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Tales from a student-PR agency at Kent State University


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“What are your Hobbies?” The Hardest “Easy” Question You’ll Ever Get in a Job Interview

Imagine you’re in a job interview for your dream internship. You’ve been preparing for days – you have your elevator speech fully memorized, you’ve practiced your responses to the “where do you see yourself in five years,” and the “what are your biggest strengths and weaknesses,” questions, and now it’s time to ‘wow’ the interviewers with your smart and concise responses. And you do – until, near the end of the interview, the interviewer breaks out the one question you weren’t prepared for: “So what do you do in your spare time? What are your hobbies?”

The question seems harmless enough at first, until you realize you don’t have an answer. Because let’s be honest: between classes, organizations and work, your “spare time” is extremely limited. And what spare time you do have involves venting about your busy life to your friends or watching Netflix in your room while eating ramen. And it’s not like you can tell THAT to your prospective bosses. So, what do you do?

This very situation has happened to me a couple of times now, and both times the question caught me off guard. What do you say to a question like this? Do you tell the truth and sound lazy? Or do you lie, and risk being caught? Here’s my advice for answering one of the easiest, yet extremely mind-boggling questions you’ll ever get in a job interview.

What is a “Hobby?”

When I first think of hobbies, I think of the traditional ones: painting, or knitting, or playing a sport or instrument. Now, if you’re already doing one of these things, great! You’re all set for this question. But, if you’re like me and you don’t do any of that stuff – at least not on a regular basis — you might be thinking you don’t have a hobby. But don’t fret! You don’t have to pick up fencing or ballroom dancing just yet. There are a lot of things that you’re already doing that could be considered a “hobby.” Do you cook? Cooking is a hobby. Do you like to hike and explore? That could be considered a hobby. Do you like movies? Passion for films is a great hobby. These may not be as exciting or skill-based as say, competing in tennis or making your own clothes, but they’re still things that not everyone is passionate about and can set you apart from the other job candidates.

What Your Hobby Should Say About You

The reason why this question comes up so much is job interviews is that employers want to learn as much about you as possible. Questions like this could stem from concerns the employer might have, such as your overall health and energy level, your mentality or how you might engage and entertain clients and coworkers. They also want to try and get a sense of whether they’d get along with you, and feel comfortable chatting in the break room or making small talk during a one-on-one meeting.

You should know there are certain subjects that you should never bring up in an interview — even if your favorite way to spend free time is gambling, partying, or any type of illegal or questionable activity, never bring it up in an interview. Political involvement is also not a good response – unless you’re going to work for a political organization or you know FOR SURE that the people conducting the interview align with you politically. Make sure your answer positively reflects you and your ability to achieve success in the position.

You can also use the hobbies question to touch on things that are on your resume that weren’t already brought up in the interview. If you didn’t already get a chance to talk about your work in your extra-curricular activities or your volunteer and community work, this question is a great opportunity to expand on that. Just make sure you’re not being repetitive – your interviewer wants to learn as much about you as possible, not hear the same answers applied to different questions.

No matter what your answer is, make sure it’s as genuine as possible. Chances are, your employer already knows whether you’re qualified for the job: they want to get to know YOU. So remember to sound passionate and enthusiastic when talking about your “hobby.”

Thinking ahead

Now, just because you don’t have a “traditional” hobby right now, doesn’t you can’t pick one up! It’s never too late to learn a new skill, and in most cases, it’s not hard to find opportunities to do so. Most colleges have classes and organizations dedicated to teaching or expanding on a specific craft. So when you’re going to register for next semesters classes, be sure to check out that yoga or dance class, or see what kind of painting, sewing or pottery classes your university offers. You can also go online to see what clubs and organizations your university has that are dedicated to specific hobbies – join a knitting group or book club. If you’re like me and don’t have very much time in your schedule (or money in your bank account) to devote to a new hobby, check out YouTube for tutorial ideas! You can learn how to make friendship bracelets or how to do the electric slide in no time. The possibilities are endless – so go out and find your passion! You’ll thank yourself at your next job interview.

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Five Tips for Choosing a Good Minor to Complement Public Relations

So you’ve settled into public relations as your major – Congratulations! You’ve chosen well.

But on the first day of classes in your new major, you realize that many of your new classmates not only have their PR major, but also have minors – and some of them have more than one.

You may panic for a second: “Minor?! I just chose my major, and now I have to choose something else?”

Well, never fear! Here are five tips to help you chose the perfect minor:

Passion is key

Passion is key

When it comes to choosing any minor, it’s always good to start with something you’re already passionate about. Do you like fashion? Try a fashion media minor. Do you want to work in the corporate world? Maybe a minor in business or marketing would do the trick. Are you interested in sports? A sports administration minor may be the right fit for you.

Luke Armour, an assistant professor in Kent State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC) sequence says that choosing a minor for PR should revolve around your future goals.

“Public relations is a multi-faceted field. You can work in sports, entertainment, healthcare, public affairs, internal communications, technology, higher education – the list goes on and on,” Armour says. “Kent State has a lot of programs that can help you gain a better understanding of a specific field of study that can help you – so be sure to look around. The possibilities are vast.”

Diversify yourself

Diversify Yourself

Along with being something that holds your interest, a great PR minor should help you to stand out among your fellow PR students. The public relations industry is a competitive one, and you should jump at any chance to get a leg up on your opposition.

Michele Ewing, an associate professor in JMC, says that a minor for PR should further enhance a person’s ability as a communicator.

“I especially advocate for students to study a second language,” Ewing says. “Public relations professionals who understand different languages and cultures are more effective communicators – and more marketable for jobs.”

Complement your major

As previously mentioned, minors that complement the PR major should serve as a way to further enhance your education in the PR sequence. For example, a psychology or sociology minor will help public relations students with analyzing audiences and developing a communication strategy. Be sure to think about potential career interests and find a minor that will provide some additional expertise.

Complement your major

Stephanie Smith, an assistant professor in JMC,says that selecting a minor is comparable to  picking a running mate for office.

“You should ask yourself, ‘what makes a good balanced “ticket,” and what will supplement the skills and competencies you don’t have and won’t necessarily get from a PR curriculum?” Smith says. “If you’re not sure what field you want to enter, stay flexible and strategic. I’d look at some fields of study that employment and demographic trends tell us are going to be highly impactful in the future.”

Be decisive

Be Decisive

You don’t need to choose a minor in your first semester, or even in your first year — but once you do decide on a minor you think you’ll like, try to stick with it. Much like changing your major, repeatedly switching minors can set you back for graduation and leave you with a bunch of class credits that don’t go towards anything.

A good way to avoid this is to take a class or two in your chosen subject prior to declaring a minor. You can also meet with an advisor in that program to discuss what requirements accompany each minor you are considering. This way, you can decide whether the minor is for you before fully committing.

Armour also recommends looking directly at the classes you’ll have to add to get your minor.

“Look at the content,” Armour says. “Is it really in line with your interests? Will it make you more valuable to an employer? Will it give you skills or knowledge you need in the industry? And definitely talk to upperclassmen who have selected that minor – are they happy? Be sure to find out everything you can about your prospective minor before you choose it.”

Don’t overwhelm yourself

Don't Overwhelm YourselfIf you’ve read all of the previous advice and are still nervous about choosing a minor, don’t worry! You’re not alone — this just means you’re taking your education in PR seriously, which is a good thing.

Take a deep breath, clear your head and let that knot in your stomach ease up. Declaring a minor isn’t a requirement, nor should it cause you to stress out. Just start from the beginning – make a list of the areas you’re already passionate about, and go from there. There are plenty of resources and people in Kent State’s  public relations department will be there to help you out along the way.