How to Answer the Interview Question: "What Are You Passionate About?"
We all know that we need to prepare for an interview.
- Review the job description
- Research the company and the role
- Plan some examples around the competencies required for the role
- Use the STAR technique to share complete answers to competency-based questions
- Demonstrate that you have the skills and competencies needed for the position
However, in a structured interview such as a competency-based interview, being asked an interview question around 'what are you passionate about?' can often come as a surprise.
You aren't sure why you've been asked this question, as it doesn't appear to link to any of the competencies.
You don't know to answer the question, and you aren't sure what the interviewer wants to hear.
You may even think that the question is being asked to catch you out.
That is not the case, it's worth remembering that interviews are a conversation with a purpose.
For you, an interview allows you to find out whether the organization you are interviewing with is the right place for you to start or continue your career.
For an employer, it's their chance to find out more about you as a person.
Asking a question such as 'what are you passionate about?' is one way of doing that.
Why Do Employers Ask About Your Passions?
There are many reasons why an employer may ask what you are passionate about in an interview.
This includes whether you have the skills, knowledge, behaviors and attributes to do the role.
Asking a question such as 'what are you passionate about' allows the interviewer to learn more about you.
An employer may also ask what you are passionate about in an interview to help put you at ease.
This question allows a candidate to talk about themselves in a more relaxed way before the interviewer starts asking more structured competency-based questions.
Depending on the job, the company and the interviewer, there will be a slightly different motive for asking this question (and a different required answer).
For example, a prospective employer may want to know more about some of the following:
What Motivates You
They may want to know what energizes and motivates you when at work and outside of work.
- Do you get energized and motivated by working in a team?
- Are you creative outside of work?
- Where do you get your sense of job satisfaction from?
Finding out what a candidate’s passions are gives the interviewer an insight into their characteristics. It also enables them to find out first hand what their inherent motivations and interests are.
This question helps interviewers get a better idea of what your values are, whether you are committed to your hobbies or passions and whether these values align with the organization's.
Knowledge and Enthusiasm
If you are applying for a role within a specific subject area, such as a science-based role, this is a great way for the interviewer to find out whether you are passionate about this subject.
It also gives you a way to showcase your passions through anything you have researched and demonstrate your underlying interest in the role you are applying to.
Your Breadth and Depth as a Person
Work is one part of our life but not the only part. Many people have genuine passions outside of their work.
Asking what you are passionate about helps the interviewer to get an idea of what you enjoy doing outside of work.
Asking this question gives you the opportunity to share who you are outside of your working life and any hobbies that you have, giving the interviewer a better idea of who you are as a person.
Make sure you always relate your extra-curricular passions back to the role you are applying to.
Whether Your Passions Relate to the Job
An employer might want to know whether your passions are in the same area as the job you are applying to.
This is particularly relevant in the non-profit sector, where a clear desire and passion to help others and make a difference is needed.
Or, for example, if you are applying to be something like a surfing instructor, you might need to be passionate about surfing.
How to Tailor Your Answer to Your Situation
When answering the interview question 'what are you passionate about' always remember that, as with all interview questions, you want to showcase yourself in the best way.
Remember to talk about something you are genuinely passionate about. In doing so, your enthusiasm and evident passion for what you are talking about will come through in the way you verbally and non-verbally communicate your example.
It is clear when someone is talking about something they are passionate about as they become more animated, smile and engage with the interviewer positively.
However, it is essential to think about the type of example that you share for this question. You may be passionate about horse riding, but this might not be the example to choose when interviewing for a waitressing job.
When preparing your examples of this question, you can use one of three different approaches.
Each approach uses a different type of information as the content for the answer, whether that be an achievement, feeling or interest.
The approach you pick may also depend on the role or the sector you are applying to or the type of organization, whether that be a corporate or a non-profit organization.
Approach One: Identical Passions
With this approach, your passion should relate to either the job you have applied for or something almost identical to it.
Sharing information on an identical passion is a good approach in situations where a strong belief in the company or cause is required for continued success in the role.
Using this approach would work well for roles in the non-profit sector, such as charity-based roles or government and public sector roles.
In these roles, a passion for helping others, providing a 'fair for all' service, and making a difference to the community or environment is required by everyone.
Articulating this as one of your passions when in an interview shows the interviewer that you believe in the cause. Also, that your passions and values align and that you will be committed to the organization's purpose.
For example, if applying for a role with a charity that helps and support families, an answer to the question 'what are you passionate about?' using an approach that outlines an identical passion could be:
One of the reasons that I have decided to apply for this role is that I believe my passion aligns with that of [insert organization name]. My passion is helping those in our community, especially those who have family-based struggles.
I’ve seen first-hand the struggles that many of my local community faces through my voluntary work at the local community centre, where access to services that many of us take for granted was difficult for some people.
Helping families get access to the everyday essentials, whether that be advice, local sports, or ideas on budget food recipes, makes a difference to their daily lives.
It’s making a difference and contributing to the local and broader community that I am passionate about.
Using this approach to answer the question shows your inherent passion for the sector you are applying to and that your motivation for working in this sector is to make a difference.
It is a particularly good approach to use for sector-specific or purpose-driven organizations, especially if you can align your answer to the organization's mission.
Approach Two: Using an Unrelated Passion
A different approach could be sharing an example or some information on an unrelated passion to the role or organization you have applied to.
With this approach, you want to focus on your interests while being mindful of highlighting the transferable skills that relate to the role you have applied for.
For example, your passion may be dancing, martial arts or any type of team or sport.
An example of an answer to the interview question 'what is your passion' using this approach could be:
I’m passionate about working together in a team and learning from others. From a young age, I have from a young age been involved in martial arts.
Martial arts teaches you about respect for yourself and others. Also, learning from others so you can improve together and succeed. This passion for learning, growing and working with others drove me forward in gaining each of my belt gradings.
Being mindful that you are part of a team and can learn so much from those around you is an awareness that I have built and a skill that I hold dear to me as I progress my career.
This type of example is suitable to share for any role or organization as it gives you an insight into yourself as a person and your hobby.
It also shows the interviewer that you have an awareness of the skills you have developed in your hobby and how they relate to the working world.
Approach Three: Showcasing Your Achievements
A third approach that you can use when answering the question 'what is your passion' relates to giving an answer that showcases a key achievement.
This could be any achievement, such as a sporting achievement or a personal achievement such as climbing a mountain for charity, as long as your achievement relates back to the job in some way.
This could be showcasing your passion, determination or academic ability.
An example of showcasing your achievements to share what your passion is could be:
I recently committed to running a 10K in aid of a local charity.
I wouldn't previously have described myself as a runner, but I wanted to do something for a local charity as it is one that is close to my heart. Also, I wanted to set myself a goal and push myself outside of my comfort zone.
There were many challenges that I faced when training for the 10K. I needed to train at least three times a week, but during this time, I injured my ankle when training and had to take two weeks out of my training schedule due to illness.
There were definitely times when I wanted to back out. One that comes to mind is running a 7K in torrential rain. But my commitment to raising money for the charity kept me going.
In the end, I ran the 10K and raised £1,000 for our local charity. Something I wasn't expecting is that running has now turned into a passion of mine. I find getting out for a run either first thing in the morning or when I get back from work to help me focus on the day head or wind down from the day.
Using an example that showcases your achievements to answer the question 'what are you passionate about' is a way of showing the values that are important to you and showing that you set yourself goals or are proud of the achievements that your passions bring you.
This type of example could be applied to interviews for any role or organization, but especially goal-orientated organizations.
Like many interview questions, the question 'what are you passionate about?' is not a question with only one correct answer.
It is a question that allows the interviewer to find out more about the person they are interviewing outside their work life. It is also an opportunity for you as the interviewee to stand out from other applicants.
In most cases, very few of us have only one passion in life. When thinking about your answer to this question, think about the job you've applied to.
Think about your experiences, feelings, achievements and values.
Taking all of these factors into consideration should help you to formulate a great answer to this question.