Pandemic Interview Questions
Updated: May 5, 2021
The Career Center builds upon advice from Career Contessa on interview questions you could expect during the pandemic. Taken from her original article “10 Pandemic Interview Questions and How to Answer Them”, this post also includes additional advice from the Career Center for prospective students and recent graduates. Included are example interviewing questions and response strategies as well as questions you can ask employers.
So, how are you holding up during quarantine?
(Career Contessa) We're not telling anybody how to do their job, but this should be every interviewer's first question. Be upfront and forthcoming. Even more important. ping pong this question back to the interviewer. Take the time to connect with them on a deeper level.
There is no shame in admitting struggle, difficulty, and—to be frank—fear. However, when speaking about the struggle piece of it, be sure to highlight how you're adapting, the steps you're taking to navigate this tough time. Think of the power of your personal resilience—and highlight that.
(Lehigh Career Center) This question is gauging your mental health but it is also an empathic question designed to break the ice. It's your call on how open and forthcoming you want to be, but we encourage you to be real about the highs and lows. Be sure to include both, Although the lows are likely more numerous, have there been any advantages to virtual school and life in quarantine? Share the feelings that came with those frustrations and where you derived hope for the future.
Have you worked remotely? How much of an adjustment was working from home for you?
(Career Contessa) Most people are navigating working from home for the first time. Feel free to be forthcoming in this answer. For added color, you might explain how the switch was challenging at first—along with changes you made to make your work from home situation work for your, your career, and your home life. Perhaps you set up a dedicated workspace to separate "work" life from "home" life, created 1:1s with your managers and coworkers to combat loneliness, or changed up your working hours to take advantage of your most productive hours. Be creative with your answer.
(Lehigh Career Center) Of course you may approach this question by sharing details about a virtual internship or remote project, but you can also adapt this question to talking about how you are completing courses and academic work from home. Think about how you adapted to communicate and learn in a virtual environment and lessons you learned along the way from your student perspective.
Did COVID-19 change how you foresee your career?
(Career Contessa) COVID-19 changed so much. Explain to the interviewer how you navigated this time. If you endured a layoff from an industry that was particularly affected, explain how that factored into choosing the job for which you are interviewing.
(Lehigh Career Center) Some industries and job types were affected far more than others. If your career path changed due to COVID-19, share about how you evaluated the situation and made new decisions. Perhaps this was a loss of internships, hands on experience or study abroad plans. Where did you gather data about hiring trends or industries of growth? What positions fell off your radar and what new ones did you consider based on opportunities?
How did COVID-19 affect your job search?
(Career Contessa) Be honest. Here's the thing about COVID-19. It has changed how everyone is looking for a job—and it has changed how employers look for their employees—both in the functionality of the interview and in the skills they're looking to harness. The hiring manager is probably just as worried as you when it comes to their own career. By answering this question honestly, a recruiter or hiring manager is gaining perspective into what the job search looks like for candidates.
(Lehigh Career Center) It's likely you completed more job applications, focused interview prep around digital tools, delayed or extended the timeline for applications, or chose to identify work options that offered remote positions. There are lots of ways the pandemic may have impacted your job search, this question is a good opportunity to show how you were strategic and can provide evidence of how you adapted to a challenge. You can also reference some of the advice shared by the Career Center on the COVID-19 tile on the Handshake resource page.
Where do you see the future of your career in these times?
(Career Contessa) Is "I have no idea?" an acceptable answer? I mean, maybe. Try to steer clear from throwing your hands up in defeat when asked a question like this. Instead, explain how your particular industry has been affected, what you've learned about how it's going to look in "the new normal" and how you plan to adapt to that.
(Lehigh Career Center) This is a tricky question because a lot of the future is out of your hands, so focus on the things you can control. Do you want to stay remote or are you looking forward to the option to return to in person work? Do you hope to add travel into your responsibilities or do you want to take advantage of the many ways you can now virtually connect with teams from anywhere? Do you find yourself drawn to more independent style work that can be done solo or do you want to find ways to work within a team based setting? These are just a few of the constructs you can share about what post-pandemic work would be ideal for you. You don’t have to be specific with job titles, companies or locations - instead share some of the more broad descriptions of what the setting, work and environment you would prefer. It also may be helpful to use networking on Lehigh Connects to ask this same question to Lehigh alumni working in your field of interest. What insight can they provide on the future of their work that might be helpful for you to consider?
When working remotely, how do you manage your day?
(Career Contessa) Many organizations are hiring remotely for their first time. They are onboarding remotely for their first time. They are building new teams–for the first time—on an entirely remote basis. As a result, many of these COVID-19 interview questions are actually helping them to navigate forward. Tell the interviewer your best hacks for managing your day, what you've learned about yourself over the past few months, and how you've been able to—or how you plan to—persevere while working from home.
(Lehigh Career Center) We suggest sharing they technology that helps you manage your schedule. Are you using a google calendar, app or scheduler? It might be helpful to outline the things that take your time - classwork, internships, research, projects, athletics, jobs, volunteering, clubs and organizations, etc. Self care is also important so you can include the things you build into your schedule that help you destress, exercise or recharge.
What are your preferred methods of communication when collaborating remotely?
(Career Contessa) We are huge fans of communication preferences. This pandemic has worked favorably from some—and unfavorably for others. While some folks yearn for daily human connection, other more introverted employees prefer communication to be concise and infrequent. Do you like to Slack all day? Do you prefer Zoom meetings to phone calls? Will you answer emails after a certain time? We created this communication preferences worksheet to help you outline (and communicate!) your preferences when it comes to digital communication.
(Lehigh Career Center) We love this question, because chances are especially high that as a new professional you are going to have questions, be involved in training, or work closely with others as you learn the ropes of a new position. It will be important that you find effective ways to communicate with your co-workers and supervisors. Think about what has worked for you in the past to communicate with classmates and faculty members and build on that success. Or perhaps its time for you to be more intentional with your communication efforts and plans. Try to avoid answering in generic statements by including in a story that demonstrates how you effectively communicated with others.
What lessons, if any, have you learned during the pandemic?
(Career Contessa) Gosh, we have all learned so much about ourselves, our organizations, our families, our culture, and the world. Feel free to be honest here. If you learned that you are a resilient worker, let the interviewer know. If you learned that you work best in the ungodly hours of the morning, let the interviewer know. If you learned that the pandemic has informed how important your work is within your industry, talk about it.
(Lehigh Career Center) With more than a year of time during the pandemic behind you, its time to be reflective. Consider what lessons you learned during this time, especially as they relate to what you now know about yourself. Are you itching to get more personal contact with others or have you adapted well to a remote work environment? What new skills did you find relevant or helpful? What has been the biggest challenge you faced? It might be helpful to consider what you accomplished in the last year or ways you adapted.
How do you feel about an eventual return to work?
(Career Contessa) Be honest. If you are worried about your health, for your family, and—oh I don't know—for the entire world, be honest. Instead of saying "I don't feel comfortable returning," focus on a more positive narrative. For example, if you are uncomfortable with the idea of returning to a traditional office, explain how you have utilized your strengths to work productively at home.
(Lehigh Career Center) In some cases you may be applying to remote work that can remain remote even after a return to “normal” work. But in most cases, a return to on site work will occur. Consider how comfortable you would be with that. Also, while remote work allows you to apply to positions near and far from you, make sure you aren’t committing to a job 1,000 miles from home that plans to have you in the office in a few months.
Have you learned any new skills in the past few months?
(Career Contessa) Okay, we feel some type of way about this interview question. On one hand, we are all about continuing your education throughout your entire career. On the other hand, navigating a pandemic is a stressful and uncharted territory. So, here's what we think. If you haven't learned any skills, no sweat. Focus instead on the new WFH skills you acquired, your productivity hacks, books you've read, or what you've learned about your own resiliency through this. It all feeds into who you are and how you process.
(Lehigh Career Center) There is no doubt that remote learning has also allowed you to grow new skills. When you share these details be sure to give examples using specific stories. Tie your skills to classwork, remote projects, micro-internships, campus involvement, independent work, and many other experiences that taught you something valuable over the past 6-12 months. If you need to focus on new skill building explore the LinkedIn learning options and other self-paced learning courses online like EdX, udemy or coursera.
PANDEMIC INTERVIEW QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD BE ASKING
(Career Contessa) Use these COVID-19-specific questions to gauge how seriously your organization is taking the pandemic, how employees have been treated through it, and how they are planning on forging forward once the workforce can "safely" return to work.
What measures has the company taken to ensure that all employees are safe?
What tools or methods of communication have you been using to collaborate remotely?
Have you onboarded any completely remote hires?
What does that process look like at [COMPANY]?
What are the company's top priorities in the next few months?
What are the biggest challenges for [COMPANY] right now in regard to COVID-19?
How has leadership adjusted to working from home?
(Lehigh Career Center) Employer research will help you build questions to ask. Review their website, social media or any articles recently written (google them!) about the organization to see if they have issued COVID-19 updates or information. You can also learn a lot about their company culture and values from the information found online.
Do you have any firm or tentative dates you plan to return to working on site?
What equipment or technology is provided to remote workers?
How is success measured during remote work?
What professional development opportunities are available while working remotely?
Is travel an expectation now or in the future for this position?
Are working hours flexible during remote work?
How does the company support team building or social activities while working remotely?