Talent Acquisition

Why You Should Ask ‘What Do You Do in Your Spare Time?’

As the interviewer or recruiter during a job interview, it’s your job to use all the questions at your disposal in order to determine whether the candidate is right for the job or not.

As we all know, a person’s skills and abilities, no matter how impressive (or unimpressive) they may be, are just part of what makes a person tick. And when you hire someone, you’re not just acquiring whatever that person can bring to the table, you’re hiring a real person with strengths and weaknesses that will inevitably affect how they perform.

Don’t be afraid to get personal

According to Peter Bregman of Bregman Partners, getting a bit personal with the candidate is a great way to gain valuable insight. As Bregman explains, candidates who engage in non-work related activities that are somehow aligned with what they do at work are probably really good at what they do.

For instance, a manager or supervisor who’s also highly active in their local community’s programs is more likely to be great at dealing with people. An art director who also takes on commissions for personalized artworks already has some idea of how to interpret and direct client wants and needs. A salesperson who also regularly wins and loses in Jiu-Jitsu tournaments is most likely not afraid of adverse competition.

Of course, just because a person has hobbies somewhat related to the job they’re applying for, doesn’t automatically mean that they’re perfect for the job. However, it is an indicator of what the candidate can be capable of – both on a regular basis and in case they need to go above and beyond the call of duty.

Getting personal is mutually beneficial

Asking the candidate what they do in their free time isn’t just for the company, it’s for the prospect as well. Getting at least a little bit personal is a good way to see whether or not the candidate fits well with the company and vice versa. By looking beyond the person’s resume, you’re not just gaining insight on how the candidate applies their skills outside of work, you’re also asking for a peek at the candidate’s personal drive and motivation. While this may seem too personal for a job interview, it’s actually essential if you want to create an open and empowered office culture.

What motivates the candidate? Will these motivations and non-work hobbies affect how the candidate views and executes their job? Try to find the answers to these questions as well when you’re getting personal with an interviewee. Just don’t forget:

Beware of the legalities possibly attached to personal questions

In certain parts of the world, asking personal questions is not something that’s advised by HR during interviews. This is because anything personal revealed by the interviewer might open the door to legal action should you decide not to hire them. What if you didn’t hire them because they had revealed that they were religious, transgendered, or involved with a particular political organization or belief?

Unfortunately, this is a very real risk that comes with asking to peek into a candidate’s personal life. A good way around this is to just ask personal questions that are relevant to the job and the company. For instance, if it’s a sales position, inquire about what other products or services the candidate sells on their free time. Only delve into religious and/or political territory if your company is itself religious and/or political, otherwise, such personal inquiries might be unnecessary and can only open the doors to litigious action. If your company offers free services like gym access or yoga classes during non-working hours, it would of course be safe to ask them if they’re interested.

A good barometer of whether your questions are still appropriate is to never veer too far from the nature of the job being applied for. Instead of asking open-ended questions after the candidate’s initial answer, ask questions that reveal more about personal skills and abilities.

Be prepared for any answer

You asked the question so be ready to get your answers. We often worry about the candidate’s mindset during job interviews, but what about the interviewer? As the face of the company, it’s your job to remain composed and professional no matter how good or bad the interview goes. Make sure you’re ready for anything. Get a good night’s sleep, stay hydrated, don’t drink too much coffee, and do your best to keep your inquiries relevant.

About the author: If Peter Mutuc isn’t sculpting, writing, editing, drawing, skating, cycling, wrestling with his Labrador, or actively regulating his sleeping patterns through at least 150 minutes of weekly exercise, he’s usually just online, creating and developing web content for

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