Employers love to ask, “What are you passionate about?” in interviews, and they’re testing you for a few key things.
They ask this to learn about you as a person and make sure you have passions and interests in general.
They want to hire someone who’s excited about their work and life, and will show up energized to the workplace!
And they want to make sure this is the type of job you want to be doing, too! They don’t want to hire someone who’s going to quit or change their mind in the first year.
In this article, I’m going to show you the best way to answer “what are you passionate about?”… with word-for-word answer examples, mistakes to avoid, and more.
And don’t worry if you’re not sure how to know what you’re passionate about. We’ll cover that, too.
The best way to answer “what are you passionate about” is to name one single area of interest. This will keep your answer simple and easy to remember (and easy to practice).
Also, by picking one thing to focus on, you’ll also be ready to answer a common variation of this question, “what are you most passionate about?” Your answer to either question will be the same, which simplifies everything!
So to begin your answer, you’ll want to say, “one thing that I’m passionate about is…”
Next, you want to tell them what that specific thing is, and then explain why you’re passionate about it. Ideally, relate this to the job, too.
For example: You could say you’re passionate about software, computers, and technology. You could explain that this has fascinated you from a young age, and that’s one of the reasons you pursued a career in software engineering, web design, or any number of related fields.
Another example: Let’s say you’re a Nursing job candidate. You can say you’re passionate about helping others. You’ve always been someone who’s looked after others and wanted to help people, rather than just helping yourself. Then you’d go on to explain how Nursing seemed like the perfect career, given this passion of yours.
So, you’re explaining your passion while also explaining why you chose this career.
In fact, preparing to answer an interview question like “what are you passionate about?” is going to also give you some great ideas you can share in response to many other commonly-asked interview questions like:
Of course, you can name a passion that’s totally unrelated to your work, like hiking. We’ll cover this too in one of the word-for-word answer examples coming up soon in this article!
If you’re thinking “what are my passions?”, or if you’re still not sure which one thing to mention in your interview answer, then this section is for you.
The best way to decide which passion to name is to look at the job/industry, and work backward by thinking about what excites you and interests you in that job.
Ask yourself, “What are the main characteristics of this job that appeal to me?”
This could be: Working with technology, solving interesting technical challenges, helping people, making a difference in people’s lives, helping people live healthier lives, etc.
Then think about why that excites you, or how that fits into your personal interests.
By approaching the question like this, you’ll always have an answer that relates to the job you’re interviewing for.
Of course, if you have a different passion that you want to mention, that’s fine, too. I’m not suggesting you lie or be fake in the interview. However, I am suggesting that if you go interview for a Nursing job, and you say that your passion is playing online video games, they’re going to wonder about how hard you’re going to work.
One of the example answers coming up will show you how to name a passion that isn’t work-related and still make it sound positive! So keep reading, because the answer examples are coming up next.
Recap: What are passions?
Passions are areas, topics, or activities that excite you and interest you. They aren’t necessarily work-related, but if you can find something work-related that you’re also passionate about, then that makes the best interview answer.
Now that we’ve looked at steps and tips for how to answer “what are you passionate about?”, let’s look at some word-for-word sample answers.
We’re going to go through four real-world examples that you can use to create your own response that will “wow” the hiring manager.
“One thing that I’m passionate about is healthy living and healthy eating. I think it’s something my parents taught me from a young age. So that’s why I enjoy working in the fitness industry. It allows me to blend my personal interests and passions with my career. I feel like I’m spending my time working on helping people with something that’s important, and that motivates me to do great work.”
Note that in this answer, you’re describing how your passion relates to your industry overall. In the next example, we’ll look at how to talk about how your passion relates to the specific role. Either approach is completely fine, though!
“My biggest passion is learning about software and technology. I was fascinated with computers from a young age, so I decided to study Computer Science in college and I’ve continued in that direction since graduating. It’s been a great choice for me! As a front-end software developer, I get to shape how the internet is progressing and how websites are evolving, and that’s exciting to me.”
Next, let’s look at an example answer for people who are in a job that’s tougher to explain passion for. In this next example, we’ll look at how you could answer interview questions about your passion when you applied for a customer service position.
“One area that I’m passionate about is self-development and self-improvement in my personal life. I’m always looking to challenge myself and learn new things. That’s one reason I enjoy working in customer service; I’ve learned great communication skills, listening skills, and problem-solving skills that help me in my day-to-day work but also in my personal life in terms of confidence, communication, etc.”
That answer we just looked at is a nice catch-all answer if you’re still not sure what you are passionate about, or what to say. Saying you enjoy self-improvement and that you enjoy learning new things will make you seem like a great person for them to hire. And you can relate this to practically any job. Just pick one good thing that you’ve enjoyed learning, or that you think you will enjoy learning in the position.
Overall, hiring managers just want to know that you’re interested in their position and that you’re energetic and positive in general. They also are hoping to get to know a bit about you as a person.
So the sample answers above will accomplish all of these things and help you get more job offers when you discuss your passion in a job interview.
Finally, it is possible to name something totally unrelated to the job. So if you like this approach, then this next example is for you:
“I’m really passionate about hiking and being outdoors. That’s usually how I spend my weekends and my time when I’m not in the office. I feel like I have more energy when I return to the office on Mondays if I’ve spent some time outdoors on the weekend.”
So if you really don’t feel like answering with a work-related passion, then you can give an answer like the example we covered. This is still a good answer that will tell the interviewer about who you are as a person.
This could also spark a great back-and-forth conversation if they have the same passion, or if they have questions about your passion. For example, they might say, “Wow, that’s great. What’s your favorite hike that you’ve been on?”
Whether you choose a work-related passion or a personal passion, it’s best to name one single thing that you’re passionate about, and then explain why.
Don’t pick anything that will sound like a distraction that will take away from your ability to work (for example, I don’t recommend saying, “I’m very passionate about playing video games.”)
And make sure to give a truthful answer. Hiring managers ask this because they want to get to know you and learn a bit about you, and they’re pretty good at sensing when you’re giving a “canned” answer that you read online, but isn’t true.
All of these tips are covered in more detail in the article above, so if you skipped down to the conclusion, I’d recommend scrolling back up and reading step-by-step how to handle this job interview question.
If you follow these tips, you’ll have a great response when you hear an interview question like, “what are you passionate about?”
Make sure to practice this question a couple of times before the job interview, too. Nothing comes out perfectly the first time you say it. So you’ll perform better if you spend a bit of time recording yourself on your smartphone and playing it back to hear how you sound. Then adjust until you feel everything’s good and ready for your job interview.
Biron Clark is a former executive recruiter who has worked individually with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions.
Get our free PDF with the top 30 interview questions and answers. Join 10,000+ job seekers in our email newsletter and we'll send you the 30 must-know questions, plus our best insider tips for turning interviews into job offers.