How to Talk About Your Side Hustle in a Job Interview

As I stated in a previous post, I have always had a side hustle. I’m rarely content with doing one thing, and definitely not content with having one source of income. Even though my “5-9” gigs aren’t things that can pay all of my bills, they are (sometimes) a nice supplement to the meager income that comes with working in academia. When I moved from NYC (where everyone has multiple hustles) to SLC (where no one does) I struggled with how to account for my outside activities in interviews… Especially my blog. Should I shut it down or make it private? Do I unabashedly own it? Will they even ask about it? If you’re trying to figure out how to account for your side hustle in an interview, here are some things to think about.


Is it directly related to your 9-5?
Side hustles don’t have to be completely different from your regular gig, though sometimes they are. If yours is related, an employer could think that it could present a conflict of interest. (Or worse, that you could use their resources to grow your business.) While this line of thought may lead you to think that disclosing is a bad thing, it could also show a level of transparency that makes your trustworthy. If you want to talk about a hustle that is related to the job, you need to include some information to assuage the fears I mentioned above. Focus on the differences between what you do and the job you’re interviewing for so that employer knows that you’ve considered this situation fully. It’s easier to talk about an unrelated hustle. If this is yours, discuss your desire to do disparate things in order to be fulfilled. (Bonus points if you talk about self-care, as employers love to know that their employees won’t burn out too quickly!)


Does it take up a lot of your time?
Another thing that worries some potential employers about outside activities is that they could take up so much of your time that you don’t perform your job well. If your side hustle is time consuming (or sounds like it is), prepare talking points that hit upon how you’ll still be able to do what is asked of you by your 9-5. Be savvy and use this time to highlight your organizational and time management skills, which are things that any employers likes to hear. Give examples of how you’ve balanced your work and your hustle in the past, so your interviewer knows that you’re not just making it up. If your side hustle is not very time consuming but could be down the road, discuss how you plan to keep it all in check.


On what level will it continue as you start your new job?
Along the same lines as the previous question, you need to think about how much (or how little) you’re going to engage in your side hustle if you get this new job. Will you lay off it a bit until you’re fully on board at work, or will it continue and you’ll balance both? Employers want to know that you’ll take your new position seriously, and you should help them understand that you will. If you want your activities to stay at the same level, say how you’ll handle this. If it’s less, tell them why.


Has/Can your side hustle positively impact your 9-5?
No matter what your side hustle is, there is good chance that the skills you are using for it can positively impact your 9-5. Think about the ways that you can sell your burgeoning skill set to your potential employer. (The job description and company website will be able to provide you with clues on how to fit the two together.) If you see obvious places, then use the interview to say how your engagement in this activity will benefit the company. If you can’t see any points of overlap, then be sure to discuss how doing this disparate activity won’t hinder your job performance.


Do you like it more than the job you’re interviewing for?
It’s totally fine if your side hustle is your happy place, just don’t frame it like that in an interview! If this is the case, talk about it as a self-care activity. Make sure your interviewers know that engaging in that activity will help you be a better employee. If not, then talk about the place that it occupies in your life. If your side hustle is purely for more income or is just a business and not a passion project, then say that. Honesty is the best policy.


The decision of whether or not to discuss your side hustle in a job interview is a tricky one because you never know how your potential employer will take it. In my first job out here, I only disclosed my artsy craftsy hustle, mostly because my biz was just a blog and definitely not up to where it is now. A few months in they found my blog (clearly not everyone Googles potential employees!) and were not comfortable with some of my social commentary posts on racism and patriarchy. When interviewing for my next gig, I was much more forthcoming since 1) my blog was a LLC’d biz (thus forcing it to be on my resume and LinkedIn) and 2) I knew that the skills I was using for it would be useful for the job I was going for. It was a calculated risk that paid off.


But you need to do what’s right for you. Consider the questions above within the context of your unique situation. If it feels right, then go for it. If it doesn’t, then don’t. And, if you make a decision before the interview but begin to feel differently, then go with that. It’s a completely personal decision to disclose a side hustle or not, just be sure that it’s an informed one.


(Still on the ‘Is my hustle or hobby even career-worthy’ question? Check out this post on the subject, and download the interactive Hobby or Career? worksheet to help you figure it out!)


Dr. Lindsay is career development & academic success coach who loves helping people figure out and proceed to the next levels of their lives.