Some say passion is the spice of life. Others say it’s the cause of all suffering. Whatever your camp, passion is a part of being human. It’s such an essential part of life that most companies will ask you to answer interview questions about it, whether you’re applying for a position as a janitor or a CEO.
Why does passion top the list as the must-ask job interview question, and what are you supposed to say when you’re asked? In some cases, this question might be the make-or-break between you landing your dream job or going back to the drawing board.
Job seekers, don’t fret. There’s no need to have an existential crisis about whether you’re capable of feeling passionate about anything in the first place.
Here’s what you need to know to discover your passion, talk about it with confidence to a hiring manager, and pursue it with zeal. And if you need even more motivation, you can always check out our quotes on passion once you’re done reading here!
How do you know what you’re passionate about?
You may be at a point in life where your passions aren’t totally clear to you. Rest assured that you’re not alone. It takes time, life experience, and honest self reflection to discover what you’re genuinely passionate about.
Despite what the Disney movie ‘Soul’ might have to say about it, we aren’t all born with assigned reasons for being. Most of us are a lot more like the lovably sarcastic 22: we may need a little help finding our “spark.”
A few qualities will help you find it, including:
- healthy boundaries
If you approach your life from a place of curiosity, you’re more likely to have a sense of wonder when encountering new experiences.
This is the same curiosity that inspires each one of us to learn to sit up, walk, and talk. It’s the same curiosity that leads a child to crack a book just to see what’s inside, or to pet a cat just to see what it feels like.
Though these simple things may not excite you as much as you grow older, you can keep the same curiosity about life’s possibilities no matter how old you get.
To do that, you’ll need to stay open. Once you think you know what it’s all about, it’s almost impossible to be curious. Life also gets a lot duller.
Having a “been there, done that” attitude is just about the opposite of passion.
On top of a curious, open mindset, self-reflection is key. Knowing yourself, from your likes and dislikes to your sense of right and wrong, can help you discover what stirs your passion.
Finally, boundaries matter! You’re not going to feel passion for something if you’re doing it to please others or simply because it’s what you think you’re “supposed” to do.
These erroneous ideas can shut off your passion valve quicker than a cold shower.
What if I’m not passionate about anything?
Here’s a quick test:
Are you breathing? Are you conscious? Do you have a pulse?
If so, I assure you that you’re capable of passion.
Maybe you’re the level-headed, even-keeled type who doesn’t get their feathers ruffled. Maybe you prefer a quiet night in to a raucous party.
You don’t have to be an extrovert or an adventure-seeker to have passion.
You might think you’re not passionate about anything, but passion comes in many forms.
For the Greeks, being guided by the passions meant succumbing to the overpowering control of the emotions, which often ended in tragedy. For many Buddhists, passion is a sign of attachment, the fetter that keeps us bound in suffering.
The passion we’re talking about here refers to anything that lights you up, motivates you, or drives you to do, learn, and feel more.
Passion can be emotional, enthusiastic, and exciting. It can also be highly rational, taking the form of an intellectual curiosity or a serious conviction.
It can involve love and lust or mathematical formulas. It can even be a source of anger toward wrongdoing or injustice.
If you don’t box yourself in to one definition of what passion can be, you’ll likely find plenty of things that you feel passionate about, even if it doesn’t look like passion at first blush.
How to find your passion
Though there’s no simple formula for finding your passion, some honest self-reflection is a good place to start.
First, think back to what you were like as a child.
Did you love searching for bugs, keeping a collection in a jar? Did you obsess over model trains, taking things apart, or building something out of nothing? Were you always the first to volunteer to play charades, jump at the chance to be on stage, or love moving your body to the rhythm of music?
The answers to questions like these will give you powerful clues to where your passions lie.
Once you’ve done that, think about the last time you felt truly alive. Where were you? What were you doing? Who were you with? And what about that situation lit you up?
This isn’t always easy to do, and you may have a difficult time pinpointing a time in your life when you felt that way. That’s OK! That just means you have some more exploring to do.
Finally, imagine yourself free of obligations. If you had infinite resources to support yourself, what would you do with all that free time? Would you spend it with family or friends? Would you volunteer for a cause that matters to you? Would you use your time to write a book? Would you be on a beach drinking mai tais?
Have fun with this exercise, immersing yourself in the possibilities. There are no wrong answers – even in job interviews!
Different ways of answering ‘What are you passionate about’
When it comes to impressing a hiring manager as a job seeker, you don’t have to have an absolute handle on what makes you tick to answer the question, ‘what are you passionate about?’
Your potential employer is simply asking to get to know you better. If an interviewer asks you this million-dollar question, they’re trying to get a feel for your personal interests, your lifestyle, and your goals.
Your best bet is to provide a truthful answer about your personal life that shows:
- you’re a well rounded person
- you lead a healthy lifestyle
- you’re interested in self improvement in one way or another
Answers that touch on these topics demonstrate that you’re a well rounded candidate who maintains balance and stability in your life.
To do this, you can focus on several different areas, including:
- What you do for fun
- What you care about
- How you stay healthy
- A topic that interests you.
These answers don’t have to be directly job related, but you can tie them back to the position where you see an obvious link.
Sample answers to ‘what are you passionate about’
For instance, when it comes to answering based on what you do for fun, an example answer may go something like this:
“I’m passionate about getting outside and moving my body with roller skating. I enjoy putting on music and skating around an empty parking lot, practicing tricks. This is a really fun way to stay fit, enjoy new music, and work on upping my skills. I work on improving my balance, speed, and mastering new moves.”
An answer like this shows a potential employer that:
- you’re active
- you take care of yourself with physical fitness
- you enjoy the rewards that come from your efforts
- you appreciate a challenge
These are all major pluses in a potential candidate.
When it comes to what you care about, you might say something like this:
“I feel really passionate about disability rights. On the weekends, I often spend my time volunteering at a local chapter in support of them. We sometimes write letters to lawmakers or do canvassing campaigns to get the word out. I believe strongly in equality and our social responsibility to work for it.”
An answer like this shows a hiring manager that:
- you’re principled
- you’re willing to work for things you believe in
- you don’t mind spending “leisure” time doing something important
- you are experienced at working in a group setting and engaging with the public
These qualities look great in a job seeker.
When answering about how you stay healthy, you may something like:
“I feel strongly about keeping my body in shape through weight lifting. During my last job, I would even practice three times a week during lunch, with recovery days in between. I record my reps and slowly increase with time. I know this will help prevent issues like low mobility and osteoporosis as I get older, plus the gym atmosphere offers me a strong community of people who encourage me to grow.”
This answer demonstrates that you:
- take responsibility for your health
- are consistent with your routine
- record your results and improve over time
- think about your long-term future
- appreciate people who support you and push you
If you answer with a topic that interests you, you may something like:
“I’m very interested in Russian literature. My favorite author is Dostoevsky. I love how his works provide a window into human psychology and a snapshot of the historical period he was writing in. It fascinates me to explore how much his work has influenced literature that came afterward, and how it shaped the thinking, style, and standards of the field.”
This answer shows that you:
- understand complex ideas and how they relate to one another
- appreciate cultures other than your own (assuming you aren’t Russian)
- think critically about how particular social and historical factors influence one another
- enjoy diving deep into a topic to understand the nuances and intricacies
- understand how precedents are set and how their influence affects the future
Most people would want to hire someone who is this thoughtful, intelligent, and thorough in their understanding of a topic, and that will add to their own company culture.
Notice that the best answers aren’t specifically job related, but still illustrate how a candidate might operate in the workplace.
How NOT to answer ‘What are you passionate about?’
There are also some ways you shouldn’t answer this question.
Don’t force it
Notice that the answers above don’t force a connection between the passion and the job.
There’s no reason to contrive this. A smart potential employer will see the subtle implications behind the details. You don’t need to spell it out for them.
What most hiring managers will notice is if you’re telling them what you think they want to hear. It will show if you’re inauthentic, and hiring managers don’t want to see that.
Instead, focus on putting your best foot forward by being real, touching on your personal interests, and not getting into the nitty gritty details of your personal life.
Share examples of how you spend your free time, what makes you tick, and ways that you step outside of your comfort zone in everyday life. Demonstrating this quality will show that you’re willing to do the same for the job.
Don’t go overboard
While giving a potential employer a truthful answer on what you’re genuinely passionate about is great, there’s no need to belabor the point.
Focus on the broad strokes of your interests and the underlying themes rather than reciting your favorite fifteen stanza poem or jumping into an explanation about the theory of relativity.
Stay focused on what the passion is and why it’s important to you, then move on. This shows hiring managers that you can stay on topic and don’t get carried away with minutiae.
Don’t overthink it
Finally, keep it simple. A job interview may be a bit intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s natural to be nervous, but the best way to overcome any pre-interview anxiety is with preparation, not with “what ifs.”
Rather than getting in your head about how you’ll be perceived by your interviewers, simply focus on preparing yourself to answer whatever question may come.
To do this, you can write down the answers to a few questions so you’re not totally winging it in the interview.
These questions can include:
- Why do I want this job?
- What can I offer in this role?
- How can this role make a difference for the company or the world?
- What are my strongest attributes?
- What are areas I want to improve?
- What appeals to me about this company?
Journaling these answers will help you get in touch with why you’re at the interview in the first place.
You don’t have to memorize your responses word for word. Just defining these parameters for yourself is often enough. And a little cheat sheet or a few notes don’t hurt either!
What kind of follow-up questions to expect
You may be able to predict some of the standard questions you’ll be asked in an interview.
These include what you’re passionate about, why you want to work for the company, and what appeals to you about the role you’re applying for.
Of course, there will likely be follow up questions that are far less predictable. This is why it’s best to be prepared by answering the questions above.
In a sense, an interview involves telling the story of who you are and why you’re a great fit for the role. The more familiar you become with your own narrative, the better you’ll be able to convey it to hiring managers.
On the other hand, if you aren’t sure why you’d be a great fit, this will likely come through in your answer. Do your homework by crafting a story that feels authentic and accurate to you about your history, personality, and abilities.
Once you do this, you’ll likely cover any potential follow up questions before they’re even asked.
Some common follow up questions can include:
- What makes you a good culture fit for this company?
- What’s your strongest asset in the workplace?
- What’s your communication style like?
You can also expect “spin-off” questions that encourage you to go into more detail about your initial answers.
Live your passion
Passion reaches far beyond a simple job. Passion is your reason for being. You don’t necessarily have to know what it is, though that will likely come with time.
For some, passion lies in simply living passionately in all that you do, whether it be work, love, family, or the things you enjoy.
Far more than a “thing” that you discover, passion is the attitude with which you approach life. Living passionately is a choice you can make in each moment, with every thought, word, action, and breath.