This post is courtesy of guest blogger, Kristi Czapiewski. It might surprise you to know that interviewing during a pandemic is not all that different than before. Yes, of course, the way you interview may not be the same and the process may be unusual for the employer, too, but the overall flow should seem familiar. Employers may have difficulty navigating this new process, adapting to new questions candidates ask or technology they are using; and they are challenged to offer an interview that bridges the gap that an in office interview allows for. So how do you navigate this new interview territory?

Do Your Homework

Researching a company before you interview, is more important than ever. Do additional research on the industry itself, especially if it’s new to you. Phone and video interviews may be shorter than in person interviews, there is often less small talk, so adding some additional company or industry questions may help build the rapport needed to reduce awkwardness and increase the conversational nature of the interview format. Having industry knowledge to share may also help keep the conversation going if there are awkward pauses.

Employers: Really be prepared for your candidate; spend extra time reviewing their resume well before the interview, research the companies they have worked for, engage in small talk to help put candidates at ease and show interest through thoughtful questions related to experience and skills.

Test the Technology

Make sure you test the technology before your interview, find out the tricks/features (backgrounds, lighting), use a noise canceling headset, check the placement of your camera, and confirm what’s in the view of the lens. If you have kids or pets, do what you can to reduce distractions, noise, and create a positive environment for you to participate in the interview in a manner that helps you feel confident, comfortable, and focused.

Employers: Try to accommodate the candidate’s best available time – considering that they may have children at home or other distractions. Be extra understanding that candidates may be new to interview technology or feel nervous to be on camera. Is there an opportunity to schedule a test session to help the candidate get comfortable with the technology before the interview? A challenge to prepare for – candidates that don’t have a smart phone or access to a computer or have a language barrier for which a phone interview may be more difficult.

What Do I Wear? What About My Hair?

Employers understand that your salon or barber hasn’t seen you in a while and this may cause you even greater stress about being in front of the camera. If it makes you feel more confident, adjust the lighting and use technology features to your advantage. Depending on the role, you likely don’t need to wear a suit, but you do still need to dress professional, no crazy hats or funny shirts for video interviews, unless explicitly directed to do so. Do your best to feel confident about how you present yourself and let your personality shine through.

Employers: Make sure your interview environment is appropriate (not from your bedroom), background is not distracting (bad lighting or wine bottles visible), and disruptions (dogs, kids) are minimized. Keep in mind you are getting an intimate look into the candidate’s home and it may not be reflective of their work performance. Talk through your concerns with HR.

New Questions

Covid-19 is altering how we view work and now you may want to ask targeted questions about company culture that you might not have previously felt comfortable asking. Below are some ideas for questions fitting for this time and beyond:

  • How has the organization been affected by the pandemic?
  • How did the organization respond to the shelter in place orders?
  • How do you think the organization will be different as a result?
  • What is the physical office environment like and what is the plan for returning to the office? Have any employees/departments continued to work in the office?
  • How has the Executive Leadership team or the department leaders handled the change in the workplace? Are they communicating differently?
  • What will my training plan look like? Have you trained others in this manner?

Employers: Be prepared to share or answer in-depth questions about company culture. The demand is for employers to be responsive to employee safety, childcare issues, and flexible work arrangements and this is especially tough for companies who did not embrace or were unable to support remote work. Be honest about your company’s current state and what the candidate can expect.

The interview process can be a stressful time for employers and candidates. When both the company and the candidate allow for additional compassion throughout the interview process, as well as take the extra steps to increase alignment of needs, it may improve the likelihood that both will be satisfied with the outcome. The employer and the candidate are each taking a chance on the other; even the best interviews don’t always result in the right fit. Do your best to wholly evaluate the company or the candidate, and remember that you both are making a decision in this process.

Bio: Kristi Czapiewski’s career in Human Resources has spanned over 20 years in a variety of industries such as technology, telecommunications, financial services, and manufacturing. Kristi has enjoyed leading the people operations for businesses large and small; managing the delicate integration of employee and company needs.

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