How to Assess Candidates With These Surprising Job Interview Questions

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Apr 6, 2017

From a young age, I played baseball. It was something I loved to do, and it bled into many aspects of life, both then and now. For example, whenever my family would go on vacation, I’d take my baseball equipment with me.

In between family activities, I’d find time to go through my workouts or practice my batting. While other kids might have wanted to spend their free time on the beach, I wanted to play baseball.

Perhaps what I loved most about the pastime was the discipline it required. For me to excel, I needed to put in the work, and that part of the sport resonated with me.

Now, as the CEO of my company, Spark Hire, what I learned from playing baseball impacts my work. When I go on vacations, I no longer pack my mitt and ball, I bring my laptop. The same discipline that I appreciated in baseball is what I love about being an entrepreneur.

That’s because a person’s hobbies are a reflection of who they are. It can show what they’re interested in and reveal their work ethic. As a recruiter, asking about what a candidate does in their free time will tell you a lot about the type of worker they are.

Here are some things you can learn about a candidate through their hobbies and the job interview questions you should ask to find this important information out:

Disclaimer: These are conclusions I’ve drawn through my own professional hiring experience. They may not be as effective or appropriate for every company or position.

Their Passions

Passion is a powerful motivator. If an employee isn’t inspired by their job, they won’t be successful in the role long term. If you’re looking for talent that will stay with the company, make sure the job matches their interests. In fact, a 2015 LinkedIn study found that 47 percent of people who changed jobs chose their new role because it was a better fit for their skills and interests.

Asking about a candidate’s hobbies can give you an idea of whether their passions will align with the company and the job. If an applicant spends their time growing an organic garden or doing beach cleanups, and the company has recently started a new green initiative, they’ll be able to relate. Knowing the company is dedicated to a similar value will speak to their passion for environmentalism.

Job interview questions to ask:

  • How did you get started with your hobby?
  • What about it speaks to you most and why?

Understand that for any given hobby, there are hundreds of reasons why someone takes it up. A person might make pottery because they like the creative side of it, because they like to work with their hands, or because it relaxes them. Finding out what a candidate’s true motivation is will help you see if they’ll get that from the job.

How They Think

Everyone’s mind works differently. Some people naturally notice the details of a task; others see the big picture. There is no right or wrong way to work through problems or information, but a person’s thought process should match the role.

For example, if the vacant role requires a lot of out-of-the-box thinking or problem solving, having a hobby like performing improv comedy would be a good match. On the other hand, if the position involves a lot of rote tasks, the candidate will likely be bored in the job.

Job interview questions to ask:

  • How does your hobby stimulate your mind?
  • What types of skills help you succeed in the activity?
  • What’s an example of a challenge that occurs with the hobby and how do you overcome it?

Before the interview, decide what type of thought process would best succeed in the job. Consider the main responsibilities, forms of communication, and challenges of the role. Then as the candidate gives their answer, determine how well it aligns with the position.

Their Time-management Skills

How an employee chooses to divide up their workday has a sizeable impact on their productivity. If a candidate is able to organize and prioritize their daily tasks, it’s more likely they’ll become a quality employee.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to judge a candidate’s time management skills during the interview process. Asking questions about their hobby allows you to see how they fit it into their schedule. If the hobby requires a lot of discipline — like being involved in a community orchestra — chances are, the candidate will be equally good with time management at work.

Job interview questions to ask:

  • How do you make time for your hobby?
  • If you could devote an entire day to your hobby, what would that schedule look like?

To get the best idea of a candidate’s time management skills, pay attention to how they organize their thoughts. If their response is scattered or uncertain, the applicant probably hasn’t spent much time thinking about how they prioritize their time in regards to their hobby. That could be a sign that time management isn’t one of their strengths.

How They Work in a Team

While, to some extent, every job requires an employee to work well with others, teamwork isn’t everyone’s forte. Some people prefer to work alone and are less productive when working in a group. However, nobody would admit they’re not a team player during a job interview.

People whose hobbies involve interacting with others are more likely to work well with others. Pastimes like sports, being in community theater, or volunteering, are a sign that the candidate prefers to work as part of a team. In fact, a 2014 study from Cornell University found that employees who had been involved in team sports were rated as better employees. If the open role requires teamwork, they might be a better fit than someone whose hobby is painting.

Job interview questions to ask:

  • Do you perform your hobby with other people? (Remember even for solitary hobbies like reading, there are book clubs.)
  • If I were to ask someone you do your hobby with what you were like, what would they say?

The point of these questions is to gain insight into how the candidate interacts with others. If they prefer not to be with other people, even when they’re doing an activity that they love, a job that requires great teamwork skills might not be for them.

How a candidate spends their free time can tell you a lot about what type of employee they will be. If you ask the right questions during the interview, you’ll be better able to determine if they’re truly a great fit for the job.

What are some other job interview questions about hobbies that can be useful in assessing candidates? Share in the comments below!


image from bigstock


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