5 Interview Questions to Prepare for During the Pandemic
Job applications can be challenging at the best of times, but COVID-19 has changed the nature of interviews in several ways. In this article, we explain what to expect and typical interview questions to prepare for.
Photo by Yan Krukau on Pexels
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced most businesses to adapt how they work, and that includes their recruitment processes, most of which are now conducted completely online for safety reasons. At the early stages, you’re likely to encounter virtual interviews, even virtual cover letters, along with the usual online assessments. Further along the process, you can expect to be interviewed via Zoom, Skype or other video chat platforms rather than face-to-face. Ultimately, if you’re hired, you could be working remotely for several months before you even set foot in the office!
The basic rules still apply for video interviews: always look smart, do your research and prepare well for the common interview questions. In addition, you’ll have to find a quiet room where you won’t be disturbed. Make sure that your internet connection is reliable and that you’re familiar with the video chat platform you’ll be using. Build confidence by practising in advance speaking to people via webcam, to check how you come across.
Talking to your potential employer via a screen is not the only change resulting from coronavirus; the global pandemic has had such a massive impact that it will inevitably crop up in interview questions – and your answers could make or break your application. Whatever position you’re applying for, be prepared to talk about COVID-19, and in a way that demonstrates these key qualities: empathy, adaptability and resilience.
Here are five interview questions that you should anticipate:
1. How are you coping with the pandemic?
We’re used to casually enquiring how friends or family are managing, but recruiters are highly likely to bring this up in an interview. As well as adding a touch of empathy to the conversation, they will want to know how you handle stressful situations. So, think of it as a competence-based question, which tests your attitude and levels of adaptability and resilience.
How to respond:
Be honest – start by admitting how the pandemic has affected you personally and show compassion for others. After all, the impact of this crisis is still reverberating all over the world. The key is to show that you understand the situation and that you’re adapting to it. So, then go on to emphasise what specific actions you have taken to navigate these tough times, such as checking in with people, volunteering, taking regular exercise, setting yourself a challenge or perhaps learning new skills to make the most of your unplanned free time at home.
2. What is your experience with remote work?
Working remotely is the default for most organisations and could continue for some time to come, so they are likely to favour candidates who can demonstrate that they are comfortable with, or at least willing to adapt to remote work. This requires a different skillset in addition to the normal job requirements: self-motivation and being able to work without close supervision, time management, adapting to new technology quickly, efficient communication etc.
How to respond:
If you don’t have experience of remote work, you could talk about related skills from other jobs or your degree course, such as working autonomously, participating in regular video calls or collaborating with people in different locations. It’s also important to discuss your working routine at home and how you have managed to persevere and remain productive and healthy e.g. have you set up a dedicated workspace, how do you remain focused and free from distractions? How do you manage your time? – A decent work-life balance shows that you’re well-organised and motivated. Don’t be afraid to mention any challenges of WFH and how you have found solutions.
3. How do you feel about an eventual return to office work (or working remotely for the foreseeable future)?
Owing to the uncertainty, many companies are unable to predict when they will transition to in-office work, whilst some have already committed to remote working at least until next year, and possibly permanently. If you’re uncomfortable about working ‘on-site’, you may want to look for positions that are advertised as ‘remote’.
How to respond:
Be sure to research the employer prior to the interview, including checking for announcements concerning their working arrangements for the coming months. You can base your response on that, but also show interest by enquiring about how the pandemic has impacted their business and industry and about future plans for their work setup.
4. What, if anything, have you learned during COVID-19 (about yourself, your career plans, new skills etc.)?
The pandemic will have undoubtedly impacted businesses, not least by changing the way they search for and recruit people, and probably the skills and attributes they will look for in a candidate.
How to respond:
You don’t have to pretend you have been super-productive throughout lockdown, as employers recognise that many people will have struggled. Of course, if you have acquired new professional skills or knowledge that will enhance your CV, then do talk about that. But this question is geared just as much to what you’ve learned about yourself these past months. Have you discovered personal qualities, what kept you going, how you work best, have you changed your career plans? You could explain how you see your industry has been affected, how things might look going forward, how you plan to adapt and how your skills will be relevant (e.g. resilience, flexibility, self-motivation). Also, mention any interests or hobbies you have picked up (e.g. you have learned to cook!) as this all gives a valuable insight into your personality.
5. Do you have any questions?
Under normal circumstances, you would visit the place of work, meet members of the team, get a feel for the culture before being offered and accepting a job. But with everything happening remotely, you can’t get the full picture of the company interviewing you. So, do ask plenty of questions to gain an insight of what it would be like to work there.
How to respond:
Ask about training, typical tasks, the culture, working arrangements after the pandemic, communication methods, hierarchy and your involvement with different teams or individuals, and career development. (In addition, you’ll need to do your research and try to network with people connected to the company to build a true impression.)
Prepare for these COVID-related interview questions as well as the more traditional ones. This will help you come across as confident and resilient in tough circumstances – traits that are valued by all employers.
Best of luck with your interviews!
Our thanks to Stephie Goodman for her contribution towards this article.
Find out more on video interviews:
Video & Virtual Interviews
What to expect & tips to help you nail them
Find out more on job searching during the pandemic:
Be Ready: Job Searching in a Pandemic
Tips on job searching from your desk