How are you spending your quarantine time?
Nailing the question during an interview
With many communal leisure activities shut down, many of us have found ourselves with more time on our hands. Additionally, layoff or furloughs may have upended our days. However, many of us have found ourselves with less time on our hands with schools and childcare options shutdown, or ailing relatives.
No matter our situation, job seekers are increasingly likely to be asked by interviewers how you’re spending your time these days. On the surface, this may seem like a trivial question.
However, your answer can significantly help or harm your prospects of landing your next job. Here are three keys to nailing this question.
Understand Its Purpose
The pandemic has been stressful for everyone. But so is work, even in the best of circumstances. Employers and recruiters who ask this question in an interview want to know how you handle stress. Knowing how you used your free time can provide interviewers valuable insight about your capacity to deal with challenging situations.
For example, if you share that you kept a fitness routine, caught up on reading, or pursued a hobby, an interviewer may view such activities as a sign of emotional intelligence.
If you share that you spent most days in bed binge-watching television, an employer might be concerned about your ability to handle stress, as well as, potentially, the demands of remote work.
Additionally, many employers are looking for signs that you are proactive and can work with minimal direction. Sharing that you used your free time to learn a new skill can give prospective employers confidence that you can and will work independently if hired.
Of course, not everyone has found themselves with additional time on their hands. Parents and adult caregivers are often busier than ever. Don’t shy away from sharing these obligations, to the extent you feel appropriate. Anyone who has ever advocated for proper healthcare on someone else’s behalf can appreciate the effort involved. Further, parents across the country have been thrust into the role of teacher and childcare provider, often in addition to full-time work responsibilities. Talk up your abilities to multitask, manage your time, and prioritize tasks, which are invaluable skills in most positions.
Perhaps you were on the verge of burnout before a layoff or furlough, and you consciously chose to focus on your mental and emotional well-being during this time. Rest assured, you’re not the only one.
If you’ve been using this time to recalibrate and rediscover your personal priorities, be honest about this, as it’s a sign of emotional intelligence and resilience. Share what you’ve learned about yourself, and how what you learned is aligned with your prospective employer’s mission and the requirements of the role as well.
Showcase Your Personality
Many employers are rightly concerned about how well prospective applicants may fit within their organization’s culture. So when you’re asked how you’ve been spending your time, include some details about your hobbies and your passions. Don’t just mention the new coding language you learned. Let them know you also completed some home repairs or took up gardening.
Highlight personal pursuits you took seriously or through which you accomplished something. These details humanize you and can help an interviewer clearly envision you as part of their team. It may not seem like much, but it’s often these kinds of details that can push your application across the finish line in favor of other equally qualified candidates.