The working environment has changed significantly in many ways since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, hiring teams have changed the questions they ask to assess candidates’ knowledge, skills, abilities and potential suitability.
Unsurprisingly, HR professionals, recruiters and hiring managers have discovered some new key areas to consider when interviewing candidates for jobs during the pandemic – and for the foreseeable future.
“It’s always important to go back and evaluate the questions candidates are being asked when there’s a radical change,” said Caitlyn Metteer, director of recruitment at Lever, a San Francisco-based recruitment technology company. During the pandemic, she said, this radical shift has been coupled with “shifting to remote work and continuing to process the pandemic as new variants emerge.”
Assess comfort with ambiguity
The pandemic work experience has provided a ready-to-use opportunity to ambiguously assess candidates’ well-being. Not all have adapted as well or as quickly as others.
Corey Berkey, SHRM-SCP, senior vice president of people and talent at Employ, the parent company of Jobvite, JazzHR and NXTThing RPO, has found that candidates are very honest about how they’ve fared over the past few months. “Understanding how they have adapted to change is very transferrable to other work,” he said. “Being able to talk about how their individual remote work processes have evolved demonstrates the ability to be self-aware, to adapt when things aren’t working, and to learn from situations as they evolve develop – all important and transferrable skills in the new talent market.”
A closely related question that Berkey often asks applicants is, “What was the biggest challenge about working remotely?” Their answers “highlight their practical problem-solving skills.” Nobody’s transition has been perfect, Berkey said — unless they’re already working from home. Therefore, candidates are generally comfortable with their answers. It can also be a good way to build rapport and get the discussion going, he said.
Paul French, Managing Director of Intrinsic Search, agrees that the way employees have navigated work life during the pandemic can be revealing and provide insights into their potential and suitability for a position. He likes to ask: “What have you learned from the pandemic for coping with stress during this time?”
Averting concerns about the great resignation
Another common concern for employers today: the potential for a new hire to pose a turnover risk. The Great Retirement has caused “Americans to feel so confident about job prospects that they are quitting in record numbers,” Berkey said. This is obviously a concern and consideration when hiring new employees. Are they likely to remain on board after employment? In order to assess their bonding potential, he asks questions such as “What is important to you in your job and in the company?”. By asking questions like these, he said, “we hope to find out what about the company or the role a candidate would do.”
Then he added, “We want to make sure we listen to their responses and show them how our organization’s support structure meets their needs.” Those responses, he said, also provide broader insights into what people are looking for so we can “be able to do our best when it comes to attracting top talent”.
understand working styles
In a world that’s much more “out of sight” but not out of mind, it’s more important than ever for employers to understand how prospective employees work and how they manage their ability to be productive, especially when faced with potential distractions At home.
At Lever, some of the interview questions they asked about this are as follows:
- How do you organize your day?
- How do you spend your time in your current role?
These questions, Metteer said, help her team determine if candidates view their performance “in terms of results rather than activity.” In the remote world, she said, a focus on results is key. “We also pay close attention to their communication style via email and via Zoom or interviews as a signal of how they can work with the team and collaborate remotely.”
How the candidates’ questions have changed
At the end of almost every interview, most recruiters and hiring managers ask candidates, “Do you have any questions for us?” As with recruiters, candidate questions have changed during the pandemic.
“Candidates keep asking about our travel and immunization requirements,” said Martha Angle, vice president of global culture, diversity and people at OneStream Software in Rochester, Michigan. “They want to know what’s expected of them when our world responds to the latest security measures.”
Most candidates want to know if the company expects employees to return to the office or if there are opportunities to work from home permanently. “There are those who don’t want to leave their home, and there are those who just work for an employer that offers an away office,” Angle said.
Lin Grensing-Pophal is a freelance writer based in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.