Most people are tired of thinking about the pandemic, but it doesn’t mean they’re done talking about it.
That’s certainly true for job searches and interviews, according to career experts.
Nearly two years into the pandemic, hiring managers are still asking candidates questions about Covid-19, be it about remote work, or how their lives or careers were impacted.
Some of those questions are designed to gauge a potential employee’s ability to deal with change and overwhelming situations. Others are more practical, often relating to how well the candidate fits with a company’s Covid-19 policies.
The best way to ace questions about the pandemic is to be prepared for them and be as transparent as possible, career consultants told CNBC Make It.
From “how do you organize your at-home work day?” to “how do you manage your team and stay connected?” — questions related to how you have adapted to work life during the pandemic are among the most common, according to recruiters.
Such questions are especially important for companies that plan to operate remotely, or as part of a hybrid model, as they want to ensure that new hires can be just as productive working outside the corporate office, said Amanda Augustine, a career advice expert with TopResume .
“Share how you have gone beyond the job description, to help your colleagues or the wider business,” said Kelly Bowerbank, associate director at talent management firm, Kerry Consulting. Recruiters are looking for signs of leadership, selflessness and the ability to work well in ambiguity, she noted.
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Augustine recommended going into specific tools you have used.
“Candidates should be prepared to talk about the tools they’ve adopted or strategies they’ve implemented to be successful in a remote environment,” she said. Talk about what project management and digital communication tools you use comfortably to stay organized and connected with colleagues, she added.
Additionally, it’s worth sharing details of your home workspace — such as efforts to improve your internet connectivity or any lighting and sound equipment you have purchased to to help you appear more professional while in a home setting.
You will not only improve your virtual interview game, but also show prospective employers that you are prepared to be a successful remote employee, said Augustine.
Interviewers will also want to know how you coped with the pandemic and the challenges they presented. When answering, career experts recommended taking a personal approach.
“Be honest about the roller coaster journey you had,” according to Kerry Consulting’s Bowerbank. “Trust is earned with vulnerability and stories. Show that you are human, a future colleague they can relate to.”
She suggested a simple framework for sharing such stories:
- Challenge: Yes, you were in a challenging situation, but you made the best of it.
- Action: Share when you took action to step up beyond your core role or had the curiosity to learn.
- Result: Talk about the final positive result you obtained.
But here’s something to note: While honesty is encouraged, it is also important to keep some challenges private — especially when they involve previous employers.
“No matter how unsatisfactory … your ex-employer’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, you should never share how you feel about it with your potential employer,” said Jaya Dass, managing director at human resource consultancy Randstad Singapore.
“Even if you had good intentions, your interviewer will develop a negative perception of you and would prefer not to hire you to protect the organizational culture,” she added.
With remote and hybrid working models commonplace during the pandemic, employers will be eager to understand your preferred working style, and how that fits with their workplace policy moving forward.
That means candidates should do their homework on prospective companies’ plans and be upfront about their own wishes, experts agreed.
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“Candidates should be as transparent as possible when it comes to their preferences, setting expectations with hiring managers from the get-go,” said Kirsty Hulston, a regional director at Hays, a multi-national recruiting company.
“As a candidate, it’s best to answer this question honestly. If you have no desire to return to office life full-time, be clear with your wishes,” said Augustine from TopResume.
She added that it is important for candidates to reflect on their goals and prioritize what is most important to them for their next job — whether it’s company culture, compensation or the ability to work flexibly.
Recruiters also highlighted questions such as “How have you developed during Covid — both personally and professionally?” or “How have you aligned your skills to the needs of the pandemic?”
These questions are an opportunity for candidates to share how they have worked on themselves during Covid-19, said career experts.
“Share your learning outcomes, and how you have grown to be a better version of yourself as an individual, employee or a leader,” said Bowerbank.
When it comes to professional development, provide details of how you used extra time to hone skills and improve your knowledge in that period, said Hulston. Talk about any virtual courses you attended or certifications you achieved during the time, she added.
Candidates can also answer the question in terms of personal development. Mention well-being practices you adopted or new hobbies you cultivated during the pandemic, according to Hulston.
The same approach can also be taken to explaining any resume gaps. Steer the conversation to what you accomplished in your time away from work, personally or professionally, the experts said.
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