As the world is adapting to what is now the “new normal,” Fairygodboss wants to be there for you every step of the way. Keep reading for timely advice and join our Navigating the New Normal group for continued support.
Interviews — much like every other facet of life — are taking a different shape in this current climate. And that goes beyond digital interview etiquette.
Although there’s certainly no need for every question you direct at your interviewer to connect to COVID, a handful of timely questions are worth asking. The answers you receive will help inform what kind of job security and support you can expect from the company, two inarguably crucial areas to shed light on. And if you ask these questions the right way — which, critically, involves peppering them in alongside the usual impact-focused interview questions — they can also help elevate how the hiring manager sees you. The key is in showing not only that you’re interested in understanding the company’s current challenges, but also that you’re keen to learn how your role can solve for them.
According to the recruiters and hiring managers we heard from, these eight interview questions will position you as a high-impact hire while helping you protect your own interests, too.
1. “What has been the biggest impact of COVID on the business? How has the company’s strategy shifted in response?
Don’t shy away from asking these questions. They’ll only be the elephant in the room otherwise, and showing that you’d like to understand how exactly the business has been impacted by the pandemic is beneficial to your personal understanding of the company’s financial health. Plus, it'll demonstrate your forward-thinking interest in the company's overall strategy, too.
"In any climate, but now more than ever, it's important to understand if the current environment (in this case, COVID-19) has had any impact on the growth of the team as well as on the goals the team is expected to reach," Alla Mezhvinsky, Director of G&A and Ops Recruiting at Instacart, said. "Ask questions like, 'How has the current climate impacted the overall business — is there growth/decline and how has the business approached the changes?”
Beyond the impact of COVID on the company overall, it's worth asking how the current climate intersects with the goals and priorities of the specific role you're interviewing for, too.
"What are some of the challenges of this role (i.e roadblocks, inefficiencies, etc.)?" Mezhvinsky added. "This should help provide a picture of not just the impact/responsibilities of the role but help you understand what you'll have to face in order to reach the goals and be successful."
2. “I see teamwork as a huge benefit to any business. How are you currently supporting this element with the majority of people working in isolation?”
Joe Flanagan, Founder of 90sFashion World, recommended asking questions, like the one above, that firmly demonstrate your interest in the role as a career move and not just a job for now. Showing that you care about the company’s culture — even if you won’t physically be working alongside your new colleagues anytime soon — is important.
“As a hiring manager, I would expect the candidate to display an eagerness to learn and adapt to challenging circumstances with an emphasis to show they're not looking for a short term fix,” he added.
3. “Will this position remain remote long-term?”
Even if the role is framed as a remote one, as most “office” jobs presently are, it’s important to get clarity on what the long-term expectations are, advised Dana Case, Director of Operations at MyCorporation.
"If the position you're interviewing for is remote, inquire as to whether the role will remain remote for the long-term or if it is remote on a temporary basis,” she said. “This is especially important to ask if you're applying for remote work out of state. In a post-pandemic climate, it's possible that this job may want you to relocate and move in-office at a later date. Employers may not be able to fully answer the details of this question, but they may be able to at least let you know if they have decided whether this will be a fully remote role.”
4. “What aspects of my position, if any, do you see changing after the pandemic?”
Again, it’s important to factor in long-term considerations as part of your interview questions — both for your own edification and to show the interviewer that you see a true future for yourself at the company. That’s why Matt Erhard, Managing Partner at Summit Search Group, a recruiting agency in Vancouver, recommends asking about anticipated changes once some sense of normalcy resumes, even if the company can't provide total clarity now.
“Most companies right now aren’t operating under their normal procedures,” he said. “While it’s still difficult to predict when normalcy will resume (or what that normal will look like), you should get a general idea of what to expect when it happens... This also gives you a sense of how much the company is planning for the future.”
5. “What’s the attitude toward flexibility here? Do you offer any official flex policies?”
While in the past, asking questions about things like flexibility in the interview could leave you vulnerable to unfair bias and assumptions — see: FGB’s founding story — today, circumstances are a little different. The bulk of your questions should still, undoubtedly, focus on the role you’re applying for. But if you’d also like to slip in an inquiry into the company’s flexibility, the pandemic has helped this question lose some of its taboo, said Janet Crawford, Vice President at WealthRecruiters.
“Given the current climate, we are facing situations and dynamics that this generation has never faced before. I think more than ever it's completely acceptable to inquire about a company’s flexibility when it comes to remote work, sick days, and flexibility in scheduling, in addition to what technologies does that office or corporation have in place to allow employees to do remote work if necessary,” Crawford said. “I would say be mindful of how you're approaching the questions… do a little research and offer potential solutions or suggestions to that company, should they not have something in place. It goes to show that you are forward thinking and a problem solver.”
6. “Do you offer paid sick leave? How else have your workers been supported during COVID?”
This is another question that ordinarily might not be considered the most natural interview fodder. While some recruiters recommend saving inquiries about paid sick leave for a second or third round interview, or even waiting until after a job offer has been made, others saw no reason to shirk from the question from the outset. It can give you a good idea of how a company cares for its workers overall and is a conversation more organizations have gotten accustomed to having.
“As a hiring manager within our business, I always appreciate openness and honesty with the questions asked by candidates,” Alex Williams, a website builder and owner of Hosting Data UK, said. “If you want to know the paid sick leave policy due to the current pandemic, then you should ask that question. It demonstrates the ability to face up to tough questions and a realistic approach to seeking a new job role during a global crisis.”
7. “As part of the onboarding process, what are X important problems or concepts you think I should get clarity on? What else should I expect from the onboarding process?”
A company’s ability to pivot quickly and reshape its strategies — both key abilities for an employer to possess at this moment — will definitely be visible in its remote onboarding plans. You want to be sure that the company is prepared to onboard you ASAP, as well — and not intending to bring you on months down the line instead.
“As far as technology, some companies have been remotely onboarding for far before COVID-19; sending computers, setting up a VPN, and onboarding/ramping up new employees successfully,” Lindsay Lewis, Manager of Brand Strategy at Motion Recruitment, wrote. “It's a shift for others, but many companies are definitely on-boarding people when they find the right candidate and have adjusted to the times of hiring remotely as well.”
8. “In this new role, what’s the biggest way I could make a difference for the company from the starting gate?”
Even if the company you’re interviewing at is faring well enough to be able to afford new hires, that doesn’t mean they aren’t still facing unique constraints as a result of COVID. By showing your desire to help them address those constraints, you’ll position yourself as a team player, Jason Patel, Founder of Transizion, said.
“If you're in the early stages of interviewing, you want to make sure your questions are contribution- and impact-focused, meaning you should ask about how you'd help the team make a difference on day one,” he said. “The point is that all companies are in some sort of a crunch right now, be it a time or cash crunch. They're looking for people who can hop on board and make a difference right away. By framing your questions in this light, it shows that you're hungry to contribute and help the company out in quick fashion.”