It’s no secret that the pandemic’s impact on the business world has changed hiring practices across the board. Companies are increasingly looking for individuals who can thrive in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environment, and with smaller hiring budgets, they’ve become even more selective.
Last week, we suggested 10 job interview questions hiring managers should ask in the Covid-19 era to elicit vital information that will help them make informed hiring decisions.
This week, we suggest how job seekers can answer these questions.
Your answers should convey a few key attributes:
- Adaptability and agility
- The pandemic has caused varying degrees of stress for most of us. What has your experience been like and how have you been coping?
As with all questions, answer authentically. There is no shame in admitting the difficulties of dealing with the current situation. If you say it hasn’t affected you at all, the interviewer will likely think you’re being dishonest. From having to adjust to working remotely to having one’s job and financial security threatened while being concerned about contracting Covid-19, the possible sources of stress are endless.
Highlight the difficulties, but spend more time describing your coping techniques. Perhaps, you routinely take a mental health break by going for a walk in the middle of the day, or you make it a point to surround yourself with uplifting and inspiring literature. Be descriptive and provide details.
If you lost your job during the pandemic, you might have spent time picking up new skills to increase your employability while looking for a job. However, first describe what went through your mind when you first got the news and how it impacted you and your family. It should be an authentic story of grief and perhaps even despair, before a triumphant comeback.
Stories like these illustrate your ability to deal constructively with difficult situations and stressors. From your answers, the interviewers will be able to infer how well you might cope with challenges at work.
Your resilience and adaptability must come through.
If you did something to help those in your community who were more deeply affected by the effects of the pandemic, highlight it. Perhaps doing this gave you a sense of perspective while helping you cope with your own anxieties. This will reveal your sense of empathy and your ability to help your future colleagues if, or when needed.
- What have you learnt about yourself during the pandemic?
Don’t only focus on the positives. Feel free to talk about the negatives.
Perhaps while working from home, you discovered you’re a highly impatient person in the face of numerous technical difficulties. The key is to then explain how you’re working on correcting this or how the experience has taught you to be more patient.
Interviewers usually ask such questions to determine your emotional intelligence and sense of self-awareness. You’re not perfect, but being aware of your imperfections could have helped you learn how to manage them.
- What life lessons has this period taught you, if any?
Be thoughtful and reflective.
You could perhaps highlight how it has made you rethink your career, the value of being adaptable and agile, or the value of patience.
Mention concrete examples to illustrate your point, ensuring that they say something about you both as a professional and a human being.
- How has Covid-19 changed the way you see and approach your career?
The pandemic’s impact on the economy and businesses has caused most of us to reflect on our long-term employability.
Discuss how you’ve been processing these issues. Describe the uncertainties and ambiguities you foresee you and others in your industry will have to deal with and the actions you are taking or intend to take in order to overcome them.
Convey a willingness to learn, be adaptable and agile.
- What skills, if any, have you picked up in the past few months?
Have you, in spite of the unique stresses of this period, been able to think clearly enough to do what’s needed to remain relevant?
Emphasise both formal and informal learning. Employers are especially impressed by those who are self-taught and who glean lessons from every experience.
If the job requires you to work from home:
- What would you do if you encountered a technical issue that the tech team can’t resolve immediately, and this ends up impeding your progress on the project you’re working on at the time?
Illustrate your ability to improvise and think of a creative solution to move the project forward, or move on to a different, but equally important task in spite of the technical difficulties. This will say a lot about your ability to solve problems. Importantly, you must show that you are not fazed by a temporary impediment.
- What would you do if you have issues dialling in to a remote meeting?
Would you be able to deal with a difficult situation calmly enough to take the necessary action, be it reaching out to the meeting’s host or all meeting attendees to let them know what’s going on? Or would you keep quiet and only inform the others if asked?
With this question, the interviewer is trying to determine your communication style and ability to deal with difficult situations.
- How do you handle interruptions and distractions when you work from home?
Interruptions and distractions are inevitable and most employers understand this.
There might be times when you will have to delay the completion of urgent and important tasks due to a family member being ill, a child demanding attention or noisy renovation work at a neighbour’s home.
The key is to be honest and acknowledge this might happen.
The interviewer is listening out for how you would communicate this to your team or if you’d come up with a creative solution to get the work done even if you can’t do it yourself. Perhaps you’d ask a colleague for help during the period you can’t attend to the task.
Highlight how you might help a colleague who requires similar assistance. This goes to show that you can be an empathetic and supportive team player.
- How would you organise your day while working remotely?
Highlight how you practise self-discipline. Share your productivity hacks.
The interviewer is listening out for how you plan to meet deadlines while working largely autonomously.
Feel free to talk about what you do to prevent remote work burnout.
Perhaps you prefer to work at the office because you like structure.
Be completely honest as this will allow your prospective employer to determine how you’d like to be managed.
- How do you think you can cultivate and maintain a positive working relationship with your colleagues remotely?
While there is no right or wrong answer to this question, it will reveal your notion of ideal team dynamics.
If you’re happy to play an active role in cultivating collaborative working relationships, say so. But if you prefer to communicate only if there’s a need to do so, be honest about it too.
This will determine which role you’re placed in – a team leader who can nurture relationships to optimise team dynamics, or an individual contributor.
You can also discuss what steps you are open to taking in order to make remote communication more effective and productive.