Interview Questions to Expect Because of the COVID-19 Pandemic (+ How to Answer Them)

interview questions they ask because of covid-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we shop, go to school, work, and search for jobs. It’s also caused major changes to how companies interview applicants.

Changes to the interview process

Companies ARE STILL HIRING! They’re just changing the way they do it. You can expect to be seen in person, at some point. However, your first contact with a company will probably be over the phone or via a video meeting of some sort. Don’t forget that first impressions still count.

These changes have brought up new questions to expect during your interview

There has been a lot of adapting and flexibility required of late. But interviews are still interviews. You’re trying to get to know the company, the company is trying to get to know you. So, in the spirit of preparedness, let’s take a look at some interview questions they might toss your way.

Some of the questions you can expect:

  1. How are you holding up during quarantine/social-distancing/remote work?
  2. Have you had to work remotely during this time? What was that like for you?
  3. How do you organize your time when working from home?
  4. What’s been your process for handling distractions/interruptions during remote work?
  5. What do you do when there’s a technical problem that causes you to have to pause a project?

What do they want to know and how should you respond?

1. How are you holding up during quarantine/social-distancing/remote work?

The interviewer wants to know if you’re able to go with the flow and make the necessary course corrections to be productive even during times of turmoil. There are a lot of folks who would lay down and let the whole things pass them by. Show them that you are a take-the-bull-by-the-horns type of person who tackles problems head on.

Here’s a good answer: The COVID-19 pandemic certainly caused a bit of a disruption in people’s lives, but I’ve never been one to give up or quit. I did a lot of research on how to make an effective and productive workplace at home and set about setting that up so I could continue my job. In fact, the research I performed allowed me to be a sounding board for others who were needing help setting up their home offices.

2. Have you had to work remotely during this time? What was that like for you?

This is a sneaky little question that tells them whether you were laid off or were able to continue your job by working from home. Be honest! If you were laid off, tell them that. Hiring managers understand that people have had a lot to overcome. Presumably, you used the time you were laid off to hone some skill or perfect your resume to jump right into a new job search.

Here’s a good answer: There were approximately 15 people in my department who were laid off because of COVID-19, and I was one of them. It was gut-wrenching, but after taking a day or two to get used to my new reality, I finished some LinkedIn Learnings to hone my skills with business development. Then, I dove right into the search for a new position. I wasn’t going to let something that was out of my control negatively affect my life.

3. How do you organize your time when working from home?

While using absolutes is generally frowned upon, it is safe to say that every single job that has remote workers has some strict rules the employee must follow. Generally, they have to do with how you set up your home office. You must have a certain internet speed, you can’t use Wi-Fi, your home office should be in a room with a door that can be closed, among others. All of those requirements are meant to provide you with a space that promotes productivity. Productivity is further fueled by efficiency that comes from organization.

Here’s a good answer: At first, I didn’t know what all would go into building a successful home office. Not only did I follow the rules set forth by my company, but I also did some internet research to find ways to boost productivity and efficiency. In the end, I found that I pretty much organized my time in the same way I would’ve if I’d have been in an office environment. Work is work even at home. I set schedules using my Outlook calendar, used my Google Assistant for important reminders, I backed all of my work up to the company share folder, and made sure the people in my home knew not to open my office door while I was at work.

4. What’s been your process for handling distractions/interruptions during remote work?

There are a lot of televisions commercials that show people working remotely. One in particular stands out that is the perfect way to talk about this question. It’s the Progressive Insurance commercial that has one of the people vacuuming during an online meeting. Of course, this is a distraction that he is causing. There are times a distraction over for which you have no control…like when the doorbell rings. You want to show that you can handle distractions and interruptions gracefully.

Here’s a good answer: Distractions and interruptions are a normal daily thing, some of which we can control and some of which we can’t. I exercise control over as many of them as I can by ensuring that my office door is closed while I’m at work. For the interruptions that I can’t control, I think transparency is the best course of action. I send a message to the appropriate person to let them know what’s happening and provide them with a timeline as to my return.

PRO TIP: This is a great place to segue into how they’d like you to handle distractions.

5. What do you do when there’s a technical problem that causes you to have to pause a project?

Just like interruptions are a normal part of life, so too are technical problems. An interviewer wants to know if you’re the type of person to let a technical problem interfere with everything you have going on or can you change courses and work on something else until the tech issue is fixed?

Here’s a good answer: It’s easy to get bogged down with technical issues and allow that to affect the entire day. That’s not who I am, though. I am the type of person who can easily handle multiple and concurrent projects. If there’s a tech issue that affects one, I’ll work on a different one until the tech issue has been resolved.

Equal Employment Opportunity rules still apply

There are still interviewers who will try to throw in questions that seem innocent enough but provide them with details about your life that are protected by EEO laws.

  1. How’s your health? The Americans with Disabilities Act doesn’t allow an employer to ask questions about pre-existing conditions. The CDC has put out a FAQ for businesses regarding how to handle COVID-19. Brush up on the rules here: General Business Frequently Asked Questions.
  2. How is home life during the pandemic? Be careful with this question as you are not required to talk about marital status or children. Stick to talking about your home office and how it’s set up. Watch your pronouns, too. Use “I/me” rather than “we/us.”

Remember, just because the processes and some of the questions are different, this is still an interview. If you apply the same preparedness rules to this interview as you did in the past, you should pass with flying colors.

Don’t forget to ASK THEM QUESTIONS!