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A few days ago I was interviewing for a global company (50k+ employees) regarding a technical position within the analytics field, this was my 3rd interview (had an HR interview and a technical interview). It was an interview with the head of the unit who has 30+ years of experience.

Towards the end of the interview he asked me about what I do other than work so I asked if he means my hobbies and he said yes, So me being super honest I said football and video games so he said you still play video games? And I replied yes I am a hardcore gamer actually then he asked about which football team do I support joked about it and asked if there is anything else I do in my free time and I said not really.

I can't stop thinking that I may have screwed up and seriously hurt my chances of landing the job but deep down I tell myself that my hobbies should be no one's business and that as long as I give my job 100% it should be no one's concern.

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i tell myself that my hobbies should be no one's business and that as long as I give my job 100% it should be no one's concern.

That might be your thinking, but it's a very common "throwaway" question in interviews, and it can help more than you think if your hobbies mean that you share common interests with your peers.

That being said:

So me being super honest I said football and video games so he said you still play video games? And I replied yes I am a hardcore gamer actually

You're worrying unnecessarily here. Gaming isn't inherently negative or controversial - it's not like you said you visit brothels in your spare time! There's nothing wrong with listing this as an interest. As above, if there's other people in your team that are into gaming it could even play off as an advantage.

Instead of your reply of "yes I am a hardcore gamer actually", you could have said something akin to "Yes, I've met some good friends that way and we find it a great way to unwind", which would have been better - but that's really a very minor point.

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    +1, but that phrasing is not as minor as all that. The way you describe the hobby, it sounds like a net positive, and I absolutely think that the OP should memorize those words. On the other hand, describing oneself as a "hardcore gamer" makes it sound like you have self-control issues. Most people don't see gaming as an issue, but some do look down on games as time wasters (but not their Netflix shows, of course, that's totally different, OK?!), and it's just in case you're dealing with that sort of person that you have to be careful in how you describe yourself. – AndreiROM Nov 21 at 14:44
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    Hey now buddy, nothing wrong with Brothels. – schil227 Nov 21 at 17:24
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    As mentioned in the answers below, "hardcore gamer" with the older generations (if 30+ years of experience, they're in their 50s or so) carry the connotation that you're either childish (because for them, videogames - as well as animations / cartoons - are for children) or you have an addiction that might impact your job performance (gaming through the night, and not being able to work on the next day, blah blah, since that's the main topic in the media they consume about adult gamers). – Juliana Karasawa Souza Nov 21 at 17:29
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    What if you play videogames at a brothel? Isn't easy to find a nice friend for a co-op experience nowadays... – T. Sar - Reinstate Monica Nov 21 at 17:59
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    Personally I find hardcore gaming to be a boon for anyone working in analytics. Especially if they’re super interested in MMOs like World of Warcraft where some of your best performers perform that well purely by data analysis and research – Bakna Nov 21 at 18:03
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It depends on the interviewer and your situation, but most likely yes.

There are three primary reasons why interviewers ask that kind of question.

Firstly, some interviewers are looking for a "culture fit" to their existing teams. This is not universal, but some believe that it is important to have employees that enjoy similar hobbies and have similar circumstances, in order to facilitate inter-team friendships and more collegiality. If this was the case in your interview you may have indicated a poor culture fit of yourself considering what the interviewer said.

Secondly, some interviewers look for people with a well rounded and diverse set of hobbies specifically. This is predicated on the idea that your hobbies say a lot about you as a person, and that someone with different and diverse hobbies will be more balanced and productive at work. If this was the case your answer may also count against you.

Thirdly, they just use the question and discussion as an ice breaker, to take some of the process inherent tension of an interview off. If that was the case, the response you got was probably a failed attempt at banter or humour, and wouldn't really count against you.

In essence, it is important that an interview is a two way street. If that manager won't hire you because you play video games in your free time, do you really want to work there?

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    -1 Good explanation as to why the question is asked, poor conclusion. I have not worked for a single manager whom would consider playing video games to count against you. – AndreiROM Nov 21 at 14:32
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    @AndreiROM given the comments OP heard from the hiring manager, I find it likely that it counted against them. – Magisch Nov 21 at 14:41
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    I have to respectfully disagree. That particular interviewer may not have reacted favorably, but it was very unlikely to be a decisive factor for any sane interviewer. Also, video games are a very common hobby...especially in IT departments. – TimothyAWiseman Nov 21 at 17:09
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    @TimothyAWiseman I'd immediately get suspicious of someone in IT that doesn't mention videogames in ANY way (either as a hobby or as a general interest) – Juliana Karasawa Souza Nov 21 at 17:25
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    If they asked a culture fit question and it turned out the OP is not a good fit for the culture, and everybody is now aware of that, I don't see how that is "messing up". It's the interview process working as designed. But in this particular case it's all an overreaction IMO. – Lightness Races with Monica Nov 21 at 17:54
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I would have avoided the word "hardcore", that can sound like you might be playing late at night and coming to work sleepy.

But in this age it's fully mainstream for people to play video games. Technical people who don't play video games might look a bit odd.

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    +1 for the first part, -1 for the second – FooTheBar Nov 21 at 9:02
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    It might be "mainstream", but it's not odd for people not to play video games.. honestly that line of thinking is the only thing odd here. – Trotski94 Nov 21 at 11:59
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    I work in IT and very few of my coworkers play video games despite being "technical people". It certainly isn't odd that they don't. – Baron Nov 21 at 12:43
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    Playing video games (as an adult) is very generational. If the manager has 30 years of experience, he is at least in his late 50s. When he was a kid, video games weren't around yet. Relativly few poeple of his generation play video games. His statement 'you still play video games' represents typical behaviour for his generation plus the assumption that everyone else is the same. You are presumably much younger. A very large proportion of people in their 20s or 30s play some form of video games. – quarague Nov 21 at 16:04
  • @FooTheBar no, the second is fair. Gamers are legion. World of Warcraft, no small commitment, in its heyday had as much playtime from players 55+ as it has 25-54. And most of them are women no kidding. The only "11 year old" is how old this data is lol. And since then, games have gotten much more accessible/low cost of entry: Candy Crush, Farmville, etc. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Nov 21 at 18:24
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Your mistake wasn't mentioning video games, or even indicating passion for playing them. The mistake was not using interview time to sell yourself.

There are two dimensions to job interviews: seeing if a company might be a good place for you, specifically, to work, and to convince the company that you would be a good person to hire. This situation touches on the latter dimension.

Interview time is scarce, and is often your only meaningful opportunity to convey information about yourself to the company. Those two factors combined strongly favor viewing the situation tactically: everything you say will, ideally, express something about you which will make you a more intriguing and attractive candidate.

The interviewer may or may not have had strong opinions about what "hardcore gamers" are like, but ultimately you aren't going to be able to predict and account for those sorts of personal biases on any topic. You still have to say things in an interview, no matter what, and so you shouldn't be paralyzed over mentioning something true about yourself unless you are certain that it would damage you.

By simply saying that you are a hardcore video gamer, you left yourself at the mercy of whatever ideas the interviewer already had generally. This was the mistake. You should always present information in some manner which is actively to your benefit.

I've mentioned enjoying video games in job interviews. But I always combine that with additional information: I enjoy collecting strategically valuable information about how the game works, and reverse-engineering the games' rules and scenarios to obtain useful information that makes me better at those games. Since I'm a statistician, and usually interview for data analyst-style roles, that's exactly the sort of thing that a potential employer would be hiring me to do. The video game hobby then becomes another way to showcase the skills that make me an attractive candidate, and conveys that I enjoy practicing those skills and, for fun, apply them in the same ways I would at a job to deliver value.

It seems unlikely to me that this one set of comments tanked the interview for you, but in the future bear in mind that interview time is too scarce and too valuable to waste on making inert comments about yourself. If you'd instead described a passion for cooking, rather than video gaming, the mistake would be similarly meaningful (again, remembering that there is little chance of predicting an interviewer's general attitudes about all activities). It's not that the activity is inherently bad, it's that idly mentioning any activity does not advance your cause.

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    This is a great answer and the one I would pick -- every answer in an interview is your opportunity to sell yourself as the best person for the role. – eps Nov 21 at 19:31
  • Great answer! The question isn't "what do you do?" but rather "do you do something engaging and positive?" (clue: yes!) – P. Hopkinson Nov 21 at 21:18
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It's okay to play video games, but to use the description of 'hardcore' for just about anything needs to be taken with extreme care. In the case of gaming, trying to align yourself as a 'gamer' too much can bring a whole slew of negative connotations that can make a company see you as an extreme liability (see for reference the GamerGate controversy for examples of what I am talking about).

You can avoid these connotations by specifying a little, e.g: you compete in various videogame competitions, or you and a few mates have a Mario Kart session every friday. Use language and examples that are going to be familiar with most people.

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    It's like asking if you drink and you answer you're a hardcore drinker. I don't think that would be taken as a good thing even if everyone in the office grabs some brews after work. – Dan Nov 21 at 18:17
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Interviews are not just for the company to decide they want you

So me being super honest I said football and video games so he said you still play video games? And I replied yes I am a hardcore gamer actually then he asked about which football team do I support joked about it and asked if there is anything else I do in my free time and I said not really.

The interview also exists for you to form an opinion of the company and decided whether they are people who you want to work for. In this case, the interviewer behaved poorly and it's entirely reasonable for you to form a negative opinion of the company as a result.

You did not mess up, your answer provided you with useful (and negative) information about your potential employer

1

Statistically, he's wrong.

Videogaming is associated with 11-year-olds, so let's look at this 11-year-old study of World of Warcraft players in its heyday. And this is by Nielsen, the big name in TV view ratings for the last 50 years, so they are a reliable source.

enter image description here

knock me over with a feather

You may scoff at 2008 World of Warcraft. But it was serious commitment with a high cost of entry: a competent PC (even new low-end PCs won't do - check the specs), $15/month, and back then, $50 buy-in. And you have to admit, the time commitment was pretty hardcore. Today, games are much more accessible, but even more addicting.

Almost everyone has a modern phone that will play most games. The "Free To Play" business model reduces cost-of-entry to nil, but is psychologically engineered to be much more addictive than WoW. So the time commitments get higher and higher. (Again your definition of "Hardcore" might not be time based, but you have to admit, that's fair).

All that to say: tossing out the bogon of "Only kids play video games" is so wrong that he ought to know better. So he is either an idiot, or he trolled you.

The real problem is, it's a hole where something should be

They asked that question to learn more about you as a person. And the problem is that "spend my time gaming" is a null answer, which says almost nothing about you... but it also means, there isn't much more to say. And that's the real problem.

They're looking for things like

  • I'm a volunteer coder with the Firefox project
  • I play football in league play (my favorite team is MY OWN)
  • I'm on the Board of Directors of the local library
  • I maintain a well-used Perl module in CPAN
  • I helped turn the local WWII museum into a financial success
  • I buy distressed houses, fix them up and rent them out
  • In this MMO game, I am the guild-master of one of the top 3 guilds on my realm.
  • I volunteer with kids at the local hospital
  • I'm restoring a '71 Barracuda
  • I've worked with neighbors and the city council to beautify our street
  • I live on a canal boat and do continuous cruising
  • My family is my life

This isn't just interesting lore to make smalltalk. This is really about serious questions like: Do your activities reveal a hidden capability from you that might reflect an ability to grow in the job? Are you stable in the community? Do you have an appropriate life-work balance?

You whiffed all of them. You left the impression of a person who has no life outside of work, creates nothing, has no passions, and just sits in a chair in front of a screen, consuming media. That doesn't make you a bad employee, but it makes it hard for them to see any potential in you.

You might give your job 100%, but it's 100% of not a whole lot.

By contrast: Joe runs a top 3 guild which was the first on-realm to down Xorragath and the 19th worldwide. You'd definitely call that person a hardcore gamer, yes? But Joe is so much more. Joe had to manage the guild - recruit the right people, expel the wrong people, keep the politics contained, keep people showing up, and manage progression. I.E. knowing exactly when the lower dungeons have given you enough gear to advance to a tougher one (without frustrating, time-consuming wipes), keeping people educated and on-focus for the unique challenges of each fighy, etc. That tells management that Joe is probably ready to lead a developer team, because Joe can see the core objective, and choose appropriate work flow and targets while keeping the team on track.

Joe isn't going to coredump all that in the interview. But when the interviewers here "guild leader" they'll hear "leader" and start asking what that is and means. And Joe will open up and talk about the things I mentioned, the project management and personnel challenges. And interviewers will think "Yeah, that sounds like managing a team around here. OK, good to know Joe could go that way. We'll see."

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If you did ruin your chances I think it was only ruined by your phrasing that you're a "hardcore gamer actually." I think by adding an adjective, you make it sound like it's above and beyond what one would consider normal. It's unclear if the interviewer is against gamers but I think by adding that phrase he's going to question exactly what that would mean. Such as if you're going to come in late, call in sick when that new World of Warcraft expansion comes out, or if you're going to come in completely tired from pulling an all nighter playing video games. When you say something, people tend to think the worst way possible but a smarter person would be skeptical and assume the best intention first until proven otherwise. It's unclear where the interviewer falls under.

My thought is try to describe things without adding adjectives. A basic professional english writing 101 (or speaking). Don't use terms like "a little" or "very" to describe things or in this case "hardcore." Just say, "I like to play video games and watch football." If he asks more question, again be descriptive and honest but do not make it sound more or less than it is.

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