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How the Interview Question “What Are Your Interests?” Can Help You Avoid a Workplace You’ll Hate

By | Regina Borsellino |

I’ve had some jobs I really hated. And I don’t just mean jobs that were a bit boring or had less-than-savory duties. I mean the kinds of jobs where each day is more spirit-draining than the last and you wake up every morning, fantasize about quitting, and check your bank account to calculate how long you’d have to find a new job before your life fell apart.

Sometimes the problem was that my coworkers constantly wanted to wax poetic about football when I’d much rather talk about dogs or books or, yep, anything but football. Other times the issue was that I could muster more excitement about watching paint dry than doing the job I was hired for. Let’s just say none of these were great situations for me, my coworkers, or my employers—and I didn’t last long.

Well, there’s an interview question that can help out both sides. Employers don’t want employees who’ve already checked out after a few weeks. So they ask interview questions like “What are your interests?” to try to suss out how engaged you’ll be in the position and on the team.

And you don’t want a job that feels like it’s eating away at your soul. So when you answer this question, be honest. Then pay attention: How does the hiring manager respond to your interests? Do they share them? Do they seem engaged when you talk about something that matters to you?

Here’s how to give an answer that sounds good and helps you avoid walking right into a job you’ll hate.

Step 1: 

Understand why they’re asking

There are two different reasons an interviewer might ask “What are your interests?”:

  • To find out what parts of your job or career you’re most passionate about. Are you a marketing manager who loves creating campaigns for clients in the healthcare space? Are you an IT professional who nerds out about all things cybersecurity? Or do you just love any opportunity to learn more, solve a problem, or come up with creative ideas?

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