How to Get it Right – Hiring Amid a Global Pandemic

woman preparing for virtual hiring

If the global pandemic hasn’t changed your approach to interviewing and hiring, now is the time to switch things up. Many companies are laying off and furloughing employees which presents you with an unprecedented chance to acquire exceptional talent.  

“Throughout history, economic hardships have created windows in which exceptional employees and leaders are widely available for a limited time,” Claudio Fernández-Aráoz wrote in the Harvard Business Review.  

The talent pool unexpectedly multiplied. As a result, hiring managers must scrutinize their interviewees now more than ever. Not every candidate will be the right fit. To make sure you are hiring the best of the best, you must think about interview questions and answers through a different lens 

Add the three questions below to your scorecard. You may already be familiar with these subjects; however, right now you need to listen for a different type of answer. To be a better interviewer and find the right hire, you need to consider the types of answers a strong candidate will provide.  

Read the questions, but more importantly, review the types of responses you should be looking for. 

Three Critical Areas of a Pandemic Interview  

  1. Current Motivation – Determine why now?  
  2. Crisis Management Skills – Evaluate problem-solving skills and mindset. 
  3. Authentic Interest and Preparation – Evaluate sincere interest and engagement.  

Q: What is driving you to explore new opportunities right now?  

Why this is important: For seasoned interviewers, this question is part of their traditional repertoireHowever, understanding what is driving the job seeker’s interest in exploring new opportunities amid this global crisis is important. Many top performers are deciding to stay put due to the stability they have with their current employer. Some worry about being the “last one in, first one out.” Additionally, they value the loyalty their current employer has had for them during the coronavirusSo why do they want to or are willing to leave now? 

As the hiring manager, you must listen for specific reasons why an employee would leave the security of their current job.  

Response that needs improvementMy company furloughed half of the staff and now I have way too much work to do. I cannot get anything done because my team is gone. The leadership is too demanding and I can’t work in these conditions. 

Why this doesn’t work: The hiring manager must listen for the blame game. If a candidate whines about retaining their job or does not display critical thinking skills, they most likely aren’t the right fit for you. Avoid candidates that shaway from responsibility, especially during times of crisis.  

Good response: The coronavirus devastated my industry (a candidate may say this if they work in hospitality, travel, tourism, etc.). Leadership was forced to lay off a massive percentage of employees. Unfortunately, my job no longer provides the stability I need from my career. 

Why this worksThe candidate noted that they are in a struggling industry that won’t turn around quickly, and the candidate is one of many that was/or will be let go.  

Q: How has the coronavirus impacted your current organization? How did you respond?  

Why this is important: This is a play on a question that you might typically ask. Listen to your candidate’s mindset. Did they look at this global crisis as an opportunity to excel or a chance to hide? The pandemic gave every employee at every organization the chance to demonstrate value. Your candidate needs to tell a story about their active response to the pandemic.  

Response that needs workThe leadership team did not communicate a plan forward. That’s why I want out of my current job. There is no vision for the future. 

Why this doesn’t work: Hiring managers need to listen for talent that decided to meet challenges head-on. If a candidate passes the blame to someone else, they do not value accountability. If a candidate has a concrete example of their attempt to overcome a coronavirus challenge, they show resiliency. 

Good response: Advertising revenue took a swift hit. I decided to target a different type of advertiser and brought in three new accounts. I’m also maintaining relationships with the advertisers that had to cut their budget so when things turn around, they can come back to the business. 

Why this works: The responder demonstrated their ability to problem solve. They told how they responded to the crisis with specific actions.  

Q: What questions do you have for me?  

Why this is important: This is almost always part of an interview. Thanks to the coronavirus, your candidate should have new types of inquiries. The potential employee needs to think about what your business will look like in a recession. The candidate should be forward-thinking and considering how they can support your organizational goals. 

Response that needs work: “No, you’ve been really thorough.”  

Why this doesn’t work: This candidate shows no curiosity about your organization or expectations for the role.  

Good responses 

  1. What is the biggest challenge your organization faces as a result of the coronavirus? How does your organization plan to respond?  
  2. What do you expect this hire to accomplish within the first 90 days on the job?  
  3. How will your organization bring employees back to the office when the shelter in place orders relax 

Why these work: Questions show an engaged candidate who is looking to better understand your business and their role within it 

If you haven’t altered your interview questions since the pandemic, you’re missing the boat. Hiring at any moment is a delicate operation. To find the right talent to drive growth within your organization, you must listen for a new type of answer.

How have you changed interviewing in response to the coronavirus? What has proven effective for your company?