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8 pandemic-related interview questions you should be ready to answer

If you’re in the market for a job, you should have an answer to these new interview questions.

8 pandemic-related interview questions you should be ready to answer
Source photo: AndreyPopov/iStock]

Standard interview questions like “Where do you see yourself in five years?” and “Tell me about a time when you had to overcome a challenge” have taken on new meaning after going through the pandemic. For many of us, the collective experience has provided a new perspective on what we want out of a job, where we want to work, and with whom.

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The pandemic has also given recruiters new information they want to pull from candidates. If you’re searching for a job, prepare to hear one of these eight questions that came out of the pandemic:

1. How did your company communicate and manage employees during COVID?

With remote working arrangements, communication methods had to be more intentional. Tom Gimbel, CEO of the Lasalle Network, a job recruiting firm, asks candidates to describe the experience.

“After they tell me, I ask, ‘What did you do in addition to what your leadership team did to communicate with your team?'” he says. “I want to see if somebody took ownership of their department and communication from where the executive team stopped. If they think the company didn’t do enough, did they step up and do more?”

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2. Were you afraid of losing your job?

Many employees were laid off or furloughed, and Gimbel wants to know if a candidate was afraid of being in that group. If they answer “yes,” he asks, “If your company took care of you by keeping you on board, why are you leaving them now?”

While it sounds like a trick question, Gimbel says there are good answers. For example, “I am loyal, but they let go of my boss. How I was managed changed, and I didn’t have the [same] relationship with my new boss.”

3. What did you do when you were laid off?

Employers are interested in finding out how candidates react when they face hardships or setbacks,” says Jill Panté, director of the Lerner Career Services Center at the University of Delaware. “They want to see that you worked on your professional development and growth including learning new skills, building your network, and volunteering,” she says.

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What employers don’t want to hear is that you sat around for months and binge watched TV, says Panté. “Of course, we all need time to recover when we experience a disappointment,” she says. “However, we need to practice resilience and keep moving forward.”

4. What are your preferred methods of communication in working remotely?

Communication can be more challenging when teams are working remotely. Hiring managers will want to know that candidates are willing to try new tools, says Panté.

“Asking this question can ensure that a new employee is familiar with the different options out there, such as Zoom, Teams, or Slack,” she says. “It also helps you understand if they would fit well in your team. If the candidate prefers to only talk over the phone and you lead your team through video conferences, that may not be a great fit.”

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5. Did you have previous remote working experience?

People who were used to working remotely pre-pandemic came with a set of skills that a lot of the workforce did not yet have, explains Brianne Thomas, head of recruiting at Jobvite, a talent acquisition service provider.

“Being able to leverage these skills from candidates familiar with a remote environment helped us to shift quickly and stay on track with productivity of typical new hires,” she says.

6. What do you do differently now?

Most employees had to make large adjustments to their workflow during the pandemic, and Thomas says candidates are often willing to be honest about how the last year has gone.

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“Understanding how they have adapted to change is very transferrable to other work,” she says. “Being able to speak to how their individual remote work processes have evolved shows an ability to be self-aware, to adjust when things aren’t working, and to learn from situations as they go—all critical and transferrable skills in the new marketplace for talent.”

7. How do you clock out?

One of the hardest things for employees in the last year has been figuring out how to balance where your normal world has been so disrupted, says Thomas.

“You may never leave your house to go to work, and your typical family and community support systems were all but eliminated,” she says. “It’s important that employees in the new marketplace understand how to take responsibility for balance. If someone is just keeping their foot on the gas at 100 through the last year, we know they are going to burn out.”

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Thomas says companies have seen some of the devastating impacts of the last year on overall mental health and wellness. “We want to provide the support systems at work for employees to have balance, but we also need future employees that take ownership over taking advantage of those programs—that know how to put work to the side and find time for family, rest, and personal activities,” she says.

8. What makes you excited to get up in the morning?

“It can be tough to stay engaged and motivated on Zoom,” says Shane Driggers, vice president of global talent acquisition and talent operations for ServiceNow, a digital workflow platform. “We’re looking for people who want to make an impact and find purpose in what they do.”

This question also helps Driggers understand employees’ goals and aspirations, so they get the right learning and development opportunities from the start, especially if they’re working remotely. “That way, we’re not just attracting the best candidates, but setting them up for success long-term,” he says.

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