The “right” hobbies

Yesterday I read an article on XING with the title “Golf, sailing, horseback riding – these hobbies will get you a job interview”. As I read on, I was relieved to discover that the author, Sandra Zemke – a recruiter, by no means recommended that you should list one of these three hobbies on all your future job applications. On the contrary, she advised “that for a fair, diverse and high-quality applicant selection, these characteristics – which are not relevant for job success – should be eliminated as far as possible.”

Nevertheless, my imagination immediately ran away with me. I pictured claiming misleadingly in my application that one of my hobbies was playing golf, sailing or horseback riding. At the subsequent job interview, an enthusiastic golfing, sailing or riding manager would actually be sitting opposite me.

With the golf lie, the house of cards would collapse at the latest when I couldn’t say what my handicap was 1 – and with sailing and riding, probably even faster. Even if I wasn’t asked about it, this fabrication would be hard on my nerves throughout the entire conversation!

But that “truth will out” is nothing new. I was much more surprised that the indications of who belongs to people with “savoir vivre” nowadays apparently still correspond to the cliché of the Rosamunde Pilcher movies. This also does an injustice to the people who pursue one of these hobbies without any snobbery. Yes, they exist too!

I know the job interview scenario from both sides – both from a while back. And I remember that it used to be common practice to mention hobbies or private interests in applications. As far as I remember, however, I didn’t do that as an applicant. In my younger days, one of the reasons was that the “hobby” that took up most of my time was a political one. And although I was not a coward at the time, I did not think it made sense to mention my participation in campaigns against the stationing of Pershing II medium-range missiles on German soil in my application. After all, it was the 80s! (Besides, “politically active” persons were often assumed to have a high degree of frustration tolerance, bearing the slowly grinding party mills in mind. That didn’t really apply to me…)

And as for my real hobbies – I found mine too “unhip” to address. Reading mystery novels, theatre, volleyball and aqua fitness – who can be impressed by that? On the other hand, the people with impressive sporting hobbies such as hang gliding, parachuting or windsurfing could perhaps be at more of a disadvantage in the application process, because a high risk of injury and therefore a higher sickness rate would be assumed. On this point, HR managers can be very unromantic.

Time has not stood still completely, however, and there are hobbies where the zeitgeist has changed their image. Take travel, for example – once a sign of cosmopolitanism and flexibility, today flight shame comes into play, and as an applicant at best you could still score points with adventurous train journeys. Unless, of course, you are applying to an airport.

Sometimes the association of hobbies or sports with certain characteristics seems a bit simplistic to me. Is every footballer really a team player? Every marathon runner a dogged ascetic? Or every dancer vain? Oh, if life were that simple….

Looking from the other perspective, when I sat in on job interviews to select new employees, I can only remember two cases in which hobbies actually played a role. First, there was the financial accountant with a weakness for 5,000-piece puzzles – and when new colleagues were sought for a very challenging team full of individualists (not to say pains in the…!), I passionately advocated the candidate who liked watching horror films. A good choice, as it turned out later!

1  I recall a chat with a friend who mentioned that she had HCP 9.6. I immediately suspected a poor blood count and anxiously asked her what the doctor had said. She then enlightened me that HCP 9.6 was her golf handicap.

Original text: BBR
English translation: BCO


Author: bbr

Hello, I am Beate Brinkman, the bbr.harlekin. I am editor and author for Harlekin.Blog e.V. and my “main job” is support coordinator in an international IT company. So far I have worked in German, Dutch, American and Indian companies and have acquired a great deal of experience of multicultural cooperation. I have been living in the Netherlands as a German for many years and have discovered that the cultural differences between Germans and Dutch alone could fill entire books. For professional and private reasons, I am particularly interested in multicultural (mis)understanding. Whether it’s about food, language, official conference calls or the organisation of funerals – when the cultures of several countries collide, things get lively. And that leads to sometimes unpleasant, often very funny, but always instructive situations.

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