How did you spend time during the lockdown?: Tricky Interview Questions

Graduate jobs

July 03, 2020

Job hunting in the post-pandemic era is going to be slightly different. Companies might change their policies to be remote-friendly – or at least – flexible working, the various steps of the recruitment process will be taken online as much as possible. Video interviews are likely to see a surge. Online tests will become creative. What will also change is the content of these tests and interviews. If you are a prospective applicant for a graduate role, you are likely going to be asked a really tricky question: How did you spend time during the lockdown?


How did you spend time during the lockdown?

The mention of the pandemic and/or the resultant lockdown is inevitable in the application or the interview. Employers are interested in understanding how you approached the situation to get insights into your crisis management skills. 


The question could be any variation of this:

  • How did you cope with the pandemic and the lockdown?
  • What did you learn from the experience of the lockdown?
  • How do you think has the pandemic impacted the [industry]?

What do the employers want to test?

  • Your time & crisis management skills
  • Your resilience and calm in the midst of uncertainty
  • Your resourcefulness (how did you make the most of your time in the lockdown with limited resources)
  • Your self-motivation
If you want to make a great impression on the employer, repurpose your answers to such questions about the experience in lockdown and pandemic to reflect personal growth. 

How to answer the question if you are asked ‘What did you do during lockdown?'


1. Start off by sharing your alacrity to stay informed at all times. Share how you got your news and information from trusted sources. 


2. Slip in a statement with a tone of seriousness on how you followed government advice, ensuring your physical and mental wellbeing.


3. Share action-oriented responses. You enrolled in a virtual yoga class? Did you pick up a new skill? Or revisited an old one? Learned something new? Joined a virtual club or network? Talk about it.  


4. Shun the pretense. You don’t have to pretend that you were extremely strong through the crisis at all times. No one was at ease in relative isolation. So, instead, tell them how you countered this isolation. How did you stay on top of things? How did you create a personal connection during this time? It will reflect your managerial abilities in the interpersonal context – pandemic or no pandemic. 


5. How did you make lemonade from the lemons handed to you? If you worked part-time, pivoted your internship to a virtual format, or enrolled in a skills training course online, talk about how you saw the opportunity and grabbed it. If you spent time in creative pursuits, talk about those as well.


6. Tell the story. Even if you were navigating writing your thesis or preparing for exams at this time, explain the story with a narrative arc: what was the challenge for you? How did you overcome it? Were you taking care of vulnerable family members? Were you quarantined? 


What to say, what not to say?

Do not give a blanket answer, or worse, a blank answer. We had a pandemic and there’s no going around it. Alluding to having done nothing productive during this time will only hurt your prospects. 


Don't mention or expound on the panic that you felt during this time. Focus on the positives and the qualities you exhibited while dealing with the massive uncertainty. 


Use statements like:

  • Being in lockdown confirmed to me that my creative problem solving skills are at their best in a crisis. I’m sure I’ll do great under deadlines. 
  • The initial days were the hardest, and I learnt so much about teamwork.
  • I turned around the blotch in my plans and decided to use this time to upskill myself. It’s always great to know more about [].

Go the extra mile

To create a lasting impression, make sure your concerns are also getting addressed, given the situation. Ask pertinent questions about:

  • Company’s crisis management plan
  • Current workloads and future projections for dealing with the economic impact
  • HR policies like remote work protocol or spatial planning in line with social distancing norms

Asking these questions will show that you’re keen to ensure safety and performance, and expect the same from the organisation. 

Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash

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