5 new questions hiring managers are asking in interviews now

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It’s been eight months since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States and more Americans than ever are now finding themselves back on the job market. As you begin your search, however, you may find that quite a bit has changed since your last interview.

With remote work becoming the new norm and so many uncertainties about the future, hiring managers have a new checklist of things to consider. To help you prepare, we put together this list of five questions you should be ready to answer at your next interview.

1. What have you been working on?

CEO of Korn Ferry Gary Burnison said this is his new number one interview question when it comes to candidates.

“When I ask someone what they’ve been working on, I’m looking for clues that tell me how the words on their resume translate into the needs of our current world, and how involved that person is in today’s most critical missions,” he said. “I also want to know whether they can think, act and work as if they’re in a startup because that’s what companies need to thrive and survive.”

This question not only allows you to share the things you’re excited about with potential employers, but it’s also great for those who have found themselves without a job in the last few months. Employers still want to know what you’ve been working on while you were unemployed.

Hiring managers are looking to hire people who can adapt to the changes in the workplace and are quick on their feet.

“The key is to let the hiring manager know you’ve been spending your time productively,” Burnison said. “No matter how difficult your journey has been, I want to know how resilient you are. When things get rough, do you give up or do you get up?”

If you haven’t been working on any special projects during this time — talk about what you’ve learned. How have you been staying productive? What books are you reading? Have you taken any classes? What has quarantine taught you?

Career strategist Rob Kim said if an employer is asking this question, they are, “looking for evidence of how you have been proactive and dealing with stress to see if you will bring value to their company.”

2. How has COVID-19 changed your career path?

As we said, a lot has changed over the past eight months. It would make sense that, for some people, so has their career path.

Maybe the industry you were working in pre-COVID is disappearing now or you’ve discovered a new passion after spending more time at home. Whatever your situation, hiring managers want to know the direction you want to go in now.

How are you handling the uncertainty of these times? And what inspired you to apply for this position?

“Explain to the interviewer how you navigated this time,” Career Contessa advises. “If you endured a layoff from an industry that was particularly affected, explain how that factored into choosing the job for which you are interviewing.”

Glassdoor says it’s ok to be honest here about how the past few months have affected you. This is a good opportunity to talk about how you have coped and managed stress during this time.

3. How do you manage your day working remotely?

Most people are learning how to work remotely for the first time. That being said, employers are going to be interested in how you are managing your day. They want to know you are capable of self-management now more than ever.

Talk to your interviewer about your home office setup, how you organize your day, how you choose what to prioritize, and how you stay motivated.

You can also talk about how you handle interruptions or distractions at home. This could be anything from dealing with kids and pets at home to deliveries or more. Employers know that things naturally will come up, especially while working from home. How you manage and balance it all will be telling!

4. How do you feel about eventually returning to the office?

This one is important. While remote work seems to be sticking around for some companies, others are still planning an eventual return to normalcy. If you are uncomfortable with the idea of that, be honest! Your safety, along with that of your family and friends, is important.

Career Contessa recommends focusing on a positive narrative if this is the case. Explain how you feel you can be productive and offer the company just as much (if not more) while working from home.

If you want to guarantee that you won’t end up back in the office at all, then you should search for open positions that are listed strictly as remote. However, if you’re open to returning to the office eventually, make sure you have a good idea of when that would be safe for you and how you would handle it.

5. How do you maintain healthy colleague relationships remotely?

You may not think this one is as important, but lots of hiring managers are still looking for a good cultural fit, even while work is remote. Especially if there’s a chance you’ll be returning to the office, future employers want to know you can work well on a team and cultivate relationships.

Glassdoor said this question is a good way for managers to assess if candidates have a well-developed emotional quotient. Depending on the role you’re interviewing for, the importance of this could vary.

This is also a good opportunity to discuss your communication style — especially in relation to remote collaboration. Do you prefer to handle most communication through email or a messaging app, like Slack? Or are you the type of person who would rather hop on a Zoom call and talk through things? Or maybe you keep to yourself for the most part unless something absolutely requires another person’s input. All of this information will help employers know if you are a good cultural fit for their team.