How to Answer “What Are You Passionate About?”

By Mike Simpson

Have you ever been so excited about something that you’ve felt it through your whole body?

Has there ever been something you do that you look forward to with absolute and unbridled enthusiasm?

Is there a topic, or a subject, or a project that truly energizes you?

Think back to childhood and how you felt on Christmas Eve, laying in bed trying desperately to fall asleep but knowing it was almost impossible because you were looking forward to the next day so much…

Now fast forward to today.

Is there anything in your life that gives you that same electric tingle? What gets you up in the morning and motivates you to get through the week? Do you have any hobbies? Groups you’re a member of that you love participating in?

What we’re ultimately looking for here is, “What are you passionate about?”

Can you answer that question? What about during an interview? And what exactly is passion?

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Why Is This An Interview Question?

Let’s start with explaining exactly what passion is in the context of this blog post and how it’s used in job interviews. For the sake of what we’re discussing here, passion is something you enjoy doing in your free time; a task or activity that brings you pleasure and that you find reward in doing.

It can be hard to see how passion might apply to your job interview, but more and more employers are asking potential hires exactly that. That’s why we’re here today to discuss with you exactly why knowing what your passion is is important, and how exactly how to answer that question.

First off, let’s get something important out of the way. Your immediate answer should never be “This job!”

While it might seem like that’s the correct answer, it’s not.

Yes, an employer wants employees who love their job, and in very rare cases, it really could be the truth, but let’s be honest, in most cases it isn’t…and employers aren’t stupid and aren’t going to believe you. In this case, it’s perfectly acceptable to talk about things you do outside of the job that excite you.

But hang on, don’t employers just care about the work I’m doing? Why would they want to know what I enjoy when I’m not here pushing buttons?

When you have two candidates who are equally skilled and qualified for a job, the hiring manager has to look deeper into what makes each candidate tick, and sometimes what can really make the difference is discovering which employee has a passion for life and which one is just coasting through on autopilot.

Why Is Passion Important For a Job Interview?

To an employer, the side effects of a candidate with an outside passion can actually be highly desirable, even if it seems like that passion has absolutely nothing to do with the job you’re applying for! Here, let us explain:

When you have someone who is passionate about something, odds are that person is self-motivated to learn as much as they can about that subject. This is an incredibly desirable trait to a potential employer. Odds are this self-education has not only increased your knowledge about your chosen subject, but has also strengthened other soft skills you might have, (and remember, soft skills are the skills that come with life experiences that many hiring managers find desirable but that can’t always be taught directly (we go into much greater depth about soft skills in our blog post here.).

Let’s pretend you’re passionate about animal rights and you spend your weekends working at the local shelter helping out with the pet adoptions. Now let’s pretend you’re interviewing for a job at a local law firm as a paralegal.

While it might not seem like the two overlap, there are actually a lot of soft skills that you use as a volunteer that make you a desirable paralegal including the ability to work as a team, organizational skills, motivation to succeed at the task (who doesn’t love seeing a happy pet successfully adopted off to a new home?), networking and dedication.

Candidates with a passion are also usually hard working. They take their free time to develop the skills they need to pursue their passion. This can demonstrate to a potential employer that you’re someone who is committed to completing tasks and who has the ability to follow through on a project.

But what if my passion is boring? Or not exciting? Or just…weird?

Here’s the thing…

While an employer might not share your same passions, the bottom line is, they’re looking beyond what it is that floats your boat and examining instead the skills it takes to get that boat floating in the first place.

So even if your passion is collecting lint balls and spending hours poring over them one at a time, examining each one in exquisite detail for minute variations, it isn’t what you’re doing, but what skills you’re using while you’re doing it (attention to detail, organization, patience, etc.).

Top 5 Tips For Answering “What is your Passion?”

Now that we’ve discussed what passion is in this context and why an interviewer is curious about it, let’s talk about how to answer that question:

1. Do your homework:

As a student of the Interview Guys, you’re already familiar with the Tailoring Method, our technique of preparing for a question before it’s asked (if not, check out our article Job Interview Questions and Answers 101), and this is no different!

Prior to going into that interview you’ll want to take some time and really look at what makes you happy in life