With the coronavirus at the center of every conversation these days, how do you appropriately handle the topic in a job interview?
It's nearly impossible to get through a single conversation these days without broaching the subject of COVID-19. That's natural; the pandemic has completely changed the way we live and work. It's constantly on our newsfeeds and on our minds.
So, if you have a job interview coming up, chances are it'll become a topic of conversation. However, this can be a touchy subject. Sure, everyone is entitled to an opinion, but you don't want small talk to ruin your chances of getting a job.
If COVID-19 comes up in your next job interview, here are a few tips on how to appropriately handle it:
1. Be sensitive
At this point, most of us know someone who's been affected by COVID-19. It's wreaking havoc on people's lives — their health, their jobs, their finances, their businesses, and their families. It's a sensitive subject, and that's why it's important to tread lightly; you never know how close to home it has hit for the people you're talking to.
It's easy for candidates to crack sarcastic, lighthearted jokes about being isolated — complaining about working from home or not being able to go out to eat — but this could be off-putting to an employer or interviewer. When it comes to the tone of the discussion, follow your interviewer's lead.
2. Avoid getting political
Job interviews are like first dates: You want to avoid talking about religion or politics. It's no secret there are a ton of politics surrounding COVID-19, and everyone has a different opinion on how the government is handling the situation. But it's best not to broach this in your interview.
If the interviewer makes a political remark, even if it's in line with your views, gently lead the conversation to another topic. You don't want to risk diving into a controversial topic. After all, this is a job interview, and the focus should be on the company, the position, and you.
On this same note, if you're searching for jobs right now, be mindful of what you share on social media. It's not uncommon for employers to do a quick Google search before they consider you for an interview.
3. Learn more about company culture
The way a company responds to this crisis can reveal a whole lot about its culture — and if it's a good fit for you. If the topic comes up, or if you have the opportunity to ask questions, ask how the company is dealing with this pandemic.
Are they letting employees work from home? How are they offering support to one another? How are they keeping in touch with each other? The answers to these interview questions will tell you a lot about how the company responds to emergencies and supports its employees during unprecedented times.
Additionally, because you're likely doing a video interview instead of visiting the office, don't be afraid to ask more questions about the company's culture and workspace.
4. Resist oversharing
During the interview, you want to be honest. If you're searching for a job because you got laid off due to the coronavirus, definitely mention that. But remember this is a job interview, so keep the conversation professional and try not to overshare.
Resist divulging too many personal details of your everyday life and your bleakest moments while homeschooling your children or isolating under the stay-at-home orders.
5. Practice small talk
It might seem silly, but you can always practice your small talk … especially if you don't want to accidentally say something you shouldn't. You can do this naturally with co-workers, family members, and friends. You can also practice with a professional interview coach, who can help you feel more comfortable with small talk — no matter how difficult or sensitive the subject matter.
Above all, remember to be sensitive, avoid politics, ask questions, and resist oversharing. Although this is a difficult time, you can really learn a lot about a company and its employees during a crisis.
Interested in one-on-one interview coaching to practice your small talk? Learn more here.