New Kind of Interview Questions in the New Normal

As more and more hiring avenues open up amidst the new normal, we find a change in mechanisms related to interviewing, onboarding and company culture. We have talked about onboarding, or more precisely about onboarding yourself in an earlier article. We have also talked about skills in demand for remote-workers. And now, we shall take a look at the new kind of interview questions one might need to start preparing for in the light of the post-pandemic world of work.

The interactions around the office space have changed, and there have been some new additions to the commonly asked interview questions. So, let us take a look at the kind of interview questions one might have to answer as the new normal brings in a need for new set of skills.

Let us see some questions, what the interviewers want to know through those questions and what you can do to use them to your advantage.

The chief themes of the questions will revolve around remote working, and the ability to self-direct.

Some questions will revolve around your experience of working remotely. Questions like:

  • Have you ever worked remotely? How did you adapt to the work from home challenge?
  • Which aspects of remote working did you enjoy and which ones were challenging?

The employers/interviewers would ask such questions to gauge your adaptability, your self-discipline, how you have set up your work from home environment, and in what ways would you manage hybrid workspaces. The obvious key is to make it clear through your answers that you can be productive from home, and show that you are comfortable enough in using remote-working technologies.

The nature of the interview has changed, and thus aside from a well-groomed demeanour, how you have set up your current meeting, your comfort with your equipment, care about the connectivity and a distraction-free environment will be the core things to be careful about, and they will be an answer in themselves.

Some questions will revolve around your communications skills. Questions like:

  • How would you communicate with your manager and co-workers in a remote setting?
  • How would you ensure that our teams collaborate safely with each other and clients?

These seemingly simple questions might be asked to gauge how you report and hold accountability. Moreover, organisations would also be looking for safety in the office space as well. Your answers should revolve, in addition to reporting and accountability, around specific examples of how you got things done with your team members, clients in your previous job when things were uncertain and members were absent.

Think of specific examples when you kept the client engaged through the uncertain situation, or at least how you plan/intend to do so.

Some questions will revolve around in what ways you took advantage of the situation.

The underlying theme is ‘how did you deal with a difficult situation?’

They would want to know in what ways did you take advantage of the various online resources. Moreover, they would also want to know if you took the time out to reassess your career and if there were any significant insights you had. Be prepared with answers about the various webinars, certification courses you might have attended, how you used your networking skills and if there are any new hard or soft skills you developed.

Expect questions about the extent of one’s comfort with a ‘return’ to the office and travel; keep your answers as well as potential alternatives and solutions in mind.

Finally, as a candidate, there are some questions you could ask to arrive at the right decision. Questions surrounding:

  • What technology will be used for the main tasks.
  • How communication will be carried out among employees, like details about online meeting invitations and scheduling, and who will be in-charge of those.
  • What tools and resources would the company provide to employees in case of remote-working.
  • Safety requirements and provisions made.
  • Return to office time-table and the extent of its flexibility.

Explaining the Pandemic Gap in Your Resume

In our earlier articles, we have charted out ways of hunting for a job during the pandemic, or onboarding yourself when you have been hired and there are limitations with the said process. Realistically speaking, many of us also had to leave our jobs. Many of us might still be on a look out! Worries might be creeping in about explaining the gap in our resume. Circumstances hit us and we had to remain unemployed and maybe we still are.

The unfair situation might be daunting. One might find wondering things like:

  • How can I explain the employment gap in my resume?
  • What to do if this gap keeps getting longer?
  • How do I make sure they know the gap doesn’t overshadow my skillset and competence?

Addressing these questions, let us delve into what one can do about explaining the gap year in the resume.

Be Honest about the gap:

The number one tip is to be honest about it. It might be tempting to cover it up or say something else about the gap. That is a not a good idea.

A lot of people have been affected by the pandemic when it comes to employment, and everyone knows it. Potential employers, hiring managers will understand your situation and it is best the gap caused as a result of the pandemic is made known.

One can add a little note or a small section in the resume letting the readers know the time period of the gap and that the pandemic was the reason of the gap. One can also add a similar line in the cover-letter. 

This brings us to the next point.

Highlighting the Brighter things:

The revelation has been made but how does one make sure that the gap doesn’t simply end up defining the resume?

The key is to making sure your skills, capabilities and certifications are up to date. If you took up some kind of online L&D while being indoors, add it! If you imparted your own L&D in some way, add it! If you attended any webinars, online workshops, training programs, add, add, add!

If the situation didn’t allow you to engage in much L&D then and you can do it now, go ahead and start, and add what you have started, mentioning the ongoing status.

If still your situation doesn’t let you have access to online L&D, make sure your skills and prior experience section are up to date and that you aren’t missing out on anything. You can still update bits about the soft-skills. Note that while additional L&D while staying stuck inside would be a bonus, it is still fine if you were not able to do any of that. Again, remember that potential employers will understand. But wait, we aren’t done yet!

Contacts and References:

Now is the time to use your references well. Talk to your mentors and seniors and ask them if they would be fine to be listed as your references. Potential employers will understand the gap in your resume and they might get in touch with your references. In the absence of recent work experience, a sense of how you are as a learner, how you approach and handle responsibilities will be a good anchor for the potential employers, which they can get from your references.

Make sure you tell the people listed in your references about job-seeking efforts and what you have been up to lately and how you have handled your situation. Keeping this bit about what you have done lately and how you have been handling the job-seeking is also a good thing to bring up during the interview.

And finally, even if you haven’t landed an interview yet, hang on and know that a ton of people all over the world are in the same boat. Keep up the fighting spirit and use the challenging situation to learn, adapt, and persevere more. Remember to keep developing yourself under pressure in whatever way possible, remember to be antifragile!

Be Prepared For A TRICKY Interview

When you attend the interview, the situation is quite tricky. Undoubtedly, you are at the receiving end because you are looking for a job. However, the employer is also not in a very good condition. He is also looking for a good resource that the company can rely upon.

Once the interviewer finds you amongst the top talents suitable for the post, he or she doesn’t want to lose the opportunity of hiring. If the attempt goes unsuccessful, then the company will have to undergo the whole process once more.

With the surge in hiring becomes a challenge, on boarding process becomes difficult day by day. Business owners and HR managers are forced to offer more than monetary compensation when they want to acquire top talent.

Here is the point when HR experts are sitting in the panel come into action. They use their expertise and put so many compelling reasons on the table that you get impressed with it.

Why do HR managers try to impress you when they find you suitable?

There are two things. First is, they find you the most suitable person for the vacancy. Hence, they want to take you onboard anyhow. Secondly, they know that for the top-talent like you, they are supposed to ‘sell’ the vacancy.  When you want to sell something, obviously you should underline the product qualities.

Since here the product is the company itself, HR manager and others try to convince you about why you should consider the job offer and organization.

Moreover, top talents are already well-paid in their current job. Hence, remuneration is not the most attracting factor for them. Hence, HR managers need to use their selling skills in convincing that the new company has several superior aspects.

Here are some compelling reasons that HR managers give

  • Our company has revolutionized the market by offering XYZ service or product. Not only it is unique, but it is far more superior to others as well.
  • Our company exists for XYZ years. It is valued by customers and employees a lot. In fact, it is the best employer in the niche.
  • Our culture is the best in the class. We are flexible and give utmost preference to work-life balance. We believe in environmental and social accountability. We have educational reimbursement program. We spend heftily on training and development of our team.
  • Additional facilities are the best in our company. We provide gymnasium, entertainment, sports facilities, club membership, subsidized (or free) lunch, etc.
  • We offer onsite daycare (it is a quite attractive reason for women).
  • When you join our company, we offer fixed and variable income. Sometimes, the variable income goes higher than the fixed salary.
  • Our company has won a new contract (or acquired another company), or it has been recognized as ‘the most promising company’.
  • We offer a lucrative career path. Our succession planning is incomparable.
  • We value your opinion or voice. We encourage openness. We have 360 Degrees valuation process and continuous appraisals.
  • We have matrix organization where the reporting structure is flexible.

Reputation of the company becomes an issue sometimes

When you are a top talent, you don’t accept the interview call if the company doesn’t withstand your expectations. You heard about the organization culture a lot and you know how badly they treated their employees during the last recession.

However, you decide to go for the interview because there is a massive follow-up by the recruitment agency. Do you think the HR manager is not aware of all these aspects?  Of course, he knows everything. It is the reason he tries to draw a rosy picture during the interview.

Information travels faster than the speed of light in the modern world of social media. Smart people read reviews and opinions about the company before going for the interview. Hence, it becomes inevitable for the HR managers to defend the same.

What should you do?

Gentle prodding is the normal thing that HR manager should do while pursuing you to join the organization. However, it should not get converted into pressurizing you. Remember, there is a delicate line between the two.

If you feel that they are pointing out the good things about the company and highlighting the benefits of accepting the opportunity, then you should listen to your inner conscious about joining or not joining.

When you feel that you are being pushed hard and you are still on the fence, do not get pressurized. If you need some more time to think about it, then tell it explicitly.

Of course, you have come for the interview because you are interested in the job profile. However, let you decide about it and not the HR manager who is sitting on the other side of the table!