The Break Room: When Recruiters Want to Know What Your “Side Hustle” Is

Here are some answers to “What’s your side hustle?” that are sure to impress.

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This satirical column is part of our series The Break Room. Each column takes a humorous look at an aspect of the workplace. All the characters and scenes are fictional.

You’ve been pounding the (virtual) pavement and firing off meticulously crafted cover letters and engaging, yet easily scannable resumes. You’ve read roughly a jabillion “Most Commonly Asked Interview Questions” articles, bought a nice suit, returned the suit after reading an article about how a suit these days might be too much, put together a professional-but-not-desperate alternative, and now … you are ready for the interview.

You’re more than prepared. Only here’s a question that’s been popping up lately that might just throw you for a loop: What’s your side hustle?

You may understandably be thinking, wait, I thought we were here to talk about this job, which I hope to make my main hustle. But there are a few reasons a recruiter might want to know the answer to this question:

They may want to make sure you are a true “workaholic,” someone who just can’t stop working even after the work day ends.
  1. They may want to see if they can pay you less.
  2. They may want to make sure you are a true “workaholic,” someone who just can’t stop working even after the work day ends.
  3. They may want to assess your versatility, whether you may have the skills to be a “generalist,” a position that’s in high demand these days.
  4. They may want to determine if you are a “culture fit,” i.e. if you are cool or interesting enough to work in whatever game-changing tech, media, or marketing outfit they’re running.

You’ll have to take your best guess at the motive behind the question, but here are a few quick and handy replies.

You’re in a band

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It was cool in high school and it’s cool now. Even if you only seldomly get together with some buddies in the garage or sporadically burst into song with your friends at parties, you’re in a band. Tell them you have a “small, but devoted” following. Chances are you will not be required to divulge that you make zero income from your musical endeavors, and that the hobby actually ends up costing you money in gear and bar tabs. They’ll certainly understand why you “haven’t had any shows recently.”

You drive a “lift”lift-driver-car-van-kids

That’s the non-evil one, right? That’s right. And no need to mention you are pronouncing it with an “i” not a “y,” because you mainly give “lifts” to your kids for their socially-distanced swim lessons or for delivering groceries to your high-risk relatives’ homes. They’ll likely say something like, “Oh, that must be tough these days.” And you can reply, “Yeah, it really is.”

You bakeloaf of bread

Bread … for some reason, like everyone else during this thing. Everyone’s doing it. It seems after years of going to great lengths to cut carbohydrates out of our diets, the pandemic has made us collectively ask, “What’s the point?” Everyone likes bread. And it’s one of the few food items you don’t have to wipe down with a Lysol wipe before consuming. Plus, didn’t your friend throw you 5 bucks on Venmo for a loaf to pay you back for ingredients? That totally counts as a side hustle.

You’re a resume editorfrustrated at laptop

No need to mention that the only resume you’ve edited is your own, obsessively, for over 3 months as you’ve desperately searched for a job like this one. Just say that you “love helping people find jobs.”

Chances are you will not be required to divulge that you make zero income from your musical endeavors, and that the hobby actually ends up costing you money in gear and bar tabs.

Honesty is the best policy?messy-meal-child-highchair

While it’s best to be your honest self in any interview, here are a few replies that might be considered “too honest.”

  1. Homeschooling my children until this nightmare finally ends
  2. Dishwasher/laundry person/janitor/daycare provider/peanut-butter-and-jelly-chef/screentime judge, jury, and executioner
  3. I don’t have a side hustle, because having time to relax, exercise, and spend time with family and friends is more valuable to me than working continuously at the expense of my relationships and my own physical and mental wellbeing (even if it’s true, nobody is gonna buy that one!)
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