state (Wisconsin) is pretty well-known for having some of the worst serial killers, like Dahmer and Gein.

    7. Kittymommy*

      So do I!! I just got really word looks from some co-workers today because when they asked me what I did this weekend my reply was my regular weekend home ritual of watching serial killer shows (both fiction and non fiction).
      And Scooby Doo.

    8. Sharkey*

      Murderinos are everywhere – we need jobs so that we can buy our own shit and stay out of the forest. ;)

      1. Solidus Pilcrow*

        Such as Investigation Discovery (ID). Or as I call it, the All Murder All The Time channel.

        And when I get together with my family of origin, it’s sometimes the only channel we can all agree on. (I’m not even going to think about what that says about us crazy Wisconsinites in the back woods. )

        1. Bea*

          My dad hates it.

          We can only agree on Hallmark channel. He’s super uncomfortable with murder yet tells me consistently since childhood “most people are good”. So he lives a very quiet comforting life lol

        2. TardyTardis*

          My husband watches a lot of AHC–American Heroes Channel–but at least some weeks I swear it’s the All Hitler Channel. Just thought I’d throw in another fun acronym.

    9. ItsOnlyMe*

      I love TC but have never heard of SSDGM, now after a quick Google I fear my day is done! How did I miss that? Thank you.

      1. Ginny Weasley*

        I would disagree with the poster above and say don’t start at the beginning. I did and I’m hooked, but to be honest, the first 5-10 episodes are not a great representation of what the podcast is now. I have cultivated a short list of some of the best “get a feel for it” episodes. If you like these, then it’s worth going back and working your way through. It’s a huge undertaking at this point.
        -Episode 18: Investigeighteen Discovery
        -Episode 23: Making a Twenty-Thirderer (My absolute favorite starter-episode)
        -Episode 36: Live from LA Podcast Festival
        -Episode 77: Live at the Keswick Theatre
        -Episode 85: Live at the Boulder Theater

    10. HailRobonia*

      Based on some other AaM letters about amateur bakers who were expected to bake regularly for the whole office, you might want to think careful about mentioning a baking hobby.

    11. Bunny Girl*

      I totally feel you. My hobbies make me sound insane. I brew wine, work with horror movies (mostly behind the scenes), and pole dance. But I also love, love, love true crime stuff. Luckily I like to bake and hike too so I just stick with those.

    12. Jen RO*

      I also like true crime! The soothing voices of the narrators put me to sleep, so I often listen to gory murder descriptions on quiet weekend afternoons… my coworkers definitely think I’m a weirdo. That said, the same coworkers who would probably be a bit unnerved if a candidate talked about serial killers. Probably not enough to reject someone, but still, I won’t talk about it in interviews.

    13. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      That’s not inappropriate, imo! In my law-related hiring experience (admittedly narrow), the hobby question isn’t even about rapport—it’s about evaluating if someone has a life outside of their job.

  2. PBH*

    I’d say way overthinking. This is just a way to get the conversation flowing and perhaps learn something interesting. “Oh wow you taught yourself to knit, I wish I had such talent”. Then the conversation moves on.

    1. Yojo*

      Having sat on interview panels that asked this question (sigh) I think people are actually using this question to get a feel for personality.

      If they’re looking for someone outgoing and social and you only talk about stay-at-home solo hobbies, they’re going to make note of it. If they want someone thoughtful and patient and your biggest love is paintball and war games, they’re going to make note of it. Making generalizations about people like that is not a good thing, but it happens. A colleague told me that one candidate said that their favorite hobby was arguing on internet forums. Don’t say that.

      1. Just Employed Here*

        Lol! Yeah, we had an intern many years ago who said that, albeit in a general conversation, not in the interview.

        Let’s just say he didn’t argue *only* on the internet.

      2. AMPG*

        I agree. A lawyer friend actually just started a long Facebook thread on this, talking about why the question was important to his firm’s process and what they hoped to get out of it. His main points were that having “college application” type hobbies (things that sound cool but that you’re clearly not invested in) was much worse than having a more standard hobby that you were clearly passionate about and dedicated to.

        1. Erin W*

          Yes. Everyone in the world loves movies. But not all people love movies to the extent that they have seen all the movies on the AFI’s Top 100 Greatest Films of All Time, or see all the Best Picture nominees every year, or have particular favorite directors or production companies. (Me, me, and me.) I could talk for hours about movies.

          Conversely, I have been camping. Maybe. Twice or something. Based on that, I could probably declare it was my hobby, and successfully pass a lie detector test. But I’m not going to have anything interesting or unique to say about camping that will mark me as an interesting person. (Movies may or may not do it, but it’s got a much better shot.)

      3. BRR*

        Similar to personality, I’ve had experiences on the interviewee end where this question has been used as a way to help assess team fit. I think it would take a giant red flag to disqualify someone though and baking or knitting wouldn’t be the hobbies to take you out of the running, even if the rest of the team are huge football fans or something.

        1. CheeryO*

          Yeah, it’s something that gets asked at all of my agency’s interviews, and it’s clearly used to assess culture fit. Unfortunately for us, it’s led to an extreme lack of diversity in our recent hires over the last few years. I wouldn’t want to be the one person who doesn’t have anything in common with their coworkers, but there’s also plenty of personality types out there beyond “nerdy, outdoorsy, into traveling, and likely to drive a Subaru.”

          1. samiratou*

            This is why I don’t like that question. More and more we hear that companies/managers wanting to hire people “like them” is a huge factor in lack of diversity in hiring and, in many cases, you’re better off looking for people who aren’t like you.

            I mean, don’t hire a**holes, obviously, but who cares if someone likes paintball & war games as long as they’re competent and bring great skills & abilities to the team?

      4. Jenny F. Scientist*

        Right, but I think even “I love to knit” can be a conversation sparker! For example: I knit, and if someone asked me about it in an interview, I’d say I taught myself over the course of years, belong to a knitting group that runs a big charity project every year, and participate in a yearly small town parade with the knitters. Someone who wasn’t into any of those things could still talk about how they liked to challenge themselves with new patterns, or liked to be part of a tradition of hand-work, or… a lot of other interesting stuff. (If this is the only marker of ‘outgoing’ the interview is doing, I think they’re doing it wrong.)

  3. Liz*

    Your hobbies do say something positive about you! Both knitting and baking require skill, attention to detail, and and good planning. Knitting takes dedication and shows you can tackle a project that takes a long time to complete. Baking requires the ability to know when to follow directions and when to use your technical skills to diverge from instructions to ensure a good final product. Reading as a hobby generally leads to strong reading comprehension and better writing skills.

    1. LovesCoffee*

      I agree! Knitting and baking is easily relatable – most people like sweaters and baked goods. I think can more easily launch into follow up questions (and thus creating a good rapport between interviewer and interviewee).

    2. SignalLost*

      I agree with this, and was going to add that sometimes, if your hobby is tangentially related to what you’re doing professionally, it can be a sort of bumplet. I mean, I’m not going to turn down a qualified designer who’s wearing boring clothing, but I do like to see a designer who has an interesting personal style. I hate the idea that you have to do your professional job as a hobby to be good at it, but if you’re in a creative field and you tell me you’re into knitting and cooking, those are hobbies that might tell me creative work is what you’re into.

      I’m not sure I’m saying what I mean very well – an accountant who tells me they’re into fly fishing is not someone I’d disqualify for their hobby not being quiz shows or something, and a designer with interesting personal style isn’t going to get the job if they murdered their last boss, but sometimes you can see that the qualities that make someone good at a certain role are qualities that drive their choice of hobby. And just as importantly, most people are stressed and anxious in interviews, so talking about hobbies gives you a chance to be yourself, because that’s the kind of thing most people get passionate about when they talk about it. The substance (and the hobbies) are less important than seeing how you talk when you’re not trying to remember what color you are and what tree just speaks to your soul and how you handled a difficult coworker.

    3. Ama*

      Yup, I don’t know that it’s ever come up in an actual interview, but every so often when making small talk with colleagues it comes up that I knit and it’s usually good for a few minutes of interesting conversation — both for people who are familiar with knitting (a coworker once brought in a vintage sweater her mother had knitted to show me after admiring one of mine), or people who don’t know anything about knitting (one of the best chats I had was with a brilliant medical researcher who got really interested in the logistics of how I planned my projects). My one piece of advice is just to make sure if its someone who seems unfamiliar with knitting you keep the conversation fairly general unless they ask for more details.

    4. I woke up like this*

      Also, I think there’s a thriving resurgence of DIY/crafting culture (evidence: Etsy is my favorite retailer, and Great British Bake Off is my therapist). So I don’t think you’ll come off as an old lady at all!

      1. Former Help Desk Peon*

        YES. Where I work, we’d be asking so we knew which of our lunchtime crafting groups you might want to be hooked up with.

        And we *love* GBBO at our house; so much so, that “star baker”, “technical bake” and “going home” are part of my 5 year olds vocabulary, as in “He really failed that technical bake, no way is he the star baker” or “Daaaaaaaaaadddd, we can’t go to bed yet, we don’t know who’s going home”

    5. Blossom*

      Yep! I once had an interviewer pretty impressed at my having taught myself a technical skill (knitting) which didn’t come naturally to me. I remember my boss’s boss was similarly impressed too – not just at the knitted shawl I was wearing, but at the dedication it spoke of.
      I also once had an interview at a software company where I was asked what the last non-fiction book I read was. I think they were looking for curious, intelligent people who thought about the bigger picture.

    6. many bells down*

      “Baking requires the ability to know when to follow directions and when to use your technical skills to diverge from instructions

      This is what I like about sewing. I find following a sequence of directions very soothing (it’s why I also enjoy doing my taxes haha). But I can also make a garment without a pattern, from scratch, when I need to. Or I can meet the pattern instructions halfway and adapt a dress to have different sleeves or a wider skirt.

  4. Jam Today*

    This is probably the most relateable letter I’ve ever read. I’m a homebody — I’m extremely happy puttering around my house, reading a book with my cats napping on the couch, watching movies, cooking Sunday dinners…that’s my idea of perfect bliss. My big days out are going to the movies or live music. In any case, while some of the ventures could include other people, they’re not “team” activities. I never know what to tell people, other than just telling them the truth and letting the chips fall where they may.

    1. Alienor*

      I think it’s probably best to be honest. I like quiet home-based activities too, and while I could work in an office full of people who loved extreme sports and paintball and drinking ’til they puked, I don’t think I’d be especially happy there either. I’d rather work with my fellow grannies. :)

    2. TardyTardis*

      True. Although Sudoku and being a 102 level Paladin on Warcrack don’t sound related, except for sounding like solo activities (though soloing some dungeons is…not recommended).

  5. Notapirate*

    What about activitiea that are religious? I don’t mention them (or reword so not connected to church) but it is what I actually spend a fair amount of time on. Special topics courses like recently a study of martin Luther. Other things like stewardship campaigns, Sunday school, supporting a homeless shelter via cooking. Is it okay to include church hobbies?

    1. fposte*

      I think your instincts are right to downplay the church aspect, but I don’t think you need to avoid it completely, either–for instance, it’s fine to say Sunday school rather than making up a secular equivalent.

    2. Tardigrade*

      I don’t see why not – especially listed like you have them here, a lot of it sounds like volunteer work.

    3. Jenn*

      I would reword a bit so it isn’t as explicitly religious. I think “I organize and run a small group book/history discussion” sounds impressive anyway. If you are applying for a job at a more obviously religious organization, then more specificity is fine. But if you don’t know your audience, avoid politics and religion like (“I organized an election campaign for mayor” is better than ” organized an election campaign for a mayor of the X party, which I strongly participate in”).

    4. Laura H.*

      I would wait for the general topic of hobbies to be addressed before dropping in with it, and like anything else-just touch on it at the given opportunity.

      If it’s constant volunteer work that has transferable skills, I’d consider putting it in your resume. I help with catechesis for middle schoolers. It’s a time commitment and requires outside prep. And I’ve done that for currently 6 years. I include it using general terms and no religious or program-specific jargon.

    5. Admin of Sys*

      I think as long as it doesn’t come across as proselytizing, mentioning hobbies connected to the church is fine – charity and historical research especially. If you’re concerned that the office culture would appreciate more secular pursuits, then just focus on the activities rather than the origin. ‘book club studying the life of Martin Luther’ and ‘cooking for a homeless shelter’ are both things that could have nothing to do with your congregation.

    6. Kat Em*

      I tell people I spend a lot of time volunteering with middle school youth. The fact that it’s a faith-inspired program doesn’t need to come up first thing. Religious study can be reading ( and you can specify history or philosophy if you want to get more detailed). Singing in a choir or helping with educational programs are pretty innocuous as well.

      1. Red Reader*

        Yup. I spent five years on an adult advisory board for a teenage girls’ leadership and community service organization. Most people haven’t heard of the Rainbow girls, and the ones that have heard of them and make the connection to Freemasonry are probably knowledgeable enough about the orders to not be on the conspiracy-theorist wing, in which case it’s more likely to be a plus than a minus anyway.

          1. Red Reader*

            Woop! My mama was a Jobie, but our local temple didn’t have a Bethel, so I grew up Rainbow :) and now there’s no Assemblies around, so I’m kinda disconnected. Thinking about looking up the local OES chapter again though this winter, maybe.

        1. CoveredInBees*

          If I were interviewing you, I’d totally want to talk about Rainbow Girls. My grandparents were always super into fraternal organizations, particularly Masonic ones. I grew up going to meetings and events as well as my mom and uncle telling me stories of Rainbow Girls and Demolay (sp?).

          It wasn’t until I was in high school or so that I learned about Masonic conspiracy theories and thought it was the most hilarious thing ever. At my grandfather’s main lodge, the average age was around 70 and all I recall them doing was running community service projects, swapping stories about grandkids, and having barbecues. I know their origin is more involved than that, but I still get a kick out pf picturing my grandfather’s lodge plotting something more complicated than exactly where on the grill the chicken should go.

          1. Red Reader*

            But heaven help you if you point the chicken in the wrong direction. :) Masonic/OES dinners are how I learned to efficiently, cheaply and quickly feed 50+ people. That is one hell of a useful skill.

        2. TardyTardis*

          Oh, I did Rainbows when I was a teen, and it was so fun to go to Grand Assembly that one year.

    7. Holly*

      I definitely don’t think you have to avoid even mentioning church, otherwise it might come off strangely vague. Just don’t bring *religion* into it, which it doesn’t sound like you do. Like it’s tooootally acceptable to be like “I run a volunteer shift with my church at a local homeless shelter every Sunday.”

      1. Ophelia*

        And honestly–and I say this as someone who isn’t at all religious–something like “Oh, I’m in a book group, I like to hike, and I teach Sunday School” isn’t going to come off oddly or imply to me that someone is super-religious. Something that feels publicly proselytize-y, or some specific keywords around missions, or sharing “good news” will turn me off, though.

        1. Holly*

          Exactly, I agree. Anything prosleytize-y like saying you volunteer to fulfill our Lord Saint Barnaby’s purpose (just making that up) is TMI, or doing something really controversial like saying you protest in front of Planned Parenthood is bad – mentioning church like a reasonable human is never going to raise an eyebrow.

    8. Alienor*

      I think just referring to church-based activities in general is fine. I work for a huge corporation in a relatively secular part of the country, and at the sorts of meetings where everyone’s asked to talk a little about themselves, there are still lots and lots of people who mention that they volunteer with their church or that they went on a church-sponsored trip recently. It’s assumed that there was probably prayer involved, but as long as they don’t get into the details no one bats an eye.

    9. Bea*

      If you’re volunteering at a homeless shelter most people won’t draw the religious aspect out of it.

      I dated a person who was not religious at all but always volunteered at the mission. We also have “warm spaces” in the winter that pop up all over the city when it’s below 35 degrees outside. All technically church related but you don’t need to be a member to volunteer to essentially just open the doors and make sure trouble is reported etc.

      Youth Groups are the same as any other mentor program.

      Unless you’re going off about “I lead teens to Jesus!” you’re putting too much pressure on yourself to hide your faith. You don’t want to work anywhere that flinched at the fact you go to religious based activities.

    10. AnonyMouse*

      I think context of the organization you are interviewing at matters. I personally wouldn’t be put off by hearing a candidate say “I’m involved with the stewardship committee at my church” or “I teach Sunday School every week.” However, I think if you plan to share multiple church related activities, then I would pick a few to make a little more vague.

    11. Anon Librarian*

      I’m a Mormon, and did missionary work in a foreign country for 18 months. I’ve kept up my language skills since then and use them in my job. People ask about how I learned the language, so I mention the country I lived in and that I was a missionary there (this also heads off questions about touristy-things, because missionaries are pretty strictly regulated and I spent most of my time in big cities helping immigrants, not sightseeing). On the one hand, I feel a little weird introducing religion to the conversation. But, on the other hand, living in a foreign country is valuable experience and how I learned the language. I just hope people don’t think I’m trying to proselytize them (if they want to know a little more about my experience, I focus on relatable skills like tutoring people in English or helping the disabled, not just teaching religious lessons).

  6. Jenn*

    As an avid Great British Bake Off watcher, let me say: baking is NOT boring. I talked about crocheting in a successful interview as well. Don’t sell yourself short.

    1. Elemeno P.*

      I once brought my knitting to an interview. It was for a training position, and I was supposed to teach the interviewer how to do something…so I started a small basic rectangle and had them knit a row. I got that position, so I guess it worked!

    2. TootsNYC*

      also–remember to talk about what personality traits or skills this might show.

      Crocheting and knitting? That’s someone who understands the value of and has patience for repetitive tasks—and who understands that it’s important to get it right, even if it seems routine.
      They also show someone who can memorize procedures (and can you look them up on your own).
      People who knit often understand the importance and value of routine–of doing the same tasks in exactly the same way each time, and what a mental and physical timesaver that is.
      Do you reroll your yard into a ball because it’s better? Does that make you the sort of person who gets all the file folders ready ahead of time?

      So do some thinking about that–in what weird or un-obvious ways are your hobby similar to the tasks you might do at this job?

      And talk about that a little bit if hobbies come up.

    3. CoveredInBees*

      Being a GBBO fan would have put you in great company at my last job. It was a major topic of conversation at lunchtime.

    4. FTW*

      Agree! I’m in consulting, where we spend a lot of time together. Team members with an avid interest in, well, almost anything are great to have conversations with.

  7. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

    Hello fellow knitter!

    Here’s how I would approach this. Is there anything about your hobbies that you could expand on a little bit to relate it back to you as a person?

    Interviewer: So any hobbies or activities you do in your free time?
    Me: Ha, funny you ask. A couple of years ago I was watching somebody knit on a train and I was struck by and fascinated with the thought that this person was making knots with two sticks and string. I don’t know why it struck me that day, but I couldn’t let it go until I figured it out. So I went out and bought the supplies and did a lot of googling to figure out how it was done. Turns out I was pretty talented at it and I enjoyed it. Now it’s more meditation for me than anything.

    You could do something similar with baking, you like to try new techniques or challenge yourself with new complicated recipes, or you’re just kind of a dork* that enjoys the science and precision of baking.

    For the most part interviewers are just trying to find out a little bit more about you as a person. As mentioned in Alison’s response, as long as you have something to offer in way of a hobby that isn’t illegal or would throw red flags about you as a person. Boring is ok. Chances are the interviewer also has boring hobbies.

    *in a good way, and yes I do refer to myself as dork on occasion

    1. Green great dragon*

      Um. Maybe, but that strikes me as quite a lot of words – I’d be sitting there waiting for them to get to the point. ‘I like knitting – I’m fascinated with the thought that two sticks and some string can do so much’ is probably enough of an opening?

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        Yeah, it was on the wordy side, and probably more than I’d give in an interview, but it was more to illustrate the point I was making. That you can turn an otherwise ‘boring’ hobby into an example of how you think.

        Like the people up top who are into true crime. They could say “I like reading and listening to podcasts” or they could expand a bit on why they like true crime “I like to follow along with the investigators as they put together the pieces … blah blah blah…” or “It’s interesting to me to see the context of the actions of the people in each situation and how that relates to the…blah blah blah”

        Basically it’s a way to give a little more insight to how you think.

      2. bonkerballs*

        I agree, this definitely sounds wordy. Though it’s definitely possible it’s just because it’s written out and that it wouldn’t seem so wordy if I was hearing it in conversational form.

      3. Chinookwind*

        I am fascinated by the number of people who say they taught themselves to knit. As someone who was taught to do this as a child by my grandmother and is, in turn, teaching my young niece (after she asked), is it that unusual to learn this hobby as a child? Also, would I be looked at differently because it is not a self-taught skill?

        1. HannahS*

          I think it’s often generational and regional. I don’t know how old you are, but in my experience girls who were taught to knit by older female relatives tend to be either baby boomers or above, and/or are from areas/cultures where knitting is still considered a life-skill, not a hobby. My grandmother, who knew how to knit, married a professional who made enough money that they could buy socks instead of knitting them. She didn’t teach her daughters how to knit, because she knew that they would be make enough money that it wouldn’t be a life-skill for them. My mom knew the barest amount from home economics, but didn’t teach me for the same reason. When I expressed interest in it as a hobby, she bought me a kit/book from Klutz that taught me. I can’t imagine that anyone would look at you differently for having been taught instead of learning on your own.

          1. Chinookwind*

            That makes sense. I am a Gen Xer and while it isn’t a life skill, it was a way to bond with my grandmother for whom it was when she grew up. My mom had no interest but my paternal aunt also learned it as a life skill back in Ireland and both of us are teaching my niece not only how to knit but the subtle differences in technique between the British and French Canadians (which I never understood until Youtube).

            I am finding it fascinating to see how many people are self-taught because it doesn’t feel like something you can teach yourself as I benefited from someone physically moving my hands in the correct way. If some of you want that, have you checked out the local senior’s centres or lodges to see if they have knitting bees or clubs? Also, church rummage/garage sales are often great sources of wool stashes form someone too arthritic to continue.

          2. Humble Schoolmarm*

            I’m an older millennial and learned from my grandmother who took care of me after school. It’s been great intergenerational bonding.

        2. Caramel & Cheddar*

          My grandmother tried to teach me as a kid, but I wasn’t interested. It wasn’t until I took a class as an adult that I properly got into it.

        3. Nita*

          My mom taught me the basic stitch when I was a kid, after I found a set of knitting needles in a drawer and wanted to know what they do. No one on her side of the family knits, and I don’t know where she learned the bit that she showed me… maybe school, they still had home ec class when she was growing up. And then I played around with the needles for a week until the moves “clicked”. After that, I had to teach myself, because no one knew anything more than the basics or was even interested. I’m never going to be on the level of a really talented knitter, and it’s hard to even justify the time and expense when good yarn is expensive and anything can be bought ready… but there’s still a place for it in my life, thanks to a really long commute on public transit. I’m trying to use knitting to fight my cell phone addiction now :)

        4. Anon for this topic*

          I learned the basics as a child from my mother. I taught myself (well…YouTube) how to do more complicated stitches, how to crochet, how to sew… I still ask my mom for advice though. I don’t think you’d be looked at differently because it’s not self-taught; actually I was jealous of people who learned to sew from a young age when I was teaching myself how to thread my sewing machine!

        5. TardyTardis*

          I still want to learn how to crochet–being lefthanded made things interesting when people tried to teach me before.

    2. Holly*

      That sounds like… a lot. I would really advise against this response. The whole point of asking about hobbies is to have a *normal* conversation, it’s not trying to find an angle to spin it into a manufactured interview answer. A standard answer would be more like what Allison advised, or just simply saying “I love to knit! I’m currently working on a blanket for my nephew. I love finding new patterns to try and having side projects to accomplish.”

  8. Greg NY*

    What do you do when your hobbies honestly are honestly in conflict with a work environment? This isn’t a situation where you can make up something you think the interviewer wants to hear, because you often enough will be asked a follow-up question or find that the interviewer shares a liking for that activity.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      I’m not really following. Are you saying something like your hobby is hunting and you’re interviewing at PETA?

      (sorry this is the first non-compatible hobby/job example I could come up with)

        1. PBH*

          Obviously that shouldn’t be mentioned but seriously it is not a difficult question. Mention you like going to chili cook offs or something. It doesn’t have to be your favorite thing to mention it. Have you been to a chili cookoff before, did you like it? Ok that’s enough.

          1. PBH*

            I once had an interview with a gal who was very knowledgeable but was dressed pretty darn unprofessionally, holes in her shirt, TONS of cleavage, etc. I was torn because she really could do the job and well. I googled her and she, using her actual name, was a paid dominatrix in her spare time. Full with candid photos, full latex suits, the whole nine. I hate to say I couldn’t hire her JUST because of that but I really just couldn’t. If she had at least not used her real first and last name it would have been much more likely as our industry isn’t too prudish, but when one google search came with all of those images I just couldn’t. Talk about a HOBBY!!!

        2. Alton*

          I think even with things like that, sometimes you can give an appropriately generic answer, like “I enjoy taking dance classes/going to local dance performances.”

          I’m a writer, and I’m very used to tailoring how I talk about it with people I don’t know well (even other writers). I don’t mention writing fan fiction because sometimes people are judgmental about that and I also really don’t want to go down a path where people I know in real life discover my online username. I don’t always talk about my horror and fantasy writing with people at work or people I’ve just met, either. It can be awkward when people ask me what I write, but I have generic answers I can give.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I’m not sure either, but I’d broadly say that if your hobby conflicts strongly with the mission or culture that may be too bad a fit to be worth it for you; if it’s more of a mild conflict I’d just skip that hobby in the interview and talk up another one. I wouldn’t make something up, though; it’s not worth it, and why do something that risks biting you in the ass for such low stakes?

        1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          Agreed. I think it falls under the umbrella of leave controversial things at the door in the workplace.

          Pick something safe like reading, baking, or knitting :)

          1. SignalLost*

            Yeah, I think reading or watching television or whatever are unlikely to be bad options there; those are kind of generic starter hobbies that apply to almost everyone, one or the other. But if you’re applying to PETA, and you participate in bullfighting as a hobby, I feel like the eventual conflict and stress will be a lot to handle. You’d have to be on your guard all the time to not mention your hobby, you’d have to create a level of distance with your coworkers that could be out of sync with a company culture, and you’d have to think of reasons why you have that gash on your wrist or something. I think that might be a case where if you have other options, this employer might not be a good fit. Unless you like stress.

      1. Yojo*

        Maybe you have to feed your Tamagotchi every couple hours and you can’t put it on silent in case it needs anything. Might be a skoosh disruptive in the workplace, but it’s your hobby!

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Ren Faire, SCA, Steampunk, comic con, science fiction & fantasy conventions, Dungeons & Dragons and other RPGs, LARP, furry conventions, anime, resculpting Breyer horses … all can trigger “that’s weird.”
        Civil War reenactment can be a minefield– especially if the local group plays the south.
        When I was doing SCA events, I found a way to pitch it as a way to indulge my interest in history and my curiosity about many different crafts. If I got asked for specifics, I dove into brewing and winemaking because that has common popularity outside the group.

    2. Cousin Itt*

      Do you have at least one basic, work-appropriate hobby/activity you could mention (reading, cooking, watching tv/movies, listening to music, spending time with friends or family, taking walks, a recent holiday, etc)? Even if it’s not really a big hobby of yours, anything you have enough knowledge of to answer a few questions on would do.

    3. Greg NY*

      Sorry for the confusion. For example, let’s say that someone is very active and they spend their free time training for a marathon, rappelling or skydiving, or traveling. It could be said that an interviewer doesn’t want to hear anything that would leave someone at risk for increased health care costs or absenteeism, and in the case of traveling, it can sometimes be rejuvenating but it could also be exhausting (leading to decreased efficiency). If someone really doesn’t have a “safe for work” leisure activity, how should they answer that question?

      1. Murphy*

        I don’t see any of those as not safe for work. I don’t think an interviewer would be reading that much into your answer.

      2. Anon For Always*

        I would argue that most hobbies aren’t going to increase health care costs or absenteeism. Most things can be successfully fit around your job. I think as long as you are clear that you won’t be asking for 3 months off so that you can travel around Australia, or that you don’t expect to come in hours late every day because you are training for an ultra marathon, etc., then I can’t see how it would be an issue.

        Riskier hobbies such as skydiving or rock climbing, for example, are probably no more dangerous than being obese or a smoker.

      3. Mockingjay*

        Generalize it. “I like to spend my free time outdoors. I recently visited *insert name of national/state/local park. Really enjoyed the scenery and fresh air.”

      4. fposte*

        I think you may be overthinking this. Plenty of people talk about travel or training for marathons for a job. I guess I could see skydiving as something that might raise the occasional eyebrow if it conflicted with a very conservative profession, but honestly, none of these things are likely to be an issue with yer average job. Reasonable managers aren’t likely to think “Uh-oh, this could be a problem at the job” until you get something like “Travel to the DRC to volunteer with Ebola patients.”

        1. Anon For Always*

          I’ve run a couple of marathons, and while the training is time intensive compared to other hobbies, it’s definitely not something that impacted my job.

        2. Ophelia*

          This made me laugh, because I definitely work in an industry where “volunteered with Ebola patients in the DRC” would be on people’s resumes.

        3. Liet-Kinda*

          May be? This is an achievement in overthinking the way E=MC2 is an achievement in astrophysics.

      5. PBH*

        Interviewers can find fault in anything. To obsess doesn’t help. Just give normal examples and move on. I still believe this is getting into way too much over thinking. “I like to run, go to the beach, surf, bake, obsessively starch my shirt…whatever”

      6. Shack Shake*

        Those are perfectly normal hobbies that many people have and that employers really are very unlikely to be bothered by. I think you are way overthinking this. Just say “I love running and have taken part in several marathons” or “I love to travel and find it really rejuvenating”, or whatever. Very few interviewers are going to start fretting about the possibility of your holiday exhausting you!

      7. Marion Ravenwood*

        This might not be exactly what you’re after, but here’s my example:

        I have a hobby/side hustle writing reviews for an entertainment website – mostly music, but a bit of TV stuff too. We have a 24 hour turnaround for live reviews, which isn’t necessarily conducive to balancing it out with working in a 9-5 job (although I’m lucky that my current employer is quite flexible). Right now, I get around it by keeping as much of the activity outside my main job as possible. This means doing as much as I can from home/in a coffee shop around the corner from my office, and working from home or taking leave in particularly busy weeks (provided it doesn’t conflict with my main job).

        In all honesty, I’d probably talk about a different hobby initially, like reading or watching TV (and what I read/watched recently and enjoyed). Or I’d frame it slightly differently and simply say something like ‘I’m a big music fan, and I occasionally write about it online.” (Not a lie: I do also have a music blog, though I must confess it’s been neglected for a long time.) If they ask follow-up questions, such as what type of music it is or who my favourite artists are, I can talk about that. If they asked specifically about the music writing, I’d use that as an opportunity to talk about my organisation and time management skills.

      8. KTB*

        My hobbies are not considered particularly restful (downhill skiing, mountain biking, surfing, running and traveling), and it’s never been framed as having an effect on productivity. I have come to work bruised and tired after a busy weekend, but the expectation is that I’ll make up for it as I’m feeling better.

      9. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        Honestly, if your hobby rules you out of a job it is probably a place you wouldn’t have fit in well in the first place. For example, I once had an interview where I said my hobbies were collecting hand woven carpets and studying a language. The hiring manager made it clear that he found my answers weird and didn’t understand why you’d study a language. I withdrew my application right after the interview because he and I would have been a bad fit.

        1. Less Bread More Taxes*

          What a strange thing to have a problem with! Like unless your language of choice was, say, Arabic, and he was an Islamaphobe.

          1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

            Not Arabic but a language spoken predominantly by Muslims, so maybe it was that? But I think it was more a “why would you spend all that time doing something boring, foreign, and useless?”

            1. TardyTardis*

              Must be the wrong employer. Too bad you didn’t apply to the CIA, they probably have a desk that covers that very combination.

      10. Dragoning*

        For my hobbies, I like to go to conventions for them. And this requires me to take vacation for all of them. This is inherently a conflict with my job—I’m not there for specific days/weeks that can’t be rescheduled.

        It has never, ever been a problem in an interview.

      11. Nita*

        OK, I see what you’re saying. I’ve got a few co-workers who are passionate cyclists, and their hobbies have caused them serious injuries that had them out of work for weeks (very glad it was not worse!) But I’ve never heard of an interviewer considering something like this in a negative light, because there are also many upsides to cycling, and because accidents can happen to anyone, athlete or not. Of course, if anyone’s worried about this kind of reaction to their hobby, they can just not mention it!

        I suppose there are hobbies that would actually conflict with work – for example, if you regularly need to be elsewhere during work hours (theater, for example). My office has a few people that are involved in hobbies like that, but they’re part-timers, and I assume they mentioned they want to be part-time when they interviewed.

      12. SarahTheEntwife*

        If you get an employer who overthinks that much, I’d think there’s just as much risk that they’d think my enjoyment of baking and knitting would lead to increased insurance costs from living a sedentary lifestyle, or that birding would lead to my injuring myself by tripping over a rock while staring at the treetops (100% have done this).

    4. Legal Rugby*

      I’m heavily involved in rugby – I’m a ref, a coach and on the BOD for my local union. I’ve been asked more than once what I would do if something conflicted – my answer has always been the same. One is a job, the other a hobby (albeit a consuming one). I’ve also talked about how I’ve managed my time, and how I’ve dealt with conflicts of interest before (recruiting for the team I coach, which is not the university I work at). I’ve gotten good at spinning it into a good story for the interview.

      That said, if it something that would actually bring you into conflict, you need to not just prep for how you would frame it, but measure the potential impact on your life if it were brought into your workplace. You dance burlesque and want to work at a day care? You have to be prepared for the chance that your employer will bow to pressure and fire you; how can you handle that?

    5. Holly*

      My hobbies/membership in social and professional groups are political in nature. I basically just have to come up with something else to talk about because I don’t think it’s appropriate to hype up my political side unless it’s a great fit with the position (like a political org).

    6. Gen*

      When I worked for an animal charity the guy coaching the interviewees (which I found wierd in itself) would say to absolutely never mention hunting and fishing but also other more tangential things like fashion- because of fur; historical re-enactment- because of leather use; and they said to avoid mentioning cooking because some of the staff held strong views but not all the same view and it wasn’t worth getting into it. There were other topics to avoid but I can’t remember them

      1. Solidus Pilcrow*

        Wow. That’s more than a hot button issue, that’s a whole keyboard!

        Sounds like even knitting would be a ‘bad’ hobby (because of the wool) for those people.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Only the stupid ones. Leather and fur involves killing animals. Sheep shearing is just a haircut.

          (And yes, there are people who would say that wool is sheep exploitation. And yes, I can actually go on at length on this topic. Knitting and knowing things about textile production is one of my hobbies, and any architect or mechanic worth their salt should be really interested by how hand-knit socks are produced, because there’s some serious geometry going on there.)

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Let’s not call other people’s ethical beliefs stupid. It may be just a hair cut on a small farm, but on large-scale farms, there are some pretty horrific practices, even for wool.

            1. Jennifer Thneed*

              Sorry, I meant the people were stupid (because uneducated, because I have actually heard of a person who thought that sheep were slaughtered for their wool). And I was trying for jocular, and clearly failing. I … think I’ll get back to job-hunting now, and thank you for this gentle reminder.

      2. Smithy*

        I’ve worked at nonprofits my entire career, and I can say that most hobbies questions I’ve found replaced by “what drew you to a job at X” or “what excites you most about X”.

        I worked at a small human rights organization that just attracted a number of very passionate staff who were also passionate vegans/vegetarians. The kitchen wars that raged there were indication enough to know that asking about hobbies was just an overly fraught road.

        Across my career, I’ve largely worked for human rights and humanitarian orgs – and I will say that people I knew who worked there that did hunt or fish kept it pretty quiet. Similarly, I enjoy vintage coats that sometimes have fur trim – and I keep that quiet as well. I’m not going to get fired or denied a promotion because of it – but I also can read the room that it’s not going to help me connect with a number of my coworkers either.

    7. Lynn Whitehat*

      I have this problem. My main activities outside of work are political activism and teaching a comprehensive sex ed class at my church. I just talk about running with my dog. I kind of wish there was a way to talk about the other stuff, because I honestly feel like I’ve learned a lot about leadership that is helpful in my paid work. But there just isn’t.

    8. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

      My main hobby is LARPing, followed by tabletop RPGs and wargaming, so this question is very relevant to me.

      1. Jessen*

        I was thinking this as well. My hobbies tend to be stereotyped as “basement-dwelling nerd” type hobbies, which isn’t really fair but would definitely be something I’d avoid mentioning in an interview.

  9. Another Lawyer*

    OP, I had the same issue interviewing during law school. Assuming you’re talking about firm interviews (YMMV with other types of jobs) Alison’s advice is good. Interviewers don’t care about your hobbies, they just want to know if they’ll enjoy working with you. My experience talking to law firm interviewers is that they go in assuming that they’ll be spending long days and late nights with whomever they hire, and want to be sure they’ll get along with that person and not be driven crazy.

    1. Anon From Here*

      Yep. (Lawyer here as well.) The “what d’you do in your spare time” question isn’t actually asking you to tell them what you do in your spare time. It’s more a way to see if you’re more human than robot-lawyer.

    2. Legal Rugby*

      My boss told me to put my hobbies on my resume because unless you are top ten, or have something that really sets you apart when you leave law school, she is going to hire the baby attorney she would want to be trapped in a conference room with. (She phrased it as the person “I’d grab a beer with.” but then expounded on it.)

    3. Lucky*

      Any concerns with OP’s hobbies all being coded as “women’s stuff?” I would have worried about that in law school, because most of my interviewers/decision makers at firms were men, who wouldn’t as likely relate to these activities. Though, I can’t recall what I did say my hobbies were – going out to see live music and watching X-Files didn’t seem appropriate at the time.

      1. Holly*

        Maybe. I remember an article came out actually that found at law firms hobbies were coded to show wealth/class- like people who listed “boating” or “squash” as hobbies were more likely to be hired. But at the interview stage, well, they know OP is a woman. It wouldn’t make much sense to add a hobby that isn’t genuine just to pass as a certain type of person, I feel like that would not pay off.

      2. Lynn Whitehat*

        I work in a very male-dominated field (tech). No effing way would I discuss feminine-coded hobbies in a job interview. Obviously they know I’m female. But not wanting to seem *too* ultra-feminine is definitely a “thing” in tech. I’m not defending it, but it’s there.

      3. Chinookwind*

        Chinook looks down at herself and responds….

        There is no doubt when someone looks at me that I am a woman and, since I have now reached the “no f’s left to give” part of my life, I want to ask why I should hide the fact that I like women’s stuff. Honestly, if the employer doesn’t want to hire me because I do, then that is a sign that I don’t want to work for them either.

        1. Chinookwind*

          Though, reading Lynn Whitehat’s response, if I was applying to a male-dominated field and was worried about that, I would probably mention that I also practise kickboxing and have trained in kobudo (which means I know how to hurt you with said knitting needles). Because liking women’s stuff doesn’t mean that I don’t like men’s stuff too.

      4. Turanga Leela*

        I try not to bring in cookies when I start a new job, because I think that veers into “office mom” territory very quickly, but I genuinely wouldn’t overthink the interview question. I think almost all of my law school classmates had “cooking” as a hobby. Knitting and baking are so normal that I can’t see this answer hurting her.

  10. Penny For Your Thoughts*

    I had one interviewer who reacted negatively to my ‘boring’ hobbies. When I told him that I read, bake, and do embroidery, he responded that all of those were solo activities and did that mean I wasn’t a people person. I was surprised but quick to respond that all my friends are bookworms so we regularly get together to discuss books, I bake to share with my friends and family at gatherings, and all of my friends doing crafting together, plus my embroidery is for a charity group.

    He seemed fine with that explanation and I was pleased that I thought so fast to make the hobbies less isolated. I guess he wanted more of a group driven answer like I play a team sport or do big volunteer group work but I answered as honestly as I could.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      This is a great experience to share. OP, this is why they are asking. They want to know about you as a person. A good interview will go like PFYT’s where the interviewer will ask you about it for a reason and then let you speak to that reason.

      1. CM*

        I think this experience is instructive, but also frustrating and I wouldn’t call this person a good interviewer. If you ask somebody about their personal life and they respond in a way you can’t relate to, just move on. It’s nice that the interviewer gave her a chance to ask about what he REALLY wanted to know, but using a question about one thing as a proxy for some other trait is unfair. Just because you like to read and craft doesn’t mean you’re not a people person.

        1. Addie Bundren*

          Can’t agree with this. His question wasn’t necessarily a “gotcha” but a natural followup for an answer that COULD certainly mean that a person prefers to spend their free time independently. A good interviewer will absolutely ask followup questions as necessary.

        2. LizM*

          Yeah, I’d be frustrated by this. I have a job that requires a lot of team work and interpersonal communication.

          I’m an introvert. I know myself well enough to know that I recharge better when I have alone time. One of my favorite weekend activities is listening to audiobooks or podcasts and knitting.

          I’m better at my job because I take time to myself during my free time. It’s all about balance. In my experience, a lot of extraverts just simply don’t understand that.

    2. Bea*

      Yeah. I’m glad you were able to explain it like that.

      But he’s a jerk. I don’t do things with others. Yes, I’m a person who needs to do things alone due to my introversion. I am exhausted socialising. I like it. In small doses. Then I need to be a hermit.

      I wouldn’t work for that guy. I’d turn icy and probably withdraw from the process. Which is fine since I would rather someone tell me who they are up front.

    3. Paris Geller*

      Wow, that question would infuriate me. My hobbies are solo activities *because* I spend the majority of my workday as a people person–and I like it, but I’m an introvert. I love helping people, but I need to recharge. Books and baking are my happy place for that.

      1. Nita*

        Very true! And it’s probably useful to turn this question around in an interview and say exactly that – that you’re doing people things at work all the time, and want to unwind with alone time.

    4. The Other Geyn*

      Probably slightly off topic, but as an introvert it drives me bonkers that naturally extroverted people seems to associate “liking to do things alone” with “not working well with people in a group.” I’m an excellent group player, but I need to decompress alone after that. /rant over.

      1. LQ*

        I would like to shout this from mountaintops. Emblazon it upon the moon.

        (And also when a group isn’t working well don’t blame me or them being introverts. That’s almost never the problem. The problem is someone is a jerk, or harassing other, or it’s a bad project, or there is no money/time, or the group doesn’t trust each other. THE group problem is never introversion.)

  11. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    OP, I think your recent and extensive school experience is coloring the significance you are giving this (possible) question (I’ve never been asked what I do outside of work.)
    Because in school, you get all kinds of info on your instructors. “Oh, she thinks Hemingway is a hack, Neil deGrasse Tyson is a lightweight. Do/don’t quote Stephen Colbert, Winston Churchill, RGB.” Things like that which will help you build a relationship in the class.
    There’s nothing like that for interviews, no “rate my interviewer” board. Each person you interview will be a completely different person with their own preferences and hangups. Don’t try to guess what they want. Be who you are.

    1. McWhadden*

      Hobbies is a pretty interview common question though. Not to say everyone asks it. But she is likely to hear it through out her career.

    2. Holly*

      I don’t think that’s what OP is saying. In law firm interviewing it’s extremely common to discuss hobbies. It’s part of the legal interview/law school interview prep culture.

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        That’s really interesting. I’m in graphic design/desktop publishing. Now I’m wondering if I’ve never been asked because interviewers assume we all like and do the same things…

  12. JB*

    I have a few artsy hobbies and I keep photos of my favorite pieces so I can show them to people when hobbies come up in conversation.

    The acronym for small talk is “FORD,” stands for Family, Occupations, Recreation, and Destinations. These are basically the four universal topics for which anyone should be able to make idle chitchat. At a bare minimum, they provide some social lubricant so that conversation and interactions flow more smoothly. If you are headed into a social situation, it doesn’t hurt to consider what you are willing to talk about in advance, since you can bet these four topics will come up in conversation.

      1. Else*

        You can add that in the US, too, in most places. Even the places where the weather is the same every day 90% of the year (Phoenix and Seattle, I’m looking at you), that 10% takes up a lot of local conversational space.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Especially these days, with weather patterns changing. I mean, I used to be able to count on a hot week early in October, and you know it was hot because it contrasted with the other, cooler weeks before and after. This year, I did get that hot week, but it was surrounded by other hot weeks, which were NOT seasonal 5 years ago, but might become the new normal soon.

    1. Dragoning*

      Family seems like a really rough topic for small talk–I absolutely do not want to talk about my family as small talk because some of us have issues with it–like one of the LW’s from the post earlier this morning.

      What do yo u say about your family when your family is abusive, toxic, and horrible?

      1. Smarty Boots*

        Don’t say anything — don’t bring them up. I’d say, if someone asked about my family and they were horrible, I’d just redirect — “Oh, my family is all back in Buffalo and boy do they have stories about the snow!” (“destinations” and “weather”)

      2. I’m actually a squid*

        For the most part I just don’t. Or only talk about Mr Squid’s family. I also have a small but strong group of friends so I’ll mention my non-blood nephew or something my “sister” is doing in the place that others would mention their immediate family. I work in a very chatty, family-oriented environment and if anyone’s noticed that I never talk about my parents or blood-siblings, they haven’t said anything.

      3. Temperance*


        What I do is redirect, or talk about my sister/my nieces and nephews. They are so cute and interesting that almost no one will say “oh Temperance, aren’t you close with your mother?” At least, that hasn’t happened in casual conversation.

      4. JB*

        People don’t want accuracy and they don’t want truth. They mostly just want banal chatter that proves they are not speaking to a robot. All you have to say is, “My parents are from South Dakota, so I don’t see them much. My dad was a pipe welder and my mom taught grade school.” You can leave out the fact that they are Lebanese terrorists (or whatever) because that’s way too much information and they probably won’t care anyway. Then you finish up with a transition to a new topic: “They retired to this little house near Mount Rushmore. Have you ever seen it?”

        I don’t recommend lying, because you leave yourself vulnerable to follow-up questions. But nobody expects you to volunteer your personal secrets. Just keep it superficial and throw out ‘leads’ for new topics.

        1. Dragoning*

          I don’t even want to be superficial. That allows me to make the conversational partner comfortable, but leaves me an emotional wreck because I had to even navigate the situation all while terrified my job would be on the line if I twitched wrong.

  13. Stephanie*

    “In fact, much of the time, interviewers don’t really care what your hobbies are; they just want to see if you can make pleasant small talk about a topic that’s comfortable for you. So you’ll answer this better if you look at the question as an attempt to engage you in conversation and learn a bit more about who you are, rather than as attempt to divine who you really are as a professional.”

    Oh, this is a great way to put it.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      Yes, treat it like a conversation, not an interrogation. It’s hard, but you have to take an active role in the whole process.

  14. Murphy*

    I’ve mentioned knitting/crocheting/etc in job interviews before, and I’ve never had a bad reaction to it.

  15. JJJJShabado*

    I’m not the best interviewer, but for the most part when I ask “What do you like to do outside of work”, I’m filling time and just want to hear them talk about something (*). Interviews are a conversation to me, and this is part of a conversation. I may engage in talk about sports or children, but those aren’t bonus points for me.

    (*) The slight corollary to this is if they spent time in England, I ask if they attended any soccer matches.

    1. CTT*

      I am convinced I got a summer associate job once because I brought up soccer as one of my interests and it turned out half the office was obsessed with Premier League.

  16. CM*

    You’re a lawyer? Say your hobbies are golf and sailing. Your interviewer will love it.

    I’m only half-joking… when I interviewed at big law firms, there was so much gatekeeping and interviewers REALLY wanted me to be just like them in as many ways as possible.

    I had one law firm partner say to me that he always asks about hobbies because it’s such an intense job that it’s important to have something you’re passionate about that is not related to the law, so you have a mental break and balance in your life. Do with that what you will. (The same guy rejected everything I said as “not a hobby” and then said he was really into sailing.)

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Now I’m curious to know what he rejected!

      I think you’ve touched on something interesting. I also, outside of law, have encountered interviewers– and managers– who wanted me to be more like them. I once had a manager tell me that when I first came on board he thought it was “weird” that I wasn’t “into normal things” but he eventually decided that I could teach him something. Um… thanks? He, for the record, was really into sports and had a hard time carrying on non-work conversations with people who didn’t care about sports at all. Apparently I puzzled him because I don’t hate sports, I really love going to baseball games, but it’s not a focal point in my life.

      I’ve had moments where I’ve briefly debated whether to share certain things that I do in my spare time, simply because they’re a little outside the box among people in my field. But as I’ve progressed in my career I’ve stopped caring so much and started proudly telling people what I like to do, though I would be lying if I said I was never teased because of my hobbies and activities.

      1. Ana*

        I’m interested enough in sports to be willing to watch soccer/tennis/football with anyone who is watching it, and to talk about it, but I don’t really follow any sport. It’s an interesting space to be in.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Haha, my mom (2 states away) tells me when MY local team is playing. Even if they’re not playing HER local team.

      2. Bea*

        The funny thing is I’ve been into sports my entire life. The vast majority of people I’ll encounter and work with are anti-sports. I get a lot of nonsense pointed in my direction over being “part of the problem” because they grew up being bullied by jocks. My brother got into sports late due to his bad experiences with football players in high school…he’s gotten so much crap for now following professional sports. Ick.

        I loath people who take these things so seriously on either end. It’s so insignificant and irrelevant to boil these things down like that! Enjoy whatever you like as long as it doesn’t hurt others, jeez.

    1. Daniel*

      Heh. But this comment makes me think about how my own hobbies may come off to other people.

      I really do two things. One is doing hosting and production work for a college radio station, but the other one is darts, which is definitely associated with boozing/pub culture in some circles. I’ve never gotten this question in an interview, but if I ever get it, I wonder if I should drop that half of the answer.

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        Nah… I’d keep it. Darts, pool, and related ‘bar leagues’ are common enough that I don’t think anyone would read binge drinker/alcoholic into it.

    2. many bells down*

      Online, I list one of my hobbies as “beer.” I like beer. I can’t have more than two, anymore, because of health reasons but yeah probably should leave that out of my interviews.

      Although I do live in Seattle so it might be a plus.

  17. Former call centre worker*

    My employer asks candidates to “tell me about yourself” in interviews, which often leads to a question about hobbies, but it’s not scored and is mainly done as an ice breaker. If you can sound like a normal person for this question you’re probably fine

    1. Red Reader*

      My boss does find it remarkably entertaining, in a good way, that I read management advice columns for fun.

  18. Boredatwork*

    OP these are totally normal hobbies! I personally love to bake, which has always elicited excitement (people love free food) with whomever is interviewing me. We have several people in the office who knit (its a common baby shower gift) and people who craft/scrapbook. There is no shortage of elaborate “thank you” cards floating around.

    Really, it’s just a question to get to know you. And most functional, healthy offices will not use this information to try and pry inappropriate services out of you.

    1. PB*

      Yep. These are pretty much exactly my hobbies, except I crochet instead of knit. People are generally interested in these, even if they don’t share the hobby. Being able to make your own stuff, whether we’re talking about sweaters or cookies, is inherently interesting, IME.

      Also, for some reason, everyone latches onto running to show dedication, the the point that it’s become weird. We were interviewing someone a couple years ago, and every one of her reference talked about how she’s a marathon runner, so you know she’s dedicated! I don’t necessarily agree with this. I know she’s dedicated to running, but it doesn’t tell me anything about her ability to perform the job we’re hiring for. It’s a fun tidbit, but it doesn’t convey as much information as people seem to think it does.

      1. Boredatwork*

        lol TBH if someone says they’re a marathon runner, I mentally tally the number of hours they dedicate to their hobby. I mean sure hobby’s are great but if it’s busy season and you’re getting pissed off you don’t have time to run 30+ miles a week, that’s a red flag.

        I’d feel the same way about someone who said they had a “side” cake business. I made a “wedding” cake once and it took like 40 man hours.

  19. Camellia*

    I hate to say it, but I automatically think “don’t mention things like baking or knitting” because to me that’s a version of “don’t bring baked goods to work when you are a woman because if the image it can cast you in”. I mention reading and what types of workouts I prefer, or something along those lines.

    Am I the only one who thinks that?

    1. Reba*

      I get that they are seen as feminized activities, but if you do them, I mean, you do them?

      I think that baking as a creative outlet in your free time is *not* the same as bringing baked goods to work excessively and making that and other kinds of “housekeeping” part of your professional role.

    2. Anon From Here*

      TBH, I’m from a generation that would hesitate before discussing hobbies related to homemaking-type activities, too. One of my favoritest hobbies is home food preservation — putting up jars of jams/jellies, vegetables, soups — but for an interview I’ll talk about my most recent road trip instead.

      But I’m a little older, and old habits die hard. I wonder if it’s not as problematic these days as it was, say, 20-30 years ago.

      1. Bee*

        I think this is also influenced by the fact that they’ve gotten rather trendy again: knitting has been going through a years-long resurgence among twenty-something women, and the Great British Bake-Off has done something similar for baking. As a result, I think they feel less weighted by expectations.

      2. Jaid_Diah*

        I watched a video on how to preserve eggs using slaked quicklime. You get fresh eggs from the farm, leaving the membrane on the shell. A clean plastic bucket, a gallon of water to a pound of lime and the fresh eggs and you can store them for months. That was pretty cool to learn.

    3. Murphy*

      I don’t think it would be a problem in most situations. The only time I might be concerned is if it was a really male-dominated field, and/or a particularly “bro” culture in that office. But even then I don’t think it would be too bad. Even if they hire you, they may not remember what hobbies you mentioned in your interview.

    4. KarenT*

      No it crossed my mind as well. I would caution the OP to be a bit cautious for the reason you mention. I do think it’s field dependent, though. I work in a female dominated industry, so I wouldn’t worry much. If I worked in a male dominated industry, I’d be much more cautious. I think the spin Alison put on it also really helps–about liking experimenting and trying new recipes, as opposed to more care giving or nurturing reasons for baking. (And I do hate that this is even an issue!)

    5. Elaine*

      I do a lot of baking and crocheting as well – more than the people around me want to eat or wear. So I donate baked goods – incredibly, there are places that will take it without so much as a kitchen inspection. I’ve made warm gloves and scarves for homeless people and school kids who don’t have any. Maybe OP can truthfully spin this into volunteering (even if it isn’t very often, and she doesn’t have to mention that).

    6. Willow*

      I would avoid a list of only those sort of thing, but if you are mentioning three or four activities I don’t think there’s much harm in including one of them. I’d say reading, swimming, baking and astronomy, as those are my big four. I also sew and knit but I wouldn’t say sewing, knitting and baking, because I feel that comes off too heavily “traditional female stereotype”.

    7. CM*

      I agree with Camellia completely. These days I’m in different types of workplaces and in a position where I don’t have to conform quite as much. But in a very conservative, power-centric, male-dominated environment (like, the kind of place where even when you work there, it doesn’t feel totally safe to acknowledge that your children exist), I absolutely did not mention traditionally feminine things like baking and spending time with my family. I already had a hard enough time getting them to take me seriously without confirming their stereotypes about me.

  20. media monkey*

    i sew and make almost all of my own clothes (generally including whatever i am wearing to the interview!). Never had anyone ask me about it and appear to see it in a negative light!

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      Agreed! You sound like my kind of person tbh.

      I’m very much a homebody as well. I can be “on” at work – happy, friendly, charming – but in my own time I use my hobbies to recharge and yeah, they’re solo hobbies, but that’s because I need them to be.

  21. Cheese Boat*

    I like the way Allison frames this! I was told by a career services professional at my graduate program that I should view questions like this as a way for the interviewer to see me talk about something I’m passionate about. I imagine this serves two purposes: what Allison mentioned, and to help gauge if your interest in the job that you have been expressing during the interview is genuine. I always appreciate questions like this because they are pretty easy to answer and feel like lower pressure than questions about my qualifications. They can also break up some of the nervous tension in the room.

  22. gbca*

    I think there’s a misconception that most people have these unique, interesting hobbies outside work. I would guess that for probably a majority of folks, that’s not true. I think teaching yourself baking and knitting is completely legitimate to discuss as a hobby, and has the added benefit of being pretty much completely non-controversial. If it makes you feel better, in my spare time I pretty much just make dinner, chase my toddler around, and collapse in front of the TV with my husband once said toddler goes to bed. I wasn’t that much more interesting before I became a parent either! As others said, it’s more about your ability to make small talk.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I think teaching yourself baking and knitting is completely legitimate to discuss

      In fact, were I interviewing you, and you said, “I like to teach myself new stitches in knitting,” that would give you an edge!

      Someone who says, “it would be cool / useful to know this extra thing” and goes ON THEIR OWN to find out about it is the sort of person who will google “how to create pivot tables in Excel” on their own

      I would hope it would also be the sort of person who tries to memorize a procedure instead of just always asking the same question over and over.

      So, there’s that.

      It shows an interest in growth; intiative in achieving that growth; and an eye and brain for detail.

  23. Amber Rose*

    I’ve always said I play video games and read books, and that’s always been fine.

    Small side note: I’ve decided I want to learn how to either knit or crochet in the new year, since I’ve seen people make some really cool things out of yarn. I think that’s amazing, and honestly am not sure why you would class it as ‘boring.’ Sure, it’s not skydiving or extreme sports, but people who can look at string and see how it can become something like a hat or a toy are pretty awesome.

    1. Elemeno P.*

      I highly recommend the Stitch ‘N Bitch books! I learned the absolute basics from my aunt and taught myself the rest from those books. Better incentive: the crochet version is called The Happy Hooker.

    2. TootsNYC*

      “I’ve seen people make some really cool things out of yarn. I think that’s amazing,”

      My mom would say that knitting is alchemy. “Take a string and two sticks, and make a sweater.” Crochet was even more–“take a string and ONE stick, and make a sweater.”

      1. Amber Rose*

        It’s really cool. I’ve been looking for something I can do while still hanging out on the couch with my family, and the more stuff I see people making, the more I want to try it myself.

        But it’s October. I’m officially under a “do not buy” order for all non-necessities until after Christmas.

    3. HannahS*

      I learned from a Klutz kit. They’re aimed at children, but they’re fantastic and I recommend them enthusiastically!

    4. I'llonlyflyaway*

      Have you ever had anyone react badly to “I play videogames”? I am female and I feel like I’m in the closet about my video gaming. Just to clarify, I’m not talking about CandyCrush here, I’m talking about RPGs and MMOs. For some reason I feel like the stigma that video games are a waste of time and something a 12 year old boy can be into but not a woman with an advanced degree. Thoughts?

      1. Amber Rose*

        I never have, but most places I’ve worked have been very casual, no dress code, lots of cursing, etc. My current boss was relieved to hear I play games because it’d be easier for me to fit in. I think if I were applying to a more… not sure what the word is. Conservative? Reserved? Anyways, if I got the sense I would be working for a more formal company, I’d probably focus on other things that I do and leave out the games.

        I wonder if board games have the same stigma. I have been into collecting weird board games lately and organizing game nights with friends.

        1. Elemeno P.*

          I think board games are pretty safe territory. People unfamiliar with them think you like to have Monopoly nights, and people who are familiar with them will bring up their favorites. I also like weird board games!

          Tabletop RPGs definitely have a stigma, though. I mentioned playing D&D and my director said he was surprised I ever came to work; his familiarity with D&D was from the 80’s when he worked as a resident advisor (of a sort), and all the kids in their late teens he supervised would skip work to play D&D in 12 hour marathon sessions. I’m sure there are also people that still think it’s about summoning demons or something.

      2. AnonEMoose*

        Also a woman, have a Master’s degree.

        I play some video games myself (primarily the Dragon Age and Diablo franchises). I’ve occasionally said, when asked, that it’s a great way to process a frustrating day (hey, when something annoys me in “Diablo 3,” I can drop a meteor on it!).

        But I’ve never had anyone react badly. If they did, I’d probably consider them ignorant and, unless I was really desperate for a job, consider it a bullet dodged.

        But then, my biggest hobbies are volunteering for a local to me science fiction convention, gaming (tabletop RPGs), reading, and baking. In an interview, I might mention the convention because it’s a big part of my life, it’s important to me, and through that experience, I’ve learned some really great skills.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          I was about to ask you about the convention, but I’m going to wait for the Friday or weekend thread instead. (Heads-up to others who are interested!)

      3. Someone Else*

        They didn’t react badly per se, but they reacted disproportionately? I find I tend to be more specific now about which video games, because a couple of times when I just said “video games” I promptly got quizzed on a bunch of current very popular games that I don’t play at all and only know about in the very general “it’s popular now and I hear it mentioned” way. For some reason, some people hear “likes video games” and equate that to a very specific view of a “gamer” and because I didn’t fit that I was somehow…misleading about video games being a hobby? I don’t know. This has happened with other hobbies too I guess though, where suddenly I’m expected to be an expert on the thing, or must do it constantly, and it’s like….no? I just…enjoy doing that and do it sometimes? But not daily or necessarily every weekend and I don’t know everything.

        1. Elemeno P.*

          Are you a lady? That happens a lot to me, too. I used to work in a game store and STILL got quizzed on the games I liked, and I felt weird about saying I enjoyed puzzles and RPGs because I would often get the “well yes but what about REAL games” from a certain crowd. Thankfully, normal people who enjoy video games don’t react like that.

      4. Bulbasaur*

        Very rarely for me (and never as an interviewee) but I work in IT and it’s a very common hobby there. On the one or two occasions I did see it, it generally said more about them than the interviewee (one was on the goofy/sarcastic side, and was not overly careful about whether their remarks might offend people) and definitely wasn’t a viewpoint shared by the other interviewers.

        I think compared to 10-20 years ago it’s become more and more mainstream, and also more acceptable as a hobby for adults since so many of us grew up with gaming. I will mention it during an interview if I’m asked, since it does take up a lot of my time, but I usually won’t elaborate further unless they ask more questions.

        The advantage of mentioning it, if one or more of the interviewers turns out to be a fellow gamer, is that it can open the door to other conversations. For example, I wouldn’t normally talk about skills I learned as a raid leader in WOW that I applied to my day job (I think Alison has an old answer on this topic) but if you’re having a conversation about a gaming hobby then you can definitely bring it up in that context.

    5. Nea*

      I taught myself using the Knitting Help videos online. I’m one of those people who needs to see it, not just read it, although these are some excellent book recommendations.

  24. Lisa Babs*

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying. “I knit and bake, I love teaching myself new knitting techniques or recipes. In fact I… insert example… (ie – I made this scarf I’m wearing, last night I made my first souffle that didn’t fall)”. Just make it conversational and not just a list (like Alison mentioned).

  25. CTT*

    Echoing everyone that often the question is asked more to see your conversational skills, but keep in mind that this is one of those “interviews go both ways” situations; the interviewer’s reaction can matter in helping you determine if you want to work with them. When I was interviewing for summer associate positions and was asked about this, I would bring up soccer. Some people were super-into soccer and had lots of follow-up questions, some were not but would say something like “oh, my best friend/brother/whatever is really into it, what do you like about it?” And then there were two who just said “Oh.” and then completely changed the subject. So I knew that this wa aprobably not going to be a good fit, and when I didn’t get a callback, I wasn’t devestated. If you have an interviewer who dismisses your (totally lovely) hobbies, then that’s a sign about fit.

  26. Rollergirl09*

    As a woman, I noticed as I entered my late twenties and early thirties I stopped getting this question because interviewers were wary of asking me anything that might disclose if I had children.

    1. Sleepy Librarian*

      I haven’t interviewed for a job in over ten years, and I certainly hope this is the case. Being asked something “to see if I can make pleasant small talk about a topic that’s comfortable for you” is my nightmare scenario because NO, I cannot! (Also, I think I have no hobbies.)

  27. Sunshine Brite*

    The hobby aspect might too be that they’re just gauging your current work/life balance. Hobbies tend to be a protective factor from other stress and it’s nice to know employees have positive outlets

  28. Armchair Analyst*

    As an MBA seeking to go into a high-travel field (consulting), I was told to put “travel” on my resume as a hobby.

    Also, I was told to put something obscure so that an interviewer would try to question you – for example, if you like say you like “football” but then aren’t up on the local team, or your alumni team, then are you *really* a football fan??

    So I usually put something domestic, as well, thinking that it would be less likely for an interviewer (presumably male) to question “knitting”.

    1. Lisa Babs*

      I would slightly disagree on that rational, although the outcome is the same. A hobby starts the conversation going… and the interviewer might ask follow up questions. Not to prove that you are really into the hobby you say, but to try to make a connection. Asking about the game last night isn’t a way to out you.. it’s a way to connect. I have interviewed people before and have asked follow up questions on their hobbies before and it’s never to out someone or to have them prove their hobbies. So as long as you only list hobbies that are actually hobbies and you know things about and you don’t have anything to fear.

    2. Doc in a Box*

      Why do you presume your interviewer will be male, and that he would be less likely to ask follow-up questions about knitting?

      I agree with Lisa Babs, follow-up hobby questions are not antagonistic — at least at a good employer they aren’t. But it does look odd when I ask a follow-up hobby question (which is pretty much just small talk) and the interviewee can’t tell me their most recent travel destination, or a book they recently read, or their fail-safe recipe for banana bread, or who they rooted for in the last Superbowl, or how they got interested in painting. Makes me wonder if there’s anything else on their resume they say they know about but actually don’t.

  29. Could be Anyone*

    “I love to bake, I’m famous for my triple chocolate brownies (or whatever).” I would hire you in the hopes that you bring in treats ;)

  30. Emilitron*

    In some sense, one of the things that the interviewer may be trying to screen out is the reaction that you’re having – oh dear, nobody could possibly be interested in what I’m doing, it’s boring, it’s matronly, it’s dull. Even if you do something that’s a classic “business” hobby you could talk about it in such a way as to flunk the interview question, if you apologize for liking it, downplay the skill involved, and say it’s not worth doing. Instead think of it as your chance to show that you have opinions and stand by them, and that you can communicate unexpected information to an audience.
    I like knitting! It’s like meditation, but with an end product. It feels great to create something new from raw materials, and it’s fun to plan projects to have the perfect gift for a friend. (see, stating your opinion in a positive and persuasive way, no apologies)

    That said, I never admit in public that I’m a folk dancer… but knitting? sure!

  31. Audrey Puffins*

    My sister listed baking as one of her hobbies. She got the job. We’re never quite sure how much her co-workers are joking, but they do like to say that their second-choice candidate was a very close second but the possibility of getting home-baked cakes was too good to pass up. That can be either a positive or a negative, depending on your outlook. ;)

  32. Phoenix Programmer*

    I have a similar challenge. I like video games but there are a lot of misconceptions about what that says about me so I tend to avoid mentioning it. But then I fall a bit flat on the rapport side with this question as I am not as interested or versed in the mother safe items like “board games” and reading.

    1. Lia*

      Same, especially as a woman who enjoys FPS, and is pretty good at them, but IRL is about the least violent person you’d ever meet. If games come up, I tend to mention MMOs or more mainstream ones. I don’t particularly enjoy board games, so those are out.

      1. Phoenix Programmer*

        IKR? Currently playing garveyard keeper which is a messed up game in many levels but mostly fun stress relief for me.

    2. Thanksforthetip*

      Yeah, I never mention my video gaming habit in interviews or at work. I have the same problem you do: they take up a lot of time and if I don’t mention them it seems like I don’t do anything. I never thought of saying I play board games. I think I’ll steal that if you don’t mind!

      1. Phoenix Programmer*

        I mentioned it once and became “that odd adult who likes children’s entertainment.” To them video games are for kids and teens only…

        So M for mature games have only a 2 year audience span according to you?

        1. Thanksforthetip*

          So true. I play MMOs and there are lots of players in their 30s and 40s out there. There are even players who are retired and in their 60s and 70s *gasp.*
          It would be great if the whole mindset would change. Videogames actually require a lot of traits that are helpful in the workplace: persistence, people skills, dexterity, problem solving, etc. Not to mention how great they are for stress relief.

          1. Ermintrude*

            I’ve been studying making digital games (and starting to actually play them again) so when I twtell people about that I talk about how as an artist and creative person there’s so many elements in games that come together that I’m interested in and so many skills and disciplines involved in making them.
            An avid video game player might get some mileage out of those aspects.

  33. Ana*

    I’m not sure what I would say my hobbies are! I like to swim, I like photography, I like to read, I like comedy shows in person or on tv. I especially like poetry and philosophy right now, but that seems weird to say. But it’s not like I do standup comedy or write poetry myself. I also wouldn’t want to say anything too political, like that my favorite poem is Still I Rise by Maya Angelou or that a book I read recently that I liked a lot was about a communist double agent (long story short).

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      I see 4 hobbies right there. You like to swim, you like to read, you like photography (taking pix or looking at them?), you like stand-up comedy.

      Believe it or not, there are people who don’t like any of those things. I’d say that anything you do by choice and for pleasure (not an activity required by life, such as breathing air; and not your paid employment) counts as a hobby. Just because it’s not something you buy in a kit at a “hobby shop” doesn’t mean it’s not a hobby.

      If someone asks you about reading, *then* you can mention poetry or philosophy or reading spy novels or double-agent memoirs (if your read of the room supports it).

    2. gmg22*

      I think we tend to assume that “hobbies” have to be things we actively do as opposed to things we find avidly interesting/spend a lot of time consuming/visiting/checking out, and we shouldn’t assume that. Your hobbies sound delightful! And remind me of some items of my own that I should add to my list.

      A job candidate in a hiring process I was involved in at an old workplace listed her hobbies as “Roman ruins, the Bauhaus, travel.” I just loved that. She didn’t move to the in-person interview stage so I didn’t get to ask her about any of it, but I loved that list.

  34. Bea*

    My hobbies include binge watching SVU and playing with everyone’s dogs in the park.

    It’s okay to be boring. They don’t want you to be really active in hobbies, you’ll have no time once you’re working ;)

  35. swingbattabatta*

    Not sure if anyone else has noted this, but you are also much more likely to find an interviewer who also likes to decompress by reading/cooking/watching netflix than you are to find an interviewer whose favorite pastime is extreme skydiving or adopting wild lemurs or something else that makes you *stand out*.

  36. Seifer*

    I am cracking up at the thought of saying B&Es when asked what my hobbies are. “Oh yeah, so for fun, I enjoy hiking, breaking into neighborhood homes, and thrifting with my significant other!” “You what now?”

    All joking aside, I had a sociology professor ask questions like this in order to suss out birth order. It wasn’t about what the answers were, it was about how you gave them. Maybe this is something similar.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      Research! You’re *researching* the perfect B&E for the crime novel you’re going to write one of these days.

  37. Memily*

    I was asked this in the interview for my current job. My interviewer, who is now a friend and close coworker,, said she asked this to weed out all the crazy people! Apparently, another person interviewed said that if she wasn’t at work or with her son, she was out getting wasted and high. She…didn’t get the job. ;-)

    Also funny, my second interview was with the company accountant. She told me she had all my answers from my first interview, “including the one about what you do on the weekend, which honestly seems like such a stupid question!” Our accountant is super black and white, no gray area at all, so this just shows you the difference in interview styles. It was explained later after I was hired, and she did agree that it was a smart question after seeing that answers some people gave, but she couldn’t figure it out in the moment!

  38. ACDC*

    I get you girl! I’m 1000% a grandma in a 20-something body. I love crafting and baking in my free time. However, OP, I think you have a more negative view of that than you should. It isn’t sky-diving, sure, but (in my opinion) knitting, crafting, baking shows that you are creative, dedicated (b/c knitting anything takes a long time), love to express yourself, etc. I could really go on forever about what these hobbies would say about you as a person. Do whatever you can to own the hobbies you love! They are certainly nothing to be embarrassed about!

    You’d be surprised how many interviewers/hiring managers/etc. will share similar interests :)

  39. Lia*

    When we ask it in interviews, we are looking for candidates who have a balance between work and non-work. Someone who cannot come up with any hobbies at all is perhaps not going to fit into the team so well. You don’t have to have a ton of things going on, but this work can be stressful and hobbies are a way to deal with the stress.

    Myself, I am a distance runner who reads voraciously, knits, cooks, travels, and um, plays a lot of video games. I tend to leave the last one out, but I do discuss it if it comes up.

  40. Cilsheria*

    I’m glad we’re talking about this. I’ve had a bit of a different experience from what has been said so far.
    When I was job hunting, especially in informational interviews, I frequently got asked what sort of stuff I do outside of work. I was informed that if I wanted to be taken seriously, I should start doing tech work outside of work hours. One interview asked what sorts of apps I’d built ‘for fun’. Another told me that if I wanted to be taken seriously, I needed to participate in datathons and have a portfolio of code written for non-job related tasks. When I asked one interviewer about why I was not contacted after an interview, they said that my ‘lack of passion’ towards tech development could be seen because I was not, like the rest of the people in that team, doing things like ‘installing sensors around my house, writing drone programs or 3-D printing’.
    The experience was a huge blow to my self esteem and I now feel constant pressure to advance my analytics skills on my own time. For me, however, this feels like work, not relaxation. The activities that actually relax me are similar to the OP: reading, baking, walking and watching netflix with my friends.
    I’m not certain if this is a unique challenge in the tech sector, where people think you won’t be good at your job if you’re not passionate enough to do your job outside of work hours.

    1. Bea*

      I’m not shocked to hear this about tech. It is a whole world of its own.

      I did take more math courses to get away from “creative” electives many moons ago. However if I’m hiring another accountant, I won’t question their passion if they don’t do long division and balancing budgets for funsies on the weekends.

      1. Smarty Boots*

        Yes! I took an elective programming class in junior high (no, not middle school — I’m old enough that it was junior high) because I thought, that’s different! I’ll try it! — mostly boys in the class, but they started right at the most basic level, assumed that no one knew anything. (Ah, punch cards!)
        It’s not at all like that now…

        1. Bea*

          Jr high vs middle school isn’t generational. I went to both. Junior High school still exists in areas.

      2. Cilsheria*

        Interesting. I am a woman and I’ve actually started a meetup group for women in data science. I will share this with them.
        I did also ask a friend who’s a sociologist about this and she said having external work projects tends to be a more male trait, so this makes sense.
        In my group, we talk sometimes about how there are expectations in this field that lend themselves more towards male behaviour. I’ll add this to the list.

    2. Nabby*

      Tech is a whole different issue in this regard. I don’t know why you have to have tons of personal projects and an active, busy github to be serious about your job. We work 40+ hours of week . . . isn’t that enough programming for a person to do? People have other interests and other things to do beside programming.

      1. Cilsheria*

        Right? I mean, I recognize that there’s a lot to know and it’s a fast-moving field. There are probably lots of great things out there that I’m not being exposed to in my job. However, I can’t live like that. I need my downtime and I need it to not relate to my day job.

        1. Julia*

          I know! I’d be tempted to say, “well, I like to give my brain a break so I can bring my best programming skills to the job I’m getting paid for”, but I don’t think that would go over well.

    3. CM*

      Me too! I changed careers largely because of this. As a software developer, I definitely found that it was part of the culture to spend a lot of your free time coding. I felt like I obviously was not cut out for it, even though I consistently got excellent performance reviews, because I didn’t want to talk about algorithms in my spare time. I had that exact same experience multiple times in job interviews, where they would ask what I coded in my free time and then, when I tried to redirect into stuff I had done for class or work, or admitted that I didn’t code much in my free time, they told me I wasn’t cut out to be a developer because I didn’t have the passion for it.

    4. Jennifer Thneed*

      > installing sensors around my house

      Yeah, no. Someone who suggested that I should be psyched about doing this just because I’m in tech (sort of) would be treated to a long rant about corporate spying and exactly WHY the “Amazon Home Lock” is the worst product marketed, with the possible exception of “Amazon We’ll Break Into Your Car And Leave Mysterious Packages In Your Trunk”. Oh, and a humorous aside about Alexa breaking out into spooky laughter at unexpected times. And possibly a gripe about the time I was a passenger on a road trip with people who didn’t have paper maps and we couldn’t get a signal.

    5. gmg22*

      This makes me feel bummed about the culture of tech, but hopeful that more well-rounded people such as yourself will manage to break in and change that culture over time.

    6. Qwerty*

      That’s very frustrating! I’ve learned to launch a preemptive strike on that mentality by phrasing my non-tech hobbies as helping my tech side, as I barely use my computer outside of work. I’m out of practice, so I don’t have specific phrases to give. But basically showing how baking/knitting calms my problem solving part of my mind and gives me different perspectives on problems. If I’m going to do extra coding in a day, I’m more likely to just stay a bit longer at work and do something that will benefit my project. If I spend the weekend coding a personal project, then my brain hasn’t gotten appropriate rest and I’ll burn out faster at work, whereas learning a new craft skill exercises my brain without tiring out the parts I need for work. Runners don’t just do leg workouts everyday, they also take time to focus on their arms and core, which in turn help out their legs/speed. Brains are the same way. Or to put in nerd terms, there’s the tech folk story about how part of Steve Jobs success came from studying calligraphy, which convinced him to make elegant design a priority.

      Having a ton of tech projects at home isn’t always a good thing. I’ve noticed a correlation between these people and those who are difficult to manage, because they also have a lot of work side projects / are focused on using whatever is the newest and coolest tech instead of considering which tech is best for the job / only want to work on “new” projects / etc.

  41. CheeryO*

    I’ve had some surprisingly good reactions to mentioning knitting as a hobby! You obviously have to read the room since this might not go over well with a more stodgy interviewer, but I’ve actually joked about secretly being an 80-year-old and gotten a big laugh from it. I’ve also had some good conversations with interviewers about movies and books, even very mainstream stuff like Game of Thrones.

    I think most people understand that the modern work week doesn’t exactly leave time for intensive hobbies, so it’s totally fine to be “boring,” imo. Just try to bring a little personality to it in whatever way feels natural to you.

  42. Argh!*

    I agree with Alison but I wouldn’t mention knitting. It’s a rather gendered hobby, and unfortunately we still live in a world in which women are seen as less-than for stupid reasons. Mentioning it might conjure up images of you knitting through meetings or some other stereotype. In a profession dominated by men, you might want to offer only gender-neutral answers. They want to hire someone they can talk to casually and who will get along with their clients.

    Reading is a good work-related answer because not many people in law school feel they have time to read. You could frame it as having curiosity, not being able to turn your mind off at 5:00, or doing deep dives on subjects that came up in law school or in the news.

    Otherwise, not being passionate about things that take you out of the home means you’re not passionate about things that would make you itchy to leave work right at 5:00. That could be a good thing from the employer’s p.o.v. They’re looking for personality and fit, not “right” answers.

    1. GreenDoor*

      I disagree somewhat with Argh! I have a gendered hobby – sewing clothing. But when I talk about it in interviews, the angles I talk up is how much it provides stress relief and the math/problem solving aspects of it.
      “I like sewing because it requires skills that are so completely different from what I do at work (accounting) that, after a few hours of it, I am completely rested and ready to hit the ground running at work the next day”
      “What I like about sewing is the ability to figure out how to take flat fabric and get it to conform to the 3-D of the human body. Making all the individual pieces of a pattern fit in just the right way to create a new object is cool. I like the logic and the methodical approach that sewing requires. I find it’s similar to the approach needed in accounting , just in a different avenue”

    2. The Dread Pirate Buttercup*

      I have the opposite problem— my meatiest hobby, reading and writing science fiction, fantasy, and horror (I’ve won an award you’ve never heard of and “paid a light bill” or two) can be considered “dumb old boy stuff” by the unenlightened. I’m not great at interviewing, but I definitely have gotten a feeling that it’s a “read the room” thing to mention this. OTOH, I definitely prefer working in positions where I don’t have to pretend to be Marilyn and not a Munster, so maybe I should let my geek flag fly a bit more.

  43. Cautious Newbie*

    I’m always leery of this kind of question because my biggest hobby, cosplaying, is generally seen as weird and/or childish. I could try to spin it as sewing, but that leads to questions of what I sew and so many of my costumes involve crossdressing and crazy props and makeup, so I prefer to just avoid the whole situation.

    I usually go with reading with a focus on Agatha Christie or Sherlock Holmes mysteries since those are pretty safe.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      I think it’s so unfortunate that people are so close-minded about this kind of thing. So many of the cosplayers I know have amazing skills, and incredible problem-solving abilities. Figuring out how to translate a costume from a drawing or photo to a garment is no small thing.

    2. gmg22*

      Do you do any volunteer/charity work associated with your cosplay that you could pull into an interview discussion? My cosplaying friends have organized a bunch of us into a fundraising team for an annual charity race and festival, and we win the spirit award every single year. I am not a cosplayer, but it’s pretty darn fun to put my themed costume together every year and wow the whole festival (we also do a themed tent display that is incredible in its creative detail), and I know I wouldn’t get that opportunity without folks who love cosplay.

    3. Wannabikkit*

      I have similar issues with my hobbies. I play Dungeons & Dragons so if I mention that, I generally end up having to explain what it is. Fortunately my country didn’t have a panic about it so it could be worse.
      I also play board and card games, such as Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, Citadels, Redshirts, King of New York.. (I could go on!) People assume I mean Monopoly and Scrabble. I haven’t played either of those in over 30 years.
      I’m super into collecting stuff relating to Marvel comics and the Marvel Cinematic Universe too. Some people seem to think it odd that a 46 year old woman would be into that, but there you go. It all keeps my Dr Who stuff company.
      I’d be into cosplay too if I had the sewing skills!

    4. Pathfinder Ryder*

      Without planning to, I brought cosplay up in my last interview because they asked about a project I was proud of, and while my current role doesn’t really have projects, I sometimes coordinate cosplayer volunteers for charity and talked about that :)

  44. Labradoodle Daddy*

    This question gives me anxiety bc I’m currently in a period of bad depression and can’t make myself do much of anything.

    1. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

      ah, but you are reading AAM… so your hobbies are “reading non-fiction” and possibly (if you need two) “Learning more about the sociology of various office cultures.”
      I’d suggest buying Allison’s book(s) and reading the latest (not a shill here, they are great) so you have an answer for “what’s the last book you read.”
      I find it easy to be passionate about recommending this column, and I spend so much time here, it counts as a hobby.

  45. Technical_Kitty*

    I can’t imagine OP’s “homebody” hobbies being an issue. Just be passionate when speaking about them!

  46. Penelope*

    I started a craft beer club for women in my hometown and I have kept that on my resume since its inception four years ago. It has sparked so many conversations and I think, at least once, got me a job offer. I say put them in there and see what happens.

  47. Dankar*

    If someone told me they were reading Lahiri, Singh and Mukerjee, I would hire them on the spot. (Only kind of kidding…)

    I think we all probably have at least one hobby that seems “boring” to us when we talk about them out loud, but a lot of people enjoy the same things. Your interviewer might surprise you!

  48. Peter Guilherme*

    One time I was interviewing and after they asked me this question the guy just straight up asked “why aren’t you pursuing that as a career?” in a pretty accusatory way. He seemed like a very “you don’t seem passionate about working at this investment bank” guy.

  49. D*

    I sat on an interview panel for graduate positions recently, and it got the point that if ONE MORE PERSON said they were into [insert hobby obviously mentioned to show how good a leader they were] I was going to scream. I would have fallen, sobbing gratefully, on the neck of a person who said something intelligent about knitting or reading! Seriously though – don’t sell the things you enjoy, or yourself for not enjoying the ‘right’ things, short LW.

      1. The Dread Pirate Buttercup*

        Obviously leaping on its prey. Watch out, those things are venomous AND poisonous.

  50. From the High Tower on the Hill*

    As a fellow yarn enthusiast (crocheting), it is hard to explain it without sounding completely lame. It is just a great activity for when you don’t want to think about anything (at least in my case). I will usually explain that I enjoy cooking and baking, reading historical-based books and watching history-based documentaries, and then mention that I crochet. I crochet baby hats for the American Heart Association so I usually use it as a segway into my volunteer work during an interview.

    1. From the High Tower on the Hill*

      Especially if you are in an interview with older people, oftentimes I have found they are actually surprised and impressed when a younger person enjoys knitting/crocheting since it is considered an activity for older people. In the end, it is an activity that you enjoy and you shouldn’t be embarrassed.

  51. CmdrShepard4ever*

    In response to @I heart Paul Buchman the base line cost is not $102k it is actually $104k

    Person A earns a salary of $52,000 for 52 weeks (one year) with 4 weeks being paid vacation (so net 48 weeks of actual work for $52,000)
    Person B earns a salary of $52,000 for 52 weeks (one year) with 4 weeks being paid vacation (so net 48 weeks of actual work for $52,000)
    Total cost and what the company has budgeted is $104,000 this is standard amount if everyone takes their own vacation time.

    If Person A donates 2 weeks of PTO to Person B the total cost the company pays stays the same. The difference is now Person A is working 50 weeks for the same salary of $52,000.

    “Person B takes 6 weeks including 2 weeks of donated leave paid $52000
    I take 2 weeks leave, donate 2 weeks, work 50 weeks and am paid $52000
    Total cost to company is $104000”

    The person that donates the time is the one that actually “loses anything” they have to work two extra weeks then they normally do for no extra pay.

  52. instafamous*

    Going out on a limb with this one to disagree with Alison’s advice for once since law and legal recruiting is a weird beast. The idea of “fit” is incredibly important for a lot of law firms (it’s hugely problematic in a lot of ways, which I won’t get in to) and the small talk about your hobbies in an interview will absolutely make or break your “fit”. Frankly, if you’ve gone straight from undergrad to law school, you don’t have a lot that will distinguish you from everyone else. Your undergrad grades were good, your law school grades are probably fine, and you’re likely doing one to three extra curriculars (moot, law review, some sort of pro bono) and … so is everyone else. Especially if you’re interviewing in Big Law, hobbies are oddly important in all the interviews I’ve been in – both as a student and on the other side now. People are trying to get a sense of who you are, and the only way they can do that a lot of the time is through asking about what you’re passionate in. There are other ways, but often lawyers who are doing these interviews aren’t trained and gravitate to what is easiest. You want interactive hobbies you can talk about, or interesting job experiences that give the interviewers something to ask you about to get a sense of who you are. You don’t need hobbies, but you do need something to talk about. For example, I used to be a car mechanic, which was brought up in every single one of my OCIs.

    I would mention, which others have done as well, is that your hobbies are very gendered and (again, in Big Law at least) I would be very careful about how you mention them. I wouldn’t bring up baking, knitting, or family time.

    Final thought… if you do decide to add on some hobbies, make sure they’re ones you can talk about. Nothing worse than the law student who put down hobbies that included watching the classic British comedy pantheon and then didn’t know who Monty Python was when asked.

    1. purpleparrots*

      This is very, very true. Almost every law interview I’ve had or sat in on where an applicant has been successful, they they had some sort of personal connection with an interviewer on a hobby/activity/personal interest level. Just goes to show when you are in grad/law school, don’t let it consume your entire life! Having a hobby is self-care AND may help you land a job!!

    2. Turanga Leela*

      As I posted above, a ton of law school students put cooking, baking, knitting, etc. on their resumes. These are totally normal, replacement-level hobbies (see also: running, CrossFit). As long as OP can carry on a conversation, she should be totally fine with these.

      The problem with saying “I wouldn’t bring up (blank)” is that if that’s what you do with your time, you may not have other hobbies to talk about. I have classmates who got hired at BigLaw firms with hobbies ranging from super weird to objectively boring. I really think it’s the conversation more than the hobby itself that makes the difference.

    3. LawBee*

      “I would mention, which others have done as well, is that your hobbies are very gendered and (again, in Big Law at least) I would be very careful about how you mention them. I wouldn’t bring up baking, knitting, or family time.”

      Hardcore disagree here. I went to law school with a ton of fellow knitters – all of us are employed. Cooking is becoming less gendered as men realize that if they want to eat and not spend their paychecks on restaurants, they have to cook. Family time is family time.

      “Fit” goes both ways, and we shouldn’t have to hide our interests just to be hired at BigLaw.

  53. Sara*

    Don’t be afraid of your hobbies! There are a lot of people out there who just like these kinds of things. I’m a crocheter and at my last interview it got mentioned and it turned out one of the interviews was also into yarn. It was a good bonding moment, and I got the job.

  54. bb-great*

    This may not be applicable to OP, but if a job would require relocation, asking about hobbies can also be a way of talking about the area they would be moving to and figuring out, mutually, if it would be a good fit. If a candidate said they liked hiking I could talk about the trails in the area, or if they like art, talk about the museum/galleries/classes, etc.

  55. Arjay*

    I also question any interviewer who draws firm conclusions from anyone’s hobbies. I’ve gone skydiving and it’s a great conversation piece, but it in no way correlates to me being a risk taker at work. Professionally I’m pretty risk-averse, so they’d be surprised if they assigned some greater meaning to the activity.

  56. purpleparrots*

    I just HAVE to share this. In my last interview, I was asked how I organize myself, and I brought up my hobby of bullet journaling (basically making your own integrated planner on a weekly basis). One of my interviewer’s daughter had just started, so she probed further, and basically ended with me pulling my notebook out of my purse and detailing the two-year journey I’ve been on about work/life balance, time management, long and short term planning, and goal setting.

    Later, she was like “Yeah, at that point there was no way I was NOT hiring you.”

    1. LawBee*

      you are much better about bullet journaling than I am! I need to work on making mine more focused and not just page after page of to-do lists.

  57. AnonyMouse*

    I am also a homebody, and in my line of work discussion of hobbies in an interview is usually a way to identify how you achieve some semblance of work/life balance, reduce stress, etc. So I agree with Allison that I ultimately don’t think what your hobbies are matters, but how you talk about them. I’ve said something along these lines before (again, this has usually been in the context of asking what I do for self-care/stress relief outside of work):

    “I have a more introverted personality, so I like to unwind in my free time by doing independent activities or socializing in smaller groups. I enjoy watching documentaries, running, baking, and spending time with my friends and family. These things really help me reset after a full day of individual client meetings.”

    I think the advice career services is giving you is directed more at students who probably don’t have an extensive work history and who may have to call upon their hobbies, extracurricular involvement, etc to demonstrate certain skills. If this is the case for you, then yes, do make some type of work related connection to your hobby. But if you are simply being asked what you enjoy to do outside of work, then it’s not necessary.

  58. a question*

    I am late to the game on this question and admittedly have not read all the comments above. It is funny that this question came up as it was something I was talking to my mentor (from 15 years ago!) about.

    To make a long story short, when I was in college I was able to interview with a well known company. I was an average student – I wasn’t top of the class, not failing either, but admit studying a challenging task for me and I had to work hard to earn average grades. I didn’t think I had a chance and figured I would just go on the interview for practice. Imagine my surprise when I got offered the internship, especially when I was “competing” against two classmates who were top in the class. I kept intouch with my boss/ mentor over the years. I finally got the nerve to ask him why he chose me. On paper I was the least likely candidate this opportunity should have been given to. He said it was because when he asked about hobbies, I gave him an answer that wasn’t monotone – I mentioned my favorite author I love to read, mentioned how during snowy winters I tended to make scrapbooks, I liked going to hockey and football games with friends, in between classes I was working on the “great American novel”. My mentor said that none of the other candidates answered so honestly and carried on small talk. The internship was only a few hours a week, however for full time employees busy season could be long hours. My boss was looking for someone who he could train to help with the grunt work, but also carry a conversation during long days that didn’t include excel spreadsheets.

    OP honestly I think the hobby questions you are being asked are to get to know you personally and see that you can make small talk. I don’t think your interests are deal breakers when a company is making a decision.

  59. Czhorat*

    I think Alison’s last sentence says it all.

    The “what are your hobbies” question is an attempt to get to know you as a person. Unless you say “I like to torture small animals”, “daydrinking” or “working to overthrow the system!” you’re probably fine. Just have something more-or-less mainstream or mainstream-adjacent to discuss. Knitting, baking, reading books are all fine.

    Really they are.

      1. Czhorat*

        I design audiovisual systems, largely for corporate clients. I’m actually building the system, “I’m trying to BURN IT ALL DOWN” would probably not be a good thing to say to an employer.

        If your sought-after new role is system-arson-adjacent then your mileage may vary.

  60. Qwerty*

    Knitting is a great hobby for relating to work interviews! I’ve actually used it for analogies to tie the “getting to know you” part of the interview back to the skills section. Knitting is using loops and knots to create a functional product, similar to how programming is assembling keywords in the right order to create a functional program (ok, I’m a bit more elegant about it when I’m in interview mode). I use knitting and puzzle building to show I’m good at solving problems while also having the patience for less glamorous grunt work side of things. Added bonus is most of my knitted projects are for charities, so I get to drop a reference to volunteer work. There was a question recently about employers asking interviewees how they deal with stress – you’ll have an easy answer if you get asked that (assuming you use knitting to sort out your thoughts). You can demonstrate that you like expanding your knowledge by learning new stitches as finding stretch projects – people who do that personally tend to also do that at work.

    Realistically, you probably won’t need to make any of these points, because the interview is just trying to get to know you as a person. I’ve seen that question used two ways: (1) Near the beginning of the interview as a way of easing into the interview and dispersing any possible nerves or (2) Near the end when we want to know the best way of selling the company to you. For example: You like magic tricks, well, hey, we’ve got a group of people who practice magic at lunch. (which method they choose is not a reflection on you, but that person’s interviewing style)

    Every time I’ve mentioned that I bake the follow up question as been “Will you be bringing in cookies?” So far, being 20-something going on 70 has worked out very well for me in interviews. They see a quiet, hard worker, who won’t be causing any trouble or coming in hungover.

      1. lurker bee*

        Actually, we non-knitters who sew and/or have friends/family who knit would be impressed, too. Will never forget my MIL’s description of setting a heel (?) and also what it took to do those argyle patterns. Actually made me want to take up weaving.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Well, yes, okay, other crafters will (probably) be impressed too. :)

          Setting a heel is part of the process of turning a heel. Or possibly a synonym in your MIL’s world. Making heels is actually SO cool — you bend cylinder 90 degrees and it’s all smooth!

  61. DogCatcher*

    I sat on a military officer hiring board (for active duty military) and one applicant responded that he was a furry.

    I personally have nothing against being a furry, but I would have strongly advised this young man not to mention it during that interview. It is now years later and I occasionally hear the episode mentioned by people who weren’t even there.

  62. ofotherworlds*

    Here’s my problem. The honest answer to “what are your hobbies?” Is “I’m on the vestry of Trinity Episcopal Church, and the communications committee, and handle designing and updating the church website.” So I can’t bring up hobbies without also bringing up religion.

    1. Czhorat*

      I’m an atheist, and I think that answer is fine.

      It shows connection to community, the ability to communicate in a semi-professional setting, and having developed at least some skill in a moderately technical endeavor.

      You didn’t say “I try to convert the heathens”, “Save souls”, or “battle the pernicious influence of satanists/gays/godless communists/Zoroastrians”. If you give it in a non-proselytizing way I think it’s a good thing.

  63. Clay on My Apron*

    I work in tech. My favourite hobby, although I’m not able to do it right now, is pottery. Because I spend my work day creating digital products that can be evolved, duplicated or deleted, I enjoyed creating tangible, physical and unique items. You can’t delete them if you mess up, and you can’t duplicate them. You have to really focus on the process. It was a wonderful counterpoint to my work. I don’t know if I ever got hired because of this answer! But people seemed to find it interesting

    1. Czhorat*

      You’ll likely never GET a job because of your answer on a question like that. You can only lose one if your answer is too weird, hostile, or defensive.

  64. MissPettyAndVindictive*

    As a fellow 20-something grandma, I have found that generally people are interested that I am a knitter (and crocheter, and spinner, and sewist…my hobby is collecting hobbies!) and it sparks conversation rather than shutting it down! People are often fascinated by it, and impressed that I have a skill like that.
    I frame it as “Out of work I spend time improving my skills in fibre crafts such as knitting and sewing, and have also taught myself how to spin on a wheel. I am mostly self-taught, using online resources , as I really enjoy the process of working out how to do things” or something similar. Due to my generally preferring me-made garments over purchased ones due to environmental and human rights reasons, I also add that in too, if they ask why I choose to knit/sew.
    Also, if you’re not on Ravelry, I recommend joining. And if you are, I’m MissCarrion :)

  65. gmg22*

    My main hobby (tap dance) is a bit esoteric by modern-day standards, but pretty darn groovy IMO and I would be quite happy to chitchat about it in a job interview. Unfortunately the non-work thing people tend to ask me about instead is another hobby-type experience, but one that happened a fairly long time ago: I was a game show contestant. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, it’s the first thing that comes up when you Google me, so I don’t get to talk about my real hobby because people would rather know what Game-Show Host of Note is like in person.

  66. Anna*

    The OP sounds like many of my librarian colleagues. Perhaps they’re just not in the right field if these hobbies are considered unusual or boring.

  67. Sarnobyl*

    I have an obscure hobby of pen paling, which I have mentioned in interviews when my hobbies were inquired about. I’ve gotten a few raised eyebrows but people tend to warm up when I mention that I think the written word is a lost art and I have kept up with this hobby since childhood because of my love of the written word. Plus it’s allowed me to make friends & network with people from all over the world opening my mind to new ideas and possibilities.

    Also geocaching is another hobby. I usually explain it a bit then say it’s helped me hone in my problem solving skills and made me a very patient person! :)

    1. AnonyMouse*

      Are you familiar with Postcrossing? It’s a website where you can send and receive postcards from other users around the world! I was sending postcards quite a bit earlier this year, but haven’t had much time to lately. Have been meaning to get back into it. So no, pen paling is not weird!

  68. Katie*

    I knit, I read, (I don’t bake but I love my instant pot), but I generally go home and watch tv at night with my SO. I like to learn new knitting techniques too. The people I work with tend to find my knitting fascinating so it is a good conversation starter ! They are more likely to think you are diligent, responsible, and creative than anything else. Most people find knitting impressive (especially if you wear it to work)!

  69. NotVeryActiveHere*

    I practice a martial art. And I’m a middle-aged mum type.

    You wouldn’t BELIEVE how many times project partners from other places have joked about it: “Then you must be very dangerous, and I’m afraid to sit next to you!” Especially small men with a higher formal position than my own.

  70. nora*

    As a long-time knitter, I think it definitely has applications to office careers. For example:

    The overarching theme of my professional life is making order out of chaos. I was a copyeditor/proofreader for a while when I was younger. Then I moved into administrative positions and usually found my way toward developing policies and procedures where none existed because my supervisors saw that I’m good at it. My focus in grad school was macro social work; that is, looking at how people are affected by systems and then working to improve those systems. Knitting, for me, is similar. You take chaos (yarn) and make order (blankets or whatnot). It’s just a different kind of order.

    I have not yet used this in an interview but I absolutely would. And it might even work.

  71. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    OP, I would only add this: leave off the “watching Netflix”, or watching TV, because practically everyone watches TV and practically no one considers it a hobby. Don’t worry about the hobby question–just answer honestly. Nothing wrong with knitting. A couple of ancillary observations:

    I know people who don’t have any hobbies, truly–none. Sure, they watch TV. They read. They engage in various entertaining activities. But there is no theme, no thread, no particular interest that is pursued repeatedly. Curious.

    Also, with regard to one of the most commonly-named hobbies: reading. Although I am an avid reader, I would not name that as one of my hobbies. It just seems like an activity that everyone does, like watching TV, and says nothing in particular about me. I know many would disagree with me on this. I guess I have a narrower definition of “hobby” stuck in my head.

    1. A New Level of Anon*

      …but what types of work do you like to read? What types of TV shows/movies/sports do you like to watch? What was the most interesting thing you read or watched recently?

      All I’m getting at is, even if you don’t have a goal-oriented, structured hobby, there’s still a good chance that you’re engaging with whatever your’re doing with some degree of intentionality. The things you choose for entertainment are absolutely a conversation starter, and can tell someone lots about you (correct or not).

    2. Q*

      Reading is my main pastime, other than spending time with my significant other and friends. I rarely watch TV, I’m not a big cook. I do like to exercise (running and pilates) but it’s not something I consider a hobby.

      Until recently, I didn’t consider reading to be a hobby either. Like you said, doesn’t everyone read? But then I realized that (a) no, not everyone reads (b) I read with a lot of intentionality. I aim to read at least 30 books a year (already at #30 this year, time to decide upon a stretch goal). I purposely seek out “good” literature. After finishing a book, I often delve deeper into it by reading critical analysis and reviews. I have running lists of classical literature, Japanese authors, Indian authors, popular science books, contemporary greats, Russian authors, poets, etc etc that I am gradually getting through. Because I’ve been reading for such a long time with intentionality, off late I’ve discovered connections between different books or different writers that I’ve been able to verify with some literary research. I also enjoy the occasional bookclub when I’m looking to fill my social calendar. Because reading is a big part of my non-work life, calling it a hobby is the best way to describe it

      1. Julia*

        I think reading is totally a hobby, and since interviewers like smart people, and reading is usually considered a hobby for smart(er) people, I don’t see the problem with saying it. Some people may active more active hobbies that keep you physically fit, but then no one who goes to the gym because they feel like they have to calls that a hobby, so…
        I would try to find something else you can mention, though. I go for reading and singing, sometimes I say baking as well but as a woman who has gotten a little chubby lately, I refrain from mentioning baking at the moment.

        1. Q*

          If I’m asked that question in a future interview, I think I will go with something along the lines of Allison’s suggestion– and I’ll be sure to think it out beforehand so I’m not caught off guard. Thanks for the insightful comment!

    3. OfOtherWorlds*

      Me too. Reading, watching tv, movies, or netflix, surfing the net, etc… aren’t hobbies in my book, just leisure activities. Passively consuming media isn’t a hobby. To me a hobby is something that you put at least a modicum of effort into. That said, I accept that some people don’t have the energy to have proper hobbies, so interviewers shouldn’t be surprised if people give pleasure activities instead.

    4. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      Thank you all for the thoughtful replies. After mentally chewing on this further, I still can’t make complete sense of hobby versus pastime versus interest!

      1. A New Level of Anon*

        Something to think about is, does the difference matter? Are you making value judgements based on the differences between those things?

  72. Caramel*

    I’m late, but my hobby is writing fanfic. (And reading it.) I usually just say that I enjoy reading. I’ve never said fanfiction and I’d be worried about how it might be perceived.

  73. megan*

    i will say, as a recent law school grad, it wasn’t until a few months after graduation that i realized i had no hobbies and law school had sucked the life out of me. one year later, and i’m still trying to discover what i like to do when i have free time! and i’ve had this convo with a lot of my friends as well. it sounds like you have hobbies, they may just feel boring because they’re chill. but they’re something! and soon, when our lives are our own again, we’ll be able to add even more hobbies to our lists :D

    1. Julia*

      “I like to take long walks” might come across better if your interviewer is one of those people who thinks games/Pokémon is for kids or “nerds”. (I play it too.)

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      At this point I probably would mention it because we used it to channel our video game habit into am exercise habit. Bells & whistles to reward walking? We kept it up after our pre-teen started rolling her eyes because it kept us motivated even in bad weather. My husband lost 30 lb in a year because of his lunchtime Pokemon walks.

  74. Parfait*

    I’ve heard that the hobby question is particularly important for new lawyers, just because everyone’s credentials are virtually identical. It’s one of the few ways to differentiate yourself from a herd of brand new JDs.

  75. Hot Chocolate*

    I’m pretty sure “I enjoy jigsaw puzzles” got me a job one time. Maybe they thought I was a good problem solver.

  76. Julia*

    I’ve been asked about my hobbies during interviews here, and one interviewer even came out and asked, “you don’t just sleep in your free time, do you?”, because I guess a lot of people here in Japan don’t have time for hobbies and are so exhausted from working constant pointless overtime that the feel like sleeping during their rare time off. I think it sucks to ask people about hobbies if you know that your industry/country doesn’t give them time to have some, but I guess that’s the problem with wanting to hire great people who may not feasibly exist.
    Or maybe they were trying to figure out if I had children.
    Anyway, when I said I liked reading, meeting friends (I think being social isn’t a bad thing to mention!) and that I recently started taking singing lessons, that was more than enough for them. Your trying new things in crafting may actually be what they want to hear – that you’re open to learning new things.
    Anyway, good luck!

  77. Lilivati*

    I’m a materials scientist and my love of cooking has been work-relevant on more than one occasion. I don’t sew much anymore, but I know the basics, and that has also been extremely useful information when working with composites. My time spent running a guild of 100+ people in World of Warcraft when I was in college taught me more about how to manage people when you have very little leverage (as with my current PM position) than any amount of official training. Though I don’t tend to mention video gaming to the over forty set in an interview. I write a lot of fan fiction and I am frequently complimented on my writing skills at work, though again, I tend to just tell people I enjoy writing to avoid the weird misconceptions that follow that hobby.

    I could go on. But my point is no knowledge is wasted. Everything you know how to do in life taught you certain skills and ways of thinking, that have a way of coming in handy when you least expect it. Stop putting yourself down for what you like.

  78. LGC*

    I mean…like, your hobbies actually sound kind of cool, to be honest. (I’m a thirtysomething that enjoys baking. I’m not a master baker by any means, but I’m decent at it!) I’d be interested in hearing about your knitting projects and stuff, LW.

    And that’s the thing, I think – I think a lot of people (myself included) think their interests are boring and dull, and…you know, they’re not. (Other people go on nonstop about their interests, which is the other extreme.) Even if it’s what you consider a “good” interest, like…to use your example, running! Shoot, I’m all over the weekend threads on AAM, but in real life I feel like talking about my running accomplishments is…kind of tedious to a lot of people, so I keep it as short as possible. I’d probably mention it in a job interview, but I wouldn’t think anything special of it.

    (Also, by the way, you have no idea how many thinkpieces are out there about millennials being into arts and crafts, including knitting and baking. It’s…a lot.)

  79. chickaletta*

    I think Alison is on to something – it’s to see if you’re a normal person and if you can carry on a conversation. It may sound silly to us normal people, but there’s a lot of people out there who can’t do this. As soon as they’re asked about themselves, they’ll become defensive, upset, fidgety or uncomfortable, or allude to semi-illegal actives, or tell you some colorful story not work appropriate and laced with cuss words, and so on. If you have some amazing story about your hangliding team, that’s a bonus, but what they’re looking for is Are You a Functional Human Being?

    1. A New Level of Anon*

      People sometimes get uncomfortable about this question not because they’re not Functional Human Beings, but because they’ve been given flack about their hobbies in the past (or, have had to deal with people questioning whether their hobbies are hobbies). When you’ve been around enough people who are incredulous about reading being a hobby, it can make you uncomfortable to talk enthusiastically about it.

    2. Lauren*

      I’ve also thought as well, that asking about an unrelated topic like hobbies was a typical interview tactic to get the person relaxed and more at ease, since most people would be pretty confidant about talking casually about a hobby compared to trying to answer a tough interview question! Lets them see what you’re actually like when you’re NOT second guessing yourself and feeling stressed. Heck, my assessor did the same thing when I was doing my driving test!

  80. Bowserkitty*

    OP, I get this. When I joined a couple gym classes a few years back it was kind of exciting to be able to say “oh I like to work out and do Body Pump and Body Flow” for once and not just “I sit under a blanket with hot tea and play Final Fantasy and Skyrim and binge-watch television with my cat.”

    I agree with Alison, just answer honestly and make conversation! In fact, when I told my last boss I played video games (along with my gym stuff) he told me I would fit in really well because one of the other employees is a huge nerd. (I no longer work there but I remain friends with that coworker and his wife!)

  81. Reluctant Manager*

    More people knit and crochet than play golf in the US. Please fight the stereotype (even internal) that knitting is grandmotherly. I worked at a company where the weekly knitting lunch had more VPs than the Friday golf game.

  82. dramadork884*

    Oh, I get not knowing what to say about hobbies. I once was so unprepared for the question I mentioned the fact I play DnD and got the weirdest look. I tried to fix it by bringing up that I loved that I got to work with people instead of competing against them. All this got me was a very condescending “aren’t you sweet.” My main problem is that most of my hobbies are pretty nerdy. Now I just stick to reading and mention that I love Jane Austen because that is usually safe.

  83. akiwiinlondon*

    I feel like this is a good opportunity to share an interesting interview experience, myself and another colleague were doing a second round interview for another team who would work closely with ours.
    We were so surprised with the candidate and that he was given a second round at all, as part of the role was going to require very strong communication skills to work across the department.

    The thing that really highlighted this was trying to have a conversation about hobbies, this wasn’t about seeing what interesting skills he had, but to get a feel for his communication.
    He liked movies, great let’s talk about movies, what have you seen recently? We got one film he’d been to see recently and not much more information about it. Okay, what else have you seen or what’s your favourite film? He started talking about Orange Is The New Black that he’d been watching on Netflix.

    I’ve had some great interviews where we will have a chat about Netflix, what they’re watching or enjoying. It’s a nice conversation and sometimes you get a good recommendation. As an interviewer I’m testing how you communicate and usually hobbies help deliver a more natural conversation on something you are interested in. If you can hold a conversation with me about your hobbies it’s a good start on how you communicate. If I have a hard time dragging a conversation out of you about something you should enjoy, it doesn’t go over well and if I need someone with good communication skills it will quickly highlight a poor fit.
    ‘Boring’ hobbies aren’t an issue at all as long as you can have a conversation about them.

  84. Snickerdoodle*

    You sound kind of like me! I love to knit, read, and bake. I don’t think those hobbies are lame at all. Not everyone needs to be a skydiver. Companies need knitters to do the steady day-to-day work of keeping things running, not to mention somebody has to pick up the pieces when those skydivers go splat. (I mean that metaphorically.)

    I also volunteer at the animal shelter and the Red Cross and play ice hockey, but it’s mostly the knitting and shelter work that gets attention in interviews. I have been able to use each to showcase a work skill: Knitting shows patience and creativity, plus I once sneakily mentioned using Excel to create patterns (and subsequently got hired as a result). I’m a mentor at the shelter, which shows that they trust me enough to put me in a position of responsibility, plus volunteer work indicates compassion and giving back to the community.

    You’d be surprised what gets you hired. I got my current job, which is extremely detail-oriented, because I mentioned previous work as a stagehand. When asked about my attention to detail during the interview, I nearly mentioned running the company newsletter and social media at my old job, but at the last second I changed my mind and brought up theatre work because of the intense level of detail some productions require. It turned out my boss had done some theatre work himself eons ago, knew exactly what I meant, and hired me. You never know. Go with what means something to you, and you’ll find a job that means something to you.

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