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When interviewing for a position, one common question is what you prefer doing during your spare time. Would it be a bad idea to bring up activities that some people might consider irresponsible due to their extreme nature? Think parachuting, sport motorcycles etc.

Making the interviewer believe that I'm irresponsible is bad. Should one just exclude such activities to be "safe"?

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  • While this somewhat depends on the interviewer, a general answer would be preferred.
    – Zar
    Nov 10 '14 at 18:47
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    What kind of job are you interviewing for? If it's a "key man" type of position (exa: CEO) then that information might make a huge difference in their likelihood of hiring you.
    – NotMe
    Nov 10 '14 at 18:58
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    There are some jobs out there, where your availability is the key and the risk of injury from (maybe not so extreme) sports is a huge decision factor for your employer. An aquaintance of mine, a jet pilot, has been told (perhaps jokingly) by his boss that if he ever finds himself within sight of a snowboard park, he's fired without notice.
    – Pavel
    Nov 11 '14 at 8:50
  • I really liked all the answers, many thanks! I don't agree that this is primarily opinion-based - though.
    – Zar
    Nov 13 '14 at 21:54
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Skydivers are safety nuts. So are skin divers. When I was doing martial arts, the people I feared most were the white belts because they had no control over their movements and some of them were super strong and could do a lot of physical damage - shall we say, football/rugby players? My job as a higher belt was to look out and be mindful for my safety AND theirs, even as they were coming at me - Life sucks.

Mention anything you want but if you think it's going to give a bad perception, it's incumbent on you to IMMMEDIATELY set that perception straight and it would be irresponsible of you not to do it. However, that will lengthen your interview, and you want to use the precious interview time to say how great a fit you are for the job not justifying what you do in your spare time.

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    I agree (having done some parachuting in the past) I'd instead look at the +ve things it says about me. I'm able to learn things in a safety critical environment and perform under pressure, I'm able to follow procedures (because I'm still alive), I'm willing to try new things that may be out of my comfort zone initially, I'm patient (95% of the time in the UK was waiting for the weather to clear)... you get the picture.
    – Ian
    Nov 11 '14 at 14:32
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    @Ian You are patient because you are in a hobby where the impatient push daisies :) Nov 11 '14 at 14:35
  • True, unfortunately no longer in said hobby, was a little too expensive to continue at the time.
    – Ian
    Nov 11 '14 at 15:27
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There's no easy answer because all interviewers are different and will view a particular activity in a different light.

That said - they're asking in order to get to know you. With questions like this, I think honesty should be the policy. If they sincerely believe a particular activity is super irresponsible then they're going to find out and think that eventually and I'd suggest it's perhaps not the kind of place that would fit you.

On the other hand, I think most would see it as somewhat interesting and it could spark a nice conversation.

Ultimately, I'd expect the number of people who think less of you would be small compared to the number would will at least recall the fact, and therefore you.

There's a limit though - I think most extreme activities have become borderline mainstream (Motorcycles, parachute jumps, bungee jumping) but I'd perhaps keep your illegal lift surfing to yourself

As an aside - when asked I deliberately mention my hobbies because they're not usual for an IT Engineer and I at least like to think it shows me as a bit more rounded.

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I'm an active Skydiver in the UK (>100 jumps a year) and I always bring it up.

There are lots of reasons to bring it up. It can be used to show that you properly understand and can appreciate risk and risk/reward. It shows that you have a passion outside of work, which will help you not burn out or live just to work. If I was an employer, I'd want to employ people with active lifestyles and pass times they love and I want to work for a company that values this aspect of a person's life; if my passion is a deal breaker then I'm not sure I'd have wanted to work for that company anyway.

Things like skiing that are high risk too, especially if you are pushing your boundaries and doing advanced things. Skiing however is more socially acceptable as more people go on skiing holidays every year and it would always be acceptable to be talked about at interview.

I once had an hour long interview with the owner of a company, which was 75% skydiving talk and 25% technical ability, because he wanted interesting, dynamic people to work for him, not just someone with good technical skills. I got the job offer.

Having interesting hobbies helps you stand out and stick in employers minds, on paper and at interview.

However, if I start BASE jumping I'm not sure I would bring that up as it can be illegal depending where you do it and how you go about doing it. Plus, I wouldn't want to whole world to know that I did it, as it would make you easier to identify and lead to other complications. I'd have to play that decision by ear at interview.

If you feel you have to hide then would you ever be able to talk at work about how you spent your weekend? If I couldn't talk about the jumps I did then I'd start to resent my work place as I'd have to suppress a huge side of my life.

In summary, mention it and be proud!

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  • +1 for "if my passion is a deal breaker then I'm not sure I'd have wanted to work for that company anyway". If you are going to keep doing some "extreme" sport, you'd want an employer that accepts that. An interview always goes both ways.
    – DevSolar
    Nov 11 '14 at 11:59
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I would just go right ahead and bring it up but in the process use the words "safely" and "precautions" and "responsibly" throughout.

Bring up an example of something that you've done that anyone would find thrilling but not necessarily dangerous, relatively speaking to something like base jumping for instance.

It's usually a good idea to relate everything to how good of a job you'll do for them and you can use extreme sports (again, don't mention the truly risky ones) as an example of how you find that it's your way of maintaining a work-life balance and gives you a way to completely let go of the stresses of work for a while so when you are focusing at work you have a clearer mind. Some people do the same things with going to the gym. "For me, it's like going to the gym but outside".

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  • You know I have never once been asked what I do outside of work. How is it relevant to hiring? But good answer in case this actually came up.
    – HLGEM
    Nov 10 '14 at 19:00
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    For the purposes of this question, the actual risk doesn't matter, only the perception of risk.
    – Chris E
    Nov 10 '14 at 20:24
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    Correct; and if you don't mention sky diving at all there will be zero perceived risk, whereas mentioning it I'm sure the perceived risk will still be greater than zero.
    – Andy
    Nov 10 '14 at 20:26
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    That's why I am terrified of driving - operating a four-wheeler is not hard. It's that other idiot I am sharing the road with, and what he could do to me without even trying. On the same note, I've always found it far safer to fight black belts - They won't take your head off unless they want to. Whereas the white belts could cripple you for life, say by busting your knee cap, without meaning to. Nov 11 '14 at 0:42
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    @VietnhiPhuvan: An excellent example of "don't believe a statistic you haven't forged yourself". So driving 10,000 miles is 24 times more likely to get you killed than a single skydive... however, I seriously doubt you're driving 10,000 miles per jump. If you're an active skydiver with a short commute, that could be 10 jumps per 1,000 miles, and suddenly the jumping is four times as dangerous as driving... agreed on the white belt danger, though. ;-)
    – DevSolar
    Nov 11 '14 at 11:56

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