Seven topical questions to ask your interviewer post-lockdown
Choosing which employer you want to work for, and whether or not you want to accept a role, has always been a crucial decision that’s potentially life-changing. It’s a personal choice that’s rooted in both your values and aspirations for the future.
However, it’s likely that during the coronavirus lockdown, you’ve been afforded more time to reflect on your career trajectory and contemplate if it’s really headed in a direction that’s right for you. It might be that the ongoing challenges have led to a change in your attitude towards work, and what you want to get out of it.
For example, you might have found yourself to be more interested in working for a business that really delivers on its organisational purpose. Or maybe you have realised the importance of being adaptable and agile, and are therefore keen to work for an organisation that will provide you with upskilling opportunities in the new era of work.
What vital questions should you be asking a prospective employer when interviewing after the COVID-19 lockdown?
So, given what you want to get out of your professional life may have shifted over the past couple of months, should the questions you ask your interviewer during your upcoming interview also change? I think so.
Of course, certain questions will be perpetually important, for instance:
- “Is this a new role? If not, how has it evolved?”
- “What does a typical day in the role look like?”
- “Can you tell me more about the team?”
- “What constitutes success for the team and the role?”
However, it’s also worth considering weaving in some different, potentially more topical questions that will help you be absolutely sure you’re making the best possible decision to set you up for career success in the next era of work. For example:
1. “What were some of the key lessons you took from the Covid-19 crisis, both from a business and a leadership point of view?”
No organisation on the planet will be left unchanged from the coronavirus pandemic, forcing many to reconfigure long-standing processes, find new ways of working, seek out new markets or even develop new products or services, all in record time. Mistakes will have inevitably been made along the way, but it’s how organisations and their leaders learn from those lessons, and crucially, take what they’ve learnt into the future that matters the most.
2. “What are your organisation’s strategic priorities, and how has Covid-19 caused these to change? How do you envision this role helping to achieve them?”
As alluded to, business models are quickly pivoting to adapt to the new world, galvanising entire workforces in order to ensure strategic objectives are met. As a potential new employee – someone who is likely now looking for more meaning in their role – it’s important for you to understand what the organisation’s new strategic priorities are, but also how this role will contribute to achieving them. It’s also important for you to feel reassured that the organisation is adapting and innovating to secure a strong position in the next era of work.
3. “How does your organisation really deliver on its purpose? How will this role help achieve this?”
As our CEO, Alistair Cox, notes in his blog, “The Covid-19 crisis has changed people for good. It has forced us to re-evaluate what really matters to us, and what really matters to the world. It has forced us to question if we are spending our time on this planet in the best way possible, recognising that we are just visitors.” It’s likely, therefore, that you’re feeling more inclined than ever to work for an organisation you feel your personal values are aligned to.
4. “How are you planning to provide lifelong learning support to your employees to ensure they are able to work in an agile way going forward?”
The pandemic has awoken us all to the fact that everything can change in an instant. Therefore we must do everything we can to ensure that we are as adaptable and agile as possible – meaning upskilling and professional development may have climbed up our priority list over the past couple of months. It’s crucial that you feel confident you are joining an organisation that genuinely supports its employees in upskilling, giving them the autonomy to guide their own personalised learning in a way that works for them.
5. “What kind of support are you providing to those working remotely or from home?”
Post-pandemic, remote working will no longer be seen as a perk, as explained by Cox, “I fully expect to see a permanent shift to more remote working where that is physically possible – giving your people the freedom to work from wherever they want to.” However, this is relatively new territory for many organisations, so it’s important to understand what support you will be provided with, whether that be in the form of equipment, training or wellbeing programmes.
6. “What is your management style when leading hybrid teams? Do you have any examples of best practice?”
Agile management practices involving teams working in different locations and to different schedules present new territory for many managers, and will bring a different set of challenges, so it could be a good idea to understand how they plan to (or are already) leading their hybrid teams, and if they’ve learnt any lessons from the extended period of remote leadership they’ve likely encountered over the past few months.
7. “How do you go about maintaining your organisational culture when adhering to hybrid working practices?”
The culture of an organisation is its personality – it can take years to build and requires input from all employees to bring it alive and, importantly, keep it alive – in the good and the bad times. However, a new hybrid way of working – where some employees are in the office and some are working remotely – brings a whole new set of challenges when it comes to maintaining and building on an organisation’s culture. It’s important, therefore, to understand what steps the organisation is taking in this respect, whether that be via regular catch ups or ensuring all communication lines are open and inclusive, for example.
How asking questions can help you build a rapport during a remote job interview
Building rapport with an interviewer is something that many candidates struggle with, both during face-to-face interviews and remote job interviews. But asking questions can really help you to ensure the interview feels like a conversation and not an interrogation, and that the experience is an enjoyable one for both parties. Here are a few ways asking questions can help you build rapport during your remote job interview:
- Asking tailored and considered questions: Of course, key to building rapport is ensuring the questions you ask your interviewer are highly relevant – to the current situation, to the organisation, to the role and to the interviewer. Asking the right questions will ensure you’re perceived as a genuinely interested, competent candidate. Important, too, is the need to actively listen to your interviewer throughout the interview – this will help ensure that you don’t ask a question on a topic that’s already been covered.
- Following up your answer with a question: You could even consider asking follow-up questions to the interviewer, after you’ve answered their initial question, or simply ending with a clarifying question such as “I hope I’ve answered your question?” This will help maintain momentum and keep the conversation flowing, and reiterate to the interviewer that you’re keen to ensure you’ve answered their questions fully.
- Thanking the interviewer for their response: When thanking the interviewer for their response, instead of merely saying “thank you”, it’s a good idea to perhaps pull out a couple of elements of their answer and reiterate that in your response. For example, “Thank you for that, the point you made around really empowering your people to take account for their own learning and development really resonates with me.”
- Taking your time: Importantly, once the interviewer has answered your question, take a pause to ensure they’ve completely finished what they’re saying before thanking them for their answer or asking a follow up question. This will ensure you don’t speak over them (accounting for any time lags, particularly when interviewing remotely), whilst demonstrating to them that you have actively listened to their answer.
Remember, as has always been the case, your upcoming remote job interview is just as much about you analysing whether this is the right role and organisation for you, as it is about the interviewer deciding whether you are the best candidate. So, use this as an opportunity to ask the most relevant, considered and topical questions you can, to ensure you’re making the right career decision to set you up for success in the new era of work.