The way we work has drastically changed, so job interview questions need to evolve with the times too. Here are some to consider.
Before 2021, asking a candidate about their vaccination status would’ve been rare (with the exception of those working in certain industries). Nowadays, it’s one of many commonly asked job interview questions.
But vaccine mandates only scrape the surface of changes that COVID-19 has made to the interview process.
As we explore some of the major ways that job interviews are changing, we’ve also rounded up some key interview questions, put forward by Ella Burke, HR & IR specialist and Founding Director of Employii, that HR professionals and managers can ask prospective employees in 2022.
While the questions asked will vary depending on the type of work, level of seniority and industry, they provide a useful starting point for organisations seeking to update their interview questions and tailor their recruitment to the new world of work.
With mental health issues and burnout remaining ever present concerns, and an increasing number of employees working from home, adding some new questions into your interview repertoire can help to identify the talent that will thrive in the new work environment.
Interview questions related to COVID-19
Over the past two years, many employees have navigated complex challenges while working from home. Although they’re rarely left to their own devices to sort out a problem, they’re inevitably working with less managerial oversight and may have urgent issues to resolve without a manager sitting by their side.
With this in mind, employers are increasingly asking job interview questions that shed light on a candidate’s resilience, adaptability, initiative, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, says Burke.
“If an employee is working from home and something happens, these are all skills that determine how the candidate might react.
“It’s no longer just about your leaders demonstrating these skills. Your team also has to be prepared for any sudden challenges that come their way. That can be a big shift for some industries that have employees on the ground who are used to taking direction. Nowadays everyone needs to have initiative and think critically to be able to solve problems.”
“Nowadays everyone needs to have initiative and think critically to be able to solve problems.” – Ella Burke, HR & IR specialist and Founding Director of Employii.
To assess these skills, employers can ask candidates how they handled a challenge that required an immediate decision when working remotely, says Burke.
HR could ask the candidate to describe how they assessed the situation by themselves, when and why they decided to seek help from a more experienced employee, and how they worked through the problem in a virtual context.
“The answers might just be around calling a manager or colleague and using technology to your advantage, but it’s still a different context to working in the same room together.”
Here are some sample interview questions:
- Give me an example of a time when you were working from home and an urgent problem arose. How did you handle the situation and take decisive action without your manager present?
- As a manager in a COVID-19 context, what are the three most important things you can do for your team? What do you expect from your team in return?
- Do you have any flexibility requirements/requests (e.g. being available for school pick-ups)?
- Tell me about a time where you’ve had to be agile in your work and decision making.
Skills-based interview questions
Questions about technical competency might also be on the rise.
“If it’s a role that requires the candidate to work from home, then being able to use technology is essential. I think we’ll see an increase in technology-related questions for roles that perhaps previously didn’t require strong technical aptitude because everyone was working in the same office.”
If an otherwise strong candidate doesn’t have the technological skills required for the role, this doesn’t mean you should write them off. You can use this information to craft the right kind of upskilling opportunity when they join your company, says Burke.
“Employers need to upskill their people so that if there’s a lockdown and restrictions, they can move their people into different roles.”
Offering upskilling opportunities will also help employers remain competitive in the midst of a skills shortage.
Asking questions about someone’s current skill set, or willingness to re-skill, can help you to identify how they’ll fit into the bigger picture.
“It’s not just about individual roles anymore,” says Burke. “If the candidate’s department goes quiet and another one is busy, what skills do they have, which the company might not necessarily associate with their role, that they could use in those challenging times to better the company?”
Here are some sample interview questions:
- What’s your level of technical digital competency?
- How have you managed IT glitches when working from home?
- Do you have any skills that don’t fall under this specific job description, but which could be called upon to support the team and company should your department go through a quiet period?
- What skills are you seeking to gain in this role?
Mental health questions on the rise?
As boundaries between work and personal life continue to blur and burnout rates increase, questions that prompt a candidate to consider how they delineate between work and home might crop up in interviews.
“Whether or not a question about mental health is asked in an interview really comes down to the individual company. Employers have to be careful with the questions they ask and what they can deliver on. If they’re setting expectations about wellbeing and stress management, and the candidate realises that isn’t genuine, the employer might have put their foot in their mouth.”
“They might ask what mental health means to the candidate, how they manage stress, or how they create boundaries.”
On the latter point, it’s worth asking candidates how they achieve boundaries on a regular basis, as well as during a lockdown when they might have additional pressures such as homeschooling or caring responsibilities, says Burke.
Here are some sample interview questions:
- What self-care strategies do you draw on to maintain wellbeing?
- How do you create and achieve boundaries between your work and personal commitments?
- How do you value the wellbeing of yourself and others? What does this mean to you?
- How do you manage workloads, work-life balance and personal commitments in the working from home context?
Candidates accruing more power
Remember that job interviews aren’t a one-way street.
While candidates have always had the opportunity to ask questions during an interview, it’s becoming more common as the balance of power has been shifting towards employees – both existing and prospective – amid the looming threat of the Great Resignation.
HR can help by equipping leaders to answer candidates’ questions, says Burke.
As HRM has previously reported, flexible working, opportunities for professional development and having a shared purpose are the top priorities on employees’ minds at the moment.
“Questions you’ll see from candidates nowadays will include questions about flexible working, and whether the company will contribute to their home internet and office set-up. All of these intricacies around working from home are now part of the conversation.”
Candidates are also more forthcoming about their salary expectations, says Burke.
“Given the talent shortage, many candidates are asking for exactly what they want. They’re also being more upfront in terms of the benefits they’re after as well.”
“Both these factors seem to have given people the confidence to ask for exactly what they want, test the waters, and ask for a little more than they would have previously,” says Burke.
Not only are candidates asking questions they may have previously stayed quiet about, they’re also requesting new things, such as meeting with their prospective team before accepting an offer.
“People value team culture and they don’t want to leave their job – even if it’s for more money – if they’re not going to get on with their [new] colleagues.”
An informal ‘meet the team’ event can be a great way for a candidate to see if a company’s messaging about team culture aligns with reality.
“A recruiter can easily tell you, ‘We have an amazing team culture; we promote collaboration; and we all work well together, but a candidate can tell whether they’re being honest the second they meet the team.
“If you’re a company that says you’re all about the team, show that to be the case.
“It also gives the candidate a say. Once they meet their team, they’ll be able to gauge more easily whether they’ll fit into the company. It gives people more control and means they feel like they’re not taking as big a risk in moving to a new company.”
There’s also benefit in doing this for your existing team, adds Burke, as it lets employees have a say in who they might be working with, and signals that you value their opinion.
Finally, most candidates know the ball is in their court, and they’re less likely to wait for weeks on end to hear back about a job offer.
“Employers don’t have time to mess about with negotiations because if they leave a candidate hanging, the applicant will get another job and [could] view your company negatively,” says Burke.
“Now, the expectation from candidates is that they’ll get a fairly instant response as to whether they’ve landed the job or not.”
Want to shake up your job interview questions in 2022? AHRI’s short course on Effective Interviewing and Selection Skills offers some great tips to get you started. Sign up for the next course on 23 March.