‘New normal’ has become an overused term to discuss life during and after the pandemic. But it’s one that is accurate: the professional world as we knew it before COVID-19 no longer exists. And moving forward, companies across all industries will reimagine and rethink several parts of their business practices, say, for instance, hiring. Since it’s estimated the vast majority of corporate offices won’t reopen until late summer or early fall, recruiting, interviewing and onboarding will all be approached virtually.
So if you’re in the market for a new gig or were recently laid off, it’s essential to be prepared for relevant interview inquiries. Hiring managers will be concerned not only with your historical track record but will also want to ask you behavioral interview questions about how you are currently handling the current pandemic. And how you’ll cope with a future that hasn’t been defined yet. To set yourself up for success—and stand out from other candidates—prepare to ‘wow’ with impressive answers to these questions:
How comfortable are you with remote work?
Before quarantining, some professionals never experienced what it was like to work from home. Now though, we have learned quickly, on the fly, with little-to-no preparation. For the foreseeable future, this is how most companies will operate. And even once it is safe to return to the office, some executives will consider keeping some telecommuting policies like Twitter. Since this will be top-of-mind for all interviewers, make sure to have an answer prepped for the inevitable, suggests industrial-organizational psychology practitioner and workplace expert, Amy Cooper Hakim, Ph.D. “Consider emphasizing your degree of flexibility with this type of work arrangement. The key is to emphasize your adaptability and willingness to go with the flow while completing tasks responsibly,” she explains.
How do you stay motivated to work autonomously?
When you’re new to a job, you are hyper-aware of your output. Not only do you want to impress your employer, but you also want to prove that you were the right choice for the opportunity. Hiring managers know this, but demonstrating your work ethic virtually can be a tough sell. That’s why you should prepare to provide concrete examples of self-motivation during a virtual interview, according to Joy Altimare, the chief brand and engagement office at EHE Health. “Employers want to know that you are not an order-taker but, rather that you can quickly understand the culture and goals of the organization and make an impact,” she continues. “They’ll ask questions to determine if you’ll need a lot of hand-holding or if you’ll want to come in and immediately make a positive impact.”
Can you please describe your work-from-home approach?
Though it may feel a tad nosy, employers want to understand what it’s like under your roof. Are you living with five unemployed roommates who will be boozing throughout the day? Do you have a desk to sit at? What’s it like? Career expert for TopInterview, Amanda Augustine says legally, the interviewer cannot directly ask you about your family, or whether your home has turned into a school or nursery over the past few months. However, you should be able to describe your work-from-home set-up without crossing an ethical boundary. “The most important aspect of communicating to a prospective employer is that you are able and willing to work from home,” she explains. “Be sure to highlight that you have a dedicated workspace, a reliable and fast internet connection, and a relatively new computer model. If you’ve previously worked remotely, you should share that information, as well.”
How have you handled stress associated with COVID-19?
It’s been a whirlwind—to say the least—over the past several months. As professionals and as humans, hiring managers have been going through ups and downs, too. This makes them keenly interested in those workers who have been able to adapt, manage stress, and keep chugging along. Though Hakim says this is always important, it’s even more critical now. “In today’s world, this need for flexibility is especially emphasized,” she continues. “They want to see that a prospective employee will use logic and tact when handling a stressful situation. Share how you take emotion out of difficult circumstances so that you respond with a level head and direct approach.
Can you transfer your technological savvy into an attribute for the organization?
Sure, some industries have been becoming more and more digital every year. But others have a long way to go. And suddenly, having to view everything through a virtual lens has been an enormous learning curve. So if you are a tech whiz? Now is the time to show this off majorly, according to Altimare. “Most of the work you’ve done thus far should have had some digital component to it. Even the oldest companies—regardless of category—have undergone a digital transformation,” she continues. “So, you’ll need to speak about how you leverage technology to increase productivity or increase efficiency and how technology is core to your role.”
How have you been spending your time in isolation?This may be more of a question for someone who is currently unemployed, rather than someone making moves, but either way, you should be prepared to answer it. Times are different now, and it’s okay if you answer this honestly, as long as you illustrate a few ways you have been productive during the lockdown. “They could be looking to see how you’ve been handling stress during this unusual time, or trying to assess whether you’ve been able to keep your skills sharp,” Augustine shares. “If you’ve had more spare time than usual because of the quarantine and your non-existent commute, explain to your interviewer how you’ve been using that time to invest in your career. This could be anything from the completion of an online course to participating in a virtual networking event for your industry and volunteering for a nonprofit organization.”