How to answer pandemic-related interview questions
Whatever word you use to describe the last 27 months, I believe we can all agree it’s been messy. Jobs, families, travel, friends, well-being – everything has been affected and no single human has been immune (from its affects, that is). The pandemic has wreaked havoc on our careers as well – lay-offs, job elimination, furloughs, illness – you name it. The last time I saw gaps like these in resumes was during the great recession in 2008-2011. So, how do you answer the gap question during an interview? How do you mention work schedules and your need to be remote? Let’s talk through some of these here……
1. Talking about the gap in employment
If you made a personal decision to bench yourself during the pandemic madness, then be honest. Hopefully you took time to do some personal projects, remodel your home, take a couple of masterclasses to sharpen your skills, learned two new foreign languages – something that shows initiative while you were out. Talk about these pursuits. If you were homebound with a compromised family member or were caring for an ailing parent, then say so. But also talk about how the situation is resolved and how you are now available for work without distraction.
2. Talking about job-hopping
A lot of professionals spent the past couple of years just making sure they had a job—not really thinking strategically about the journey, but rather just paying the bills. This is understandable. If you have had some short-term jobs and are feeling that this is impacting your ability to get back on track, then be transparent. Don’t wait for the question to surface – address the elephant in the room. “I’m sure you noticed a bunch of job hopping the past two years; I’d like to address this and commit to you that this is not the real me – that was the pandemic me who needed to keep working, whatever that meant. Now that we’re hopefully through the worst of it, I’m excited to recommit to my career and professional journey.”
3. Talking about work schedules
This subject is polarizing employers and employees more than any other right now. This moment, you as the employee have a slight advantage when it comes to dictating your work schedule – onsite, remote, hybrid. However, we’re headed into a recession (again) and the balance will shift. I still believe that there are a lot of positions that can be done remotely, as well or better than in the office. However, company leaders like seeing their teams occasionally. Building relationships with your coworkers happens more fluidly in person. Be open about your personal workstyle and your family commitments so that you can find common ground with potential employers. Here is the wrong answer: “I’m only considering 100% remote positions, period.” Try this instead: “I’m looking forward to meeting the team and working as closely as possible with everyone, however, my personal situation today requires me to work remotely as much as possible. I hope we can find a good cadence that works for everyone.”
4. Talking about being underemployed
Talking about why you took a manager job after being a director for a number of years is delicate. Much of this may follow the job-hopping justification, or maybe you needed a position with less responsibility while your kids weren’t in school. Whatever the reason, you should emphasize that the decision was “seasonal” and that you are looking forward to re-engaging in a stimulating position that will leverage your strengths and allow you to make a bigger contribution to a forward-thinking company. How’s that for a good answer?😊
5. Talking about salary
Yep! This is the one that trips everyone up – regardless of the situation. Hopefully you’ve done your research and know what the salary range in your local market is for someone with your skills/experience. If not – that’s a good place to start. Now, salaries burst late last year about 20% across the board regardless of roles, level or function. Let’s call this a job market correction. They have calmed this year, due to rising inflation and stock market volatility. Being open about your salary requirements is important. This should be a one sentence response. “I’m comfortable with anything north of $_______, plus bonus and benefits. Is that in line with your budget for the role?” This level of authenticity will earn you respect with the hiring manager AND will set a positive tone for future salary negotiations. Just DO IT!
Here’s to hoping that the pandemic messiness is coming to a close and that both companies and their teams can find common ground in order to keep commerce and innovation moving forward. It takes people like you to solve problems and make the economy healthy. For more thoughts on how to answer tough interview questions, visit us here!