Answering Interview Questions Employers Ask During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Hiring managers are currently knee deep in crisis management.

Their key concern in job interviews: How can you assist them in solving their problems during the pandemic?

That is THE question, so be prepared to answer it.

Seize the opportunity to answer it at your next interview, demonstrating your ability to be nimble, to deal with ambiguity, and to show calm in the middle of this storm.

Be sure to clarify the type of interview (video or in-person), and then ask questions so you are well-informed and well-prepared for the interview. Read Questions to Ask Employers in Coronavirus Pandemic Job Interviews for good Coronavirus-related questions to ask before and during interviews now.

The Employer’s Questions for You

The employer will want to understand what experience you have had working remotely and how adept you are navigating this new way of working. Your participation in a video interview will be the first indication of your comfort level with using technology.

Make sure all systems are “go” with your equipment, software, and connectivity by working out any glitches in advance of the interview.

  1.Have you ever worked remotely? If so, what changes did you make to adapt to an at-home work environment?  

Companies want reassurances that you have a dedicated workspace and can be productive from home. Do you have the proper connectivity to conduct business on their behalf?

While you should not reveal your personal situation (kids, home schooling, etc.), you can indicate that your environment is free of distractions, allowing you to execute work on a timely basis.

Consider: Build out your resume and LinkedIn profile to include remote work experience. If you are a recent college grad, refer to your success at online learning.

If applicable, add the terms “remote work” and “work from home” to your LinkedIn profile plus the technologies you have used, like Zoom, Skype, and Google Meet. Those are valuable keywords being searched much more frequently now. Other keywords critical for today’s job market include self-directed, agile, and worked in, or managed, distributed teams. Read How to Job Search Effectively for Remote Work for more details.

  2.What aspects about working from home did you enjoy, and which did you find most challenging?  

An employer will get better insight into the kind of work environment you thrive in-home or office. The other aspect they may be probing is your comfort level with the technology used to conduct business — Zoom, Microsoft Teams, even basic technical trouble shooting (e.g. recovering from printer problems, scanning, etc.)

An employer’s workforce planning may not only address filling vacancies but might also include identifying positions or employees who would be eligible for permanent remote work. Consider the type of working environment you prefer.

  3.When working remotely, how do you organize your day?  

It takes self-discipline, and no set of eyes are supervising your work each day. So, explain your daily routine to the interviewer. This will be easier to answer if you have had experience with a remote job.

An employer will be assessing how much hand holding you may need vs. your ability to work autonomously.

  4.What ways would you communicate with your manager and co-workers in a remote setting?  

First, express an understanding of the accountability needed and the communication expected when working remotely. Give examples of how you have kept in touch. Do not assume you know the new manager’s personal style.

Be prepared to demonstrate how you will collaborate with team members to get things done. Give specific examples.

  5.What are your thoughts on how our teams can collaborate and how we can safely interact with clients once we return to work?  

Organizations have, or are now formulating, the ergonomic plans for conference rooms, workspaces, common areas, and are interested in how forward thinking you are. Employers are also gathering input from current employees and candidates to help shape, then support plans they will be implementing to reconfigure office space. Be prepared to share your vision of a safe workplace.

If travel was a significant component of a job, offer views on how to travel safely and/or alternate ways to keep clients and stakeholders engaged.

  6.How have you handled the stress of Coronavirus?  

Acknowledge the reality of the stressful situation and explain your coping techniques. Do you have a positive outlook? What are the ways you have used to deal with stress? Daily walks? Meditation during work? Connecting with friends?

Employers will probe your ability to be productive in light of stress — this will not be the only time you will face a difficult situation. You may want to also use this opportunity to ask how they are supporting employees who may be dealing with stress related to isolation.

  7.What would you personally do to maintain safety in the workplace?  

The employer is not solely responsible for keeping the workplace safe. They will also depend on their employees. How do you practice safety in your personal life? Hand washing? Social distancing? What would you do if you saw someone at work engaging in an unsafe practice?

Companies are focused on the health of employees but are also concerned about the liability if a worker gets sick. Demonstrate your willingness to participate in making it a safe place to work.

  8.What life lessons have you learned during the pandemic?  

This question resembles the classic one concerning how you dealt with a difficult situation. Are you taking advantage of the free online resources offered — webinars, podcasts, etc.? Did you assess the viability of the industry you were in and determine if a career change is needed? Have you developed a greater appreciation for the value of other people? Does networking make more sense now following time in isolation?

Employers cannot grow unless the employees invest in personal and professional development. Tell them the positive impacts the pandemic has made in your life, like learning the new skills and technologies to successfully work remotely.

  9. Will you be willing to work in an office again when/if working remotely is no longer required?  

Since managing remote employees is a relatively new concept for many organizations or not a practical, long term solution, for the work they do, an employer may be hoping to return to a more “normal” work environment. If they are able to do that, they will want to know if you will be comfortable with that change to a more traditional work environment.

The World Has Changed and So Have the Interview Questions

Expect several questions aimed at your remote-work technical savvy, and ability to be self-directed without the infrastructure and management support available in a physical office.

Conventional advice surrounding interviewing has always included the need to prepare for questions an interviewer is likely to pose, as well as those you are eager to ask.

The pandemic generated new concerns for most employers so expect them to have new questions to ask job candidates. The pre-pandemic questions will still be asked, of course, because employers need to understand your ability to do the job and fit into the organization.

To prepare, spend time reviewing Smart Answers to Common Interview Questions and Smart Strategies plus Sample Answers for Behavioral Interview Questions. Also be prepared to ask your own COVID-related interview questions to understand how the employer manages the new work environment.

Anticipate a different focus in three primary areas representing top-of-mind issues:

  • Safety
  • Remote work
  • Management’s coronavirus response plan

Get ready by preparing and practicing your responses.

Your answers should demonstrate not only the relevance of your experience, but also the currency of your knowledge about the evolving employment landscape and your ability to adapt to the new reality.

The Bottom Line

Employers are hiring, but they often have many applicants to choose from. With your answers and your preparation, demonstrate to the employer that you can successfully do this job in spite of the complications caused by the pandemic.

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Barbara SchultzAbout the author…

Barbara Schultz is an HR executive, career coach, writer, and co-author of Adulting Made Easy(er): Navigating from Campus to Career. Barbara has held senior HR leadership roles in entrepreneurial settings and gives a unique perspective to job seekers from a life spent on the “other side of the desk.” She is also the owner of CareerStager.com, helping people successfully navigate their careers. Follow Barbara on LinkedIn.
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