As the unemployment rate hovers around 13 percent amid the COVID-19 pandemic, companies have a larger candidate pool to sift through than in recent history. In order to find the most qualified candidates, Human Resources teams may need to consider refreshing their typical interview questions.
Go beyond the standard “strengths and weaknesses” questions to inquire about how a candidate used his or her time during shelter-in-place restrictions. While being sensitive to those who were impacted by COVID-19, these questions can serve as a litmus test to display a candidate’s work ethic, dedication, and skill set.
Here are six questions every hiring manager should ask:
1. What was your routine during the stay-at-home mandate?
This question can help uncover the discipline of a candidate. Did they get up at the same time each day? How did they spend the time they formerly spent commuting? If they were working and had fewer meetings, how did they structure their workday? This question uncovers the intentionality of a candidate while discussing how they chose to structure their time when given the chance.
A strong response to this question may include a set time to wake up/go to sleep, regular physical activity or self-care, and intentionality behind how they chose to spend their time. The ways in which a candidate takes ownership of their schedule and capitalizes on the times of day they are most productive can serve as an indicator of how they would manage their workload if given the role.
2. If you worked from home during COVID-19, how did you use your time?
Working from home may have allowed a candidate extra free time in their day during what would have been their commute. How did they use it? While working from home, many professionals also have been able to manage their own time. Did they structure their day a certain way? How did they hold themselves accountable?
A strong response to this question would make note of how they used the time that was once their commute. They may have taken an online course, researched a new topic, picked up a hobby, or worked on a passion project.
3. If you were employed during COVID-19, what did you do differently to add more value to your organization?
Many businesses were hit hard financially, and employees needed to go above and beyond to help drive revenue. Inquiring about additional responsibilities they may have taken on or creative ways they approached new tasks will show their dedication and flexibility.
A strong response to this question may include actions the employee took to become more efficient, added responsibilities they took on, or creative ideas they had to improve the company.
4. How did you improve yourself during quarantine?
With additional free time in their day, many candidates may have chosen to learn new skills, pick up a new hobby, or found ways to give back to their community. Did they spend time learning more about their industry, improving their sales pitch, or educating themselves on the economic situation?
This reveals a candidate’s initiative and willingness to learn and will separate them from the pack. This question also can provide added insight into the candidate’s transferable skills, passions, and personality.
A strong response to this question may include taking a course, learning a new language, specific self-care actions and reflections, or ways they gave back to their community.
5. If you were unemployed or furloughed, how did you use the time you were not working?
While many quality candidates may be out of work due to no fault of their own, encourage candidates to speak to the gap in their resume. The ways in which they gained new skills or gave back to their community may show a more well-rounded image of their work ethic and may be relevant experience to the role.
A strong response to this question may include freelance projects they worked on, a set schedule for applying for jobs or networking, taking a course, or gaining a certification.
6. Did you take advantage of free resources that were abundant during this time period or learn a new skill? Did you take classes, network virtually, or pick up a new hobby?
This question shows a candidate’s resourcefulness and how willing they are to put in extra work that others may not. While filtering through an influx of applicants, this question allows top talent to stand out.
A strong response to this question may include specific courses taken, books read, or topics researched. Discuss how frequently these resources were used and incorporated into a regular schedule.
Sirmara Campbell is Chief Human Resources Officer at LaSalle Network, a national staffing, recruiting and culture firm.