COVID-19 has forever changed the traditional workforce, workplace and upended many people’s careers.
Whilst we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel and tentatively begin to navigate the new normal, we are not out of the woods yet and the pandemic is still something at the forefront of everyone’s minds. It is therefore not surprising that questions around COVID-19 are seeping into job interviews.
It’s worth taking time to prepare for these questions as for many they can be emotive, especially if you’ve lost someone to COVID-19 and/or have experienced mental health issues as a result of the pandemic.
When answering questions, it is important to think about how you can demonstrate your adaptability (how you've taken the lemons) and your resilience (and how you've made lemonade). These are two key transferable skills which employers are looking for right now.
Below are five most common questions you may be asked and some tips on how to answer them.
1. How have you been coping during the pandemic?
Be honest and forthcoming. There is no shame in admitting struggling but make sure you highlight how you're adapting, the steps you're taking to navigate this tough time which will demonstrate your personal resilience.
Even more important, ask the interviewer the same question back and listen to their answer, this will display great self-awareness.
2. Have you worked remotely? How much of an adjustment was working from home for you?
When the pandemic started a year ago, most people had to navigate working from homefor the first time. If this was you then say so and be honest if it took you a little time to adapt. However, be sure to explain the changes you made to make your work from home situation work for you, your career, and your home life. Perhaps you set up a dedicated workspace to separate "work" life from "home" life, created 1:1s with your managers and co-workers or changed up your working hours to take advantage of your most productive hours.
3. When working remotely, how do you manage your day?
There's no right or wrong way to answer this question, it's simply about finding out how you work best. When you are most productive etc. Are you an early bird or a night owl? Do you take an hour lunch break or several small breaks? The key here is to demonstrate you a capable of managing your day and keeping up your productivity through self-awareness and discipline.
4. What lessons, if any, have you learned during the pandemic?
If you learned that you are a resilient worker, let the interviewer know. If you learned that you work best in the ungodly hours of the morning, say so. If you learned that the pandemic has informed how important your work is within your industry, talk about it.
5. Have you learned any new skills during the lockdown?
Navigating a pandemic is a stressful and uncharted territory so it's okay not to have learnt a new skill but if you spent most of lockdown in your leisurewear watching Netflix, then you'll need think of something slightly more productive to talk about here. Try to focus instead on the new working from home skills you acquired, your productivity hacks, books you've read, or what you've learned about your own resiliency through this.
A word of warning...
The above questions are all constructive, acceptable questions for an interview but watch out for any illegal questions that might delivered with 'pandemic empathy', tricking you into disclosing information you're not legally obliged to share.
To avoid any bias or discrimination because of your answer it's best not to get defensive but be vague or use one word answers in your response. Approach these questions with caution:
How is home life during the pandemic?
Where is your home office located?
What does your home life look like right now?
Do you have any childcare needs?
Are you overly concerned about your own health?
If in doubt, remember you should only be interviewed on your ability to do the job. Any questions leading to bias in hiring (e.g., relating to your personal life, age, or ethnicity) are strictly off limits.