How to Succeed in Coronavirus Job Interviews


The world of work is spinning on a new axis since the Coronavirus took center stage.

The Coronavirus has added a new aspect of work to be discussed and understood before accepting a job offer.

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.

But do not assume you can just simply dust off those questions used in the past.

The pandemic has generated new questions headed your way. And, of course, you will have new questions of your own to ask.

The more traditional job interview questions will remain in the mix, and new pandemic-related questions will be added. Also, spend time reviewing these top 50 job interview questions to ask the employer plus new pandemic-related questions for you to ask employers.

The World of Work Is Changing

As a result of the changes caused by the pandemic, employers have adapted in very different ways. Many employers have temporarily changed the workplace and the employee’s need to be present in the workplace.

Some employers have permanently converted many jobs to 100% “remote” (a.k.a., “work from home”) jobs when face-to-face interaction with customers/clients or fellow employees is not required like healthcare and food-service workers.

Other jobs are remote for part of the work week or transition from remote to in-person, depending on the work or location positivity rate.

Certainly, remote jobs are becoming more accepted and that trend is likely to continue:

  • Before the pandemic, only 5% of US workers were working remotely.
  • During the pandemic, that number grew to more than 40%.
  • After the pandemic ends, approximately 20% of jobs will be remote.

Assume that companies are phasing in their return-to work plans and will rely on remote workers for the next several months, lasting through 2021 or even into 2022. Some jobs clearly have the potential to permanently transition to home offices.

Prepare for a New Interview Process

Do the traditional homework needed and gather intelligence from a variety of sources: colleagues, employees, and LinkedIn connections. Pay special attention to the employer’s Twitter feed to see how they are communicating with stakeholders about their response to pandemic issues.

Because of the pandemic, this additional preparation is smart today:

  •   Understand the COVID situation.  

    Many employers have posted details of their back-to-work protocols on their websites. Access a company’s website and carefully read their COVID-19 response if one has been posted.

    Also check out the CDC Guidelines for managing the pandemic.

    Gain an understanding of both the government and employers’ responses to COVID-19. Find answers to your questions contained in these documents before you engage in an interview. You can then focus on additional questions related to return-to-work topics either not included in the guidelines or for which you need clarification.

  •   Expect “virtual” interviews.  

    Most employers are starting the interview process with a video or phone interview to protect everyone’s health, unless the job requires face-to-face interaction. If a remote interview is not offered, consider suggesting it.

    Video interviews using technology like Zoom or GoToMeeting have become much more common. Take the new video interviews seriously. Many tales have emerged from job seekers experiencing a relaxed setting for interviews conducted via video conferencing post-COVID. I have witnessed stories of interviews being conducted with the hiring manager rocking a child on their lap, panelists trying to corral their kids during an interview, and dogs scurrying in the background.

    You cannot control how the employer’s representatives choose to behave, but YOU must continue to follow professional protocols for digital meetings. Business attire, no distractions, and quiet on the set!

  •   Test your home’s technology.  

    Before you interview for remote jobs, test your home Internet connection to be sure that you can successfully interact with your potential new manager, co-workers, and others. Can you easily participate in a Zoom meeting without losing the connection or experiencing delays in your ability to see and hear the other Zoom meeting members?

    If your connection is not sufficient, can it be upgraded? What will be the cost associated with improving your Internet connection: new equipment required and/or higher-speed connection needed?

  •   Prepare for the new questions the employer will ask you.  

    Because many jobs do not require constant onsite, face-to-face interaction, employees may be spending much or all of their time working from their homes, a.k.a. “remote work.” This new work environment generates a different series of questions for employers to explore your experience with and ability to work remotely. Be prepared to answer these COVID-related questions.

  •   Prepare new questions for you to ask the employer.  

    Learning how the employer is managing the remote work process is important to help you determine if this job and employer are a good fit for you. Ask questions about the remote work requirements, and any technical support provided. Are you comfortable with their approach? COVID-related questions to ask the employer.

The Actual Interview Process

The interview process varies widely from employer to employer and even job to job. Some organizations have a formal selection processwith very methodical steps while others are much less structured.

The opening few minutes of an interview may be spent with an informal “getting to know you” conversation. Show empathy for the interviewer’s situation by acknowledging the pandemic.

You might say, “Thank you for taking the time to meet with me. I’m sure you’re facing all sorts of challenges, and I really appreciate the opportunity to share my background. I hope you and your family are safe during these trying times.”

Avoid making any political comments.

Hiring managers may reserve 10 to 15 minutes at the end of the interview for your questions. Many job seekers strive to move the interview into more of a conversation, asking their questions throughout the discussion rather than at the end.

Regardless of the timing, have your questions written down, and be respectful of the time limit.

After the Interview

The biggest mistake candidates make is missing an opportunity to keep the door open after the interview. Typically, a thank-you email is sent, and then the long, agonizing wait to hear back from the hiring manager begins.

The most critical time for decision-making occurs after the final round of interviews, so why go silent now? Show the interviewer you are a problem solver, listened to their needs, and are willing to find creative ways to be a stand-out candidate.

High unemployment and increased competition call for a more proactive approach in your follow-up to stand out from the other candidates, demonstrating your interest in the opportunity as well as showcasing the quality of your work.

In addition to sending your thank-you notes/emails, follow these easy steps to move to the front of the line:

At the close of the interview, ask the interviewer if you may call should you have any additional questions (and you will have questions). Ask for the best time to call and the best phone number to use.

Immediately after the interview, jot down your notes. Identify 2 to 3 areas where you could add value and prepare examples of what you have already done or would propose to do in the future.

Wait at least 3 to 4 days for your follow-up call. Remember, you will not be viewed as the dreaded “stalker” because you already got permission to call the interviewer.

Use the follow-up call to continue the discussion:

  • Convey a solution to a problem discussed in the interview, or
  • Clarify a point that may have been left open-ended, or
  • Provide additional information showing your fit for this job and employer.

Consider: Here’s an example of a follow-up call: You answered “No” when asked, “Have you ever worked from home?”

After the interview, you realize that you failed to mention that while working in an office, you did operate remotely by managing a distributed team of workers. In that capacity, you held weekly video conferences, reduced travel expenses more effectively using technology, and maintained collaboration within the group.

This example is a MUCH better answer, and you can share that experience in the follow-up phone call.

The Bottom Line

#WereAllInThisTogether is a hashtag seen in virtually every corner of social media. It serves as a powerful reminder of the universal solidarity needed to conquer this pandemic. Show your future employer that same willingness to partner with them in creating fresh solutions to emerging challenges.

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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, helping people successfully navigate their careers. Follow Barbara on LinkedIn.
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