How To Answer “What Are You Passionate About?” (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar - Mar. 9, 2021

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Employers look for more than just a person who can effectively complete a job when they’re hiring. They want to hire a candidate who demonstrates passion in their work and life.

To find out what a potential employee cares about, an interviewer asks them “what are you passionate about?” It’s an interview question that’s just open-ended enough to be ambiguous to a job applicant hoping to make a good impression.

Providing details about your professional and personal passions gives a hiring manager a more well-rounded picture of who you are, which requires paying extra careful attention to the way you answer.

Why Interviewers Ask “What Are You Passionate About?”

Most interview questions are inquiring into more than just the topic presented at face value. When a hiring manager asks a candidate about their passions, they’re interested in what they value and are motivated by. The passions a person chooses to bring up speaks volumes about who they are and what drives them.

While most answers in an interview should focus on professional qualities and experience, this question opens the door to understanding more about a candidate’s hobbies outside of the office. It allows an employer to further gauge an applicant’s personality.

Areas of passion are also of special interest to a hiring manager because these are usually specialties that a person focuses a lot of their time on. This can uncover some talents or usefulness that could be helpful in the role they’re interviewing for.

How to Answer “What Are You Passionate About?”

Giving a satisfactory answer to the question “what are you passionate about?” in an interview is about more than just listing off the things you enjoy doing, or simply restating the field your job title is in.

The hiring manager is looking for specificity and reasons as to why you’re interested in the hobby or subject. Depending on your circumstances, below are three ways you could answer interview questions about your passions:

  1. A passion that’s work-adjacent. The first option for communicating your passions during a job interview is by focusing on a hobby or skill that demonstrates abilities that are semi-related to the position you’re going for.

    It can be something that’s not directly required for the job you’re seeking, but it’ll be helpful for the role.

    Job type you want
    Full Time
    Part Time
    Internship
    Temporary

    For example, a candidate hoping to get a job as a junior marketer and enjoys web development could focus on this passion because it might one day be an asset to the employer.

    It’s not required to respond to “what are you passionate about?” with a job-related topic.

    If you choose to take this answering avenue, focus on a passion that’s more narrow than just stating you’re passionate about your work. Choose an activity that’s relevant to your professional life, but that you also appreciate in your personal world too.

  2. A passion that shows soft skills. A hiring manager is always looking for that magic combination of technical abilities required to do daily tasks of a job, and soft skills to get along well in a professional atmosphere.

    Soft skills are characteristics that make an employee more efficient, cooperative, and pleasant to work with. When an interviewer asks about your passions, it’s an excellent opportunity to bring your soft skills to light.

    Many of the innocuous personal passions that job applicants deem as completely unrelated to their career could actually display plenty of transferable skills.

    For example, participating in an adult softball league during the weekends demonstrates teamwork and collaboration with others to meet a goal. An interviewee who’s passionate about painting in their spare time shows someone creative and innovative.

    Take stock of the hobbies and passions that enhance your life, and consider how they might speak to your professional soft skills as well.

  3. A personal passion. Bringing up a passion that is seemingly unrelated to the position you’re interviewing for is fair game too. As long as it’s an activity that is not only work-appropriate but also makes you appear as a competitive and competent applicant.

    When you choose to respond to the question “what are you passionate about?” with an activity that’s a little out of the left-field, make sure that you’re super involved in the activity.

    You should have clear reasoning for why you consider it a passion and explain the measures you go through to make it a part of your life.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Answering “What Are You Passionate About?”

There are a few things that job candidates should avoid when answering the question “what are you passionate about?” Below are a few examples of what to leave out of your answer:

  1. Unprofessional activities. Everyone has at least one or two personal hobbies that aren’t necessarily appropriate for the workplace.

    Whether it’s drinking at the bar with your friends from college on the weekends or gambling online, these are not hobbies that should be shared with a potential employer.

    Asking about your passions doesn’t require information about your guilty pleasures. Be strategic in your response.

  2. Lies. Many candidates feel pressured to have some extraordinary hobby to present during an interview, which can lead them to lie in an attempt to fit the mold.

    Unfortunately, lying is rarely beneficial to any interview situation, and even if it does manage to get you a job offer, it hurts you in the long-run. Choose an activity that you’re truly passionate about, not one that you think will sound impressive.

  3. Pretend enthusiasm. Try not to get over-influenced by the word “passionate” when answering this question. A lot of candidates try to inject their response with overwhelming enthusiasm for their passion, only to come off sounding fake.

Tips for Answering “What Are You Passionate About?”

  • Choose your answer strategically. When an interviewer is asking about your passions or anything, choose your response strategically.

    Never lose sight of the fact that everything you say and do throughout an interview is being evaluated, and can either help or hinder your performance. Only bring up things that make you a stronger candidate to the interviewer.

  • Dress the part. Succeeding in an interview begins the moment you walk through the door, with your outfit of choice. The clothing and accessories you wear to an interview form the earliest impressions on the hiring manager. Make sure your attire reflects well on your professionalism.

  • Research the company beforehand. Heading into an interview having done research on the role, company, and field makes you more prepared to answer any questions that a hiring manager might throw at you.

    In addition to preparing you for questions about the company and role in an interview, it also provides information that can help make a decision on a job offer when the time comes.

  • Bring copies of your resume or portfolio. While most interviewers come to an interview equipped with all the information they need to know about an applicant, mistakes happen.

    A hiring manager can interview upwards of 50 candidates in a short span of time. To avoid any confusion or issues, bring extra copies of your resume and portfolio to an interview.

  • Think about what they’ll ask next. An interview is never composed of only a single question. After an interviewer asks you about your passions, there will be more inquiries that they throw your way. Take some time to think about what questions they’ll ask next.

    Some common interview questions that could follow “what are you passionate about?” include:

Example Answers to “What Are You Passionate About?”

  1. Example Answer 1: A Passion That’s Work-adjacent

    “I’m passionate about data analysis. It may sound ridiculous for a receptionist who deals with computer software all day to find business and data analysis fascinating in their free time, but it’s something I really enjoy and I’m good at. I started learning more about data analytics when I was in college, so I have about ten years of experience with the hobby.

    “I find data analysis interesting because it tells a story of a business’s past and gives a trajectory for the future. It’s almost like being able to see into the future. I think that studying data analysis has also made me a better receptionist because it keeps me in tune with patterns that might be occurring administratively.”

    Why It Works:

    This individual gives an answer that’s fleshed out well. They state their work-related passion plainly and then go on to explain their history and reasoning for loving the activity. The candidate even directly states how it could be helpful in the role they’re interviewing for.

  2. Example Answer 2: A Passion That Shows Soft Skills

    “One of my favorite activities to do in my spare time is play chess. I’ve been playing the game since I was 12 years old, so, I’d consider myself fairly passionate about it. I played in a lot of tournaments as a teenager, and even today, I go to play every Saturday with a few friends I’ve made in the chess community.

    “What I love about playing chess is that it keeps my mind sharp. It requires me to think several steps ahead and read other people. I think playing the game improves my critical and creative thinking, and all-around keeps me happy.”

    Why It Works:

    This candidate manages to wrap their hobby into a demonstration of their soft skills all in a few sentences.

    They explain their background with the game of chess extensively and point out the soft skills that they use while playing. It’s an informative and impressive response to an interview question about passions.

  3. Example Answer 3: A Personal Passion

    “One of the things I’m most passionate about in my time outside of work is animal advocacy. While it’s not something that I do much during my time as an elementary school teacher, I love participating at the ASPCA during my personal hours.

    “I’ve loved animals since I was a child, but it wasn’t until I adopted my first dog from the shelter that I knew that I wanted to work with animals in whatever capacity I could. I spend most weekends at the animal shelter helping out in any way that I can. I’ve been doing it for more than five years now.”

    Why It Works:

    While the candidate admits that the passion they talk about isn’t directly related to the job they’re interviewing for, it still demonstrates beneficial characteristics to the hiring manager. Their dedication and genuine care for animals depict a person who would bring positive qualities to their post if hired.

Never miss an opportunity that’s right for you.
Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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