Employers and job candidates are still processing all of the lessons of the pandemic, but one thing is certain: adverse times reveal the character and capabilities of people in eye-opening ways. So it’s no wonder that employers are seeking to gain new insights into candidate traits that are much more difficult to extract with traditional interview questions.
The prospect of being forced to relive a traumatic time can make already-tense interview situations even more stressful. Yet, if you know the traits your interviewer is really hoping to discover in its best candidate, you can frame your answers to reveal your empathy for others, adaptability to change, and resilience in response to tough challenges.
Here are seven COVID-related questions that you can expect recruiters and hiring managers to ask on your next interview, and our insights into what they are really hoping to learn from you:
- How did you navigate through (or hold up during) the pandemic?
This question provides an opportunity to open up about the natural struggles that everyone faces in such a dire situation. It’s an opportunity to showcase your empathy, adaptability, and resilience right off the bat, and immediately register as a candidate to take seriously. Highlight examples of each of these key traits as the pandemic unfolded in 2020, and consider asking the same of the interviewer to demonstrate your empathy and concern.
2. How are you adjusting post-quarantine?
This question will divert some candidates into too-personal aspects of their lives, including dealing with grief or personal physical and mental health issues. Employers want to hire well-adjusted people, regardless of the circumstances. They need workers who are ready to hit the ground running, so your response should convey your adaptability and resilience, as well as optimism for a broad economic rebound and the opportunities that should bring.
3. How did the pandemic affect your career aspirations?
Employers want to know a few things here. Are you escaping a bad employer or a bad relationship with your manager, exacerbated by the extreme circumstances of the pandemic? Or did the situation give you cause to think more about your long-term goals and to consider your best path forward? Your goal here is to demonstrate a long-term arc in your aspirations, not an emotional zig-zag.
4. Was remote working a tough adjustment?
Of course it was a tough adjustment. The change was unexpected; employers scrambled to find new solutions, and stress levels skyrocketed. But this struggle revealed the best in people, and you’re a prime example. Take a few minutes to detail how you identified the situation as it unfolded, the changes that occurred in your working life, the actions you took to deal with them, and the results you were able to achieve. Being methodical in your answer will reveal how calm and resourceful you can be under pressure.
5. How do you stay organized when working from home?
Without management to impose structure and routine on you, how do you self-manage? This is your opportunity to demonstrate your level of discipline and determination to perform under adverse circumstances. It’s also an opportunity to talk about organization and communication tools, including software packages that you have learned.
6. How do you feel about returning to the office?
If the interviewer phrases the question in this way, rather than ‘Would you prefer to work in the office or remotely,’ you know they intend to resume pre-pandemic on-site work, and only candidates who accept that arrangement will be considered. If the question is phrased as a choice, demonstrate your ability to be versatile and effective whether you work in the office or from home. Keep in mind, many companies are still in the process of determining a path forward.
7. What has been the best outcome or lesson for you from the pandemic?
This is a question that allows you to reveal your personal and professional strengths, whatever they are. It may be that you have learned new skills, or that you value professional relationships and communication more now. Maybe you have gained new insights into how you work and what environment would be most conducive to your professional success. Don’t be over-the-top in your answer; instead, give a multi-faceted response that demonstrates a variety of insights.
Following the Q&A session, you have an opportunity to learn more about your prospective employer. In this strong DFW economy, the interview is mutual, so ask about how the company responded and accommodated its employers and customers. Find out what lessons the company’s leaders learned and how operations and ideas may have changed for the better. Remember, employers want to know the candidate they hire is highly selective and thoughtful about what differentiates the best employers from the rest.