Make sure you're ready to answer interview questions about your mental health.

Since COVID-19 took center stage in early 2020, the world is revolving around a new norm, with many companies forced to downsize and freeze hiring just to make it through the economic pressure that has come with this pandemic. 

For companies that are still hiring, their main priority is now crisis management. How can you, as a new hire, assist the organization in facing unique challenges caused by this pandemic? 

In order to ace your job interview, anticipate questions focused on your mental health during the pandemic, so get ready and practice your responses. Here are some of the must-know, COVID-19 mental health interview questions  — and effective ways for job seekers to answer them:

How are you coping with the current situation?

Employers understand that this is an unprecedented and difficult situation for everyone, so don't be afraid to acknowledge the reality of the stress. Have you been under a lot of pressure lately? Be honest about your current situation and explain your coping techniques. 

Do you have a positive outlook when faced with challenging situations? How do you usually deal with stress? You can elaborate more on your stress management methods such as meditating, going on daily walks, connecting with friends, etc. 

Keep in mind that employers want to know if you're able to be productive in light of stress, so use this opportunity to highlight that.

How are you handling your work-life balance?

COVID-19 has largely halted travel and seems to be set on disrupting the remainder of 2020, meaning many employees have probably not taken time off since the start of the pandemic. 

Use this opportunity to highlight how you have tried to make the best out of this situation by setting some time away for yourself. Perhaps you have a dedicated mental health hour after work, where you get to do some relaxation exercises, or maybe you have family days and digital detox weekends. 

You can also elaborate on how you take scheduled breaks throughout the day. This could mean removing yourself from irrelevant group chats, saying no to unnecessary meetings, and delegating tasks to other team members if you're feeling overwhelmed. 

How did you adapt to the new normal? How do you consider the current situation — a disaster or an opportunity to learn and grow?

Companies want to know if you have a dedicated workspace to be productive at home. Do you have a good Wifi network so you can join conference calls easily? Is your space distraction-free and conducive to productivity?  

While discussing how you have adapted to remote work, be careful not to reveal too much. Avoid talking about personal situations, such as how your kids are coping with homeschooling, how you have to prepare their meals in between meetings, and more. Instead, indicate that your environment is free of distractions and allows you to deliver on deadline.

Additionally, the employer or hiring manager might also want to understand which work environment works best for you — home or office. Be clear that you are comfortable with the technologies used to conduct remote work, such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Skype. 

You can also explain how you have taken initiative to learn useful features of these technologies in your free time. Keep in mind that the employer may not just be looking to fill vacancies, but also to identify employees that can work from home permanently. 

How do you plan for disasters?

When hiring managers ask this question, they are trying to understand whether you're the kind of person they really want to have on board when the going gets tough — or if you fall to pieces when faced with the slightest form of stress. 

You should tackle this by addressing how resilient you are in the face of disasters, using examples of practical initiatives you would take to prepare for them. Focus on what you would personally do to handle the crisis and stressful situation, rather than implying that somebody else will come to your rescue. 

Also, show them that you have excellent common sense, forward planning, interpersonal skills, and problem-solving abilities to help you manage any type of emergency. Employers and hiring managers are looking for someone that is calm and collected under pressure.

How has COVID-19 impacted your career and goals?

The pandemic may have affected your career in a number of negative ways. Perhaps you did not get the promotion that you've been waiting for, or maybe you were laid off as the company downsized. You can be honest about these major changes, but do not dwell too much on the negative. 

Instead, focus on how this has given you the opportunity to re-evaluate your career goals. Maybe the increase of a COVID-19 contingent workforce has allowed you to explore entrepreneurial alternatives after work. Perhaps you've had to take up a bigger portfolio at work and this has been a great learning experience. Focus on the positive and be clear that you've taken these changes in stride.

What have you learned from this pandemic?

An organization can't grow unless the employees are willing to invest in personal and professional development, so explain how the pandemic has impacted your life in positive ways. 

For instance, perhaps you've had to learn new skills and technologies to continue working efficiently from home, and these have made you a more productive employee and team member. Perhaps you've been exploring free online classes, webinars, podcasts, and more. 

Highlight that you've made initiatives both at work and on your own time to improve yourself in adapting to the new norm. It's also useful to talk about how the pandemic has changed your views on things, like a greater appreciation for face-to-face meetings and networking events after time in isolation. 

COVID-19 has caused high unemployment and increased competition for job opportunities, which calls for a more proactive approach to stand out from other candidates and land your dream job. Be sure to follow up after the job interview with a thank-you email to show that you're serious about this opportunity. 

Not sure how to word your job interview answers? Our expert interview coaches can guide you to the answers that earn you the job offer.

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