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SEVEN QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR INTERVIEWER, POST-COVID

Chris Dottie Managing Director, Hays Spain

The decision you make when choosing which employer to work for, and which role to accept, has always been an important one – life changing in fact. It’s an intently personal thing, rooted in your values and hopes and dreams for the future.

However, it’s likely that during the lockdown period, you’ve been afforded more time to think and ruminate on your career trajectory, and contemplate, if, on reflection, it’s really headed in a direction that’s right for you. As a result, perhaps your attitude towards work, and what you want to get out of that work has changed.

Perhaps, for instance, you’ve found yourself more interested in working for a business that really lives its purpose. Or maybe your eyes have been opened to the need to be adaptable and agile, thus are keen to work for an organisation that will support your ongoing upskilling and personal development in the next era of work.

What questions should you ask your interviewer when interviewing in a post-COVID world?

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, the 15 questions outlined in this blog are still 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 make the best possible decision to set you up for career success in the next era of work. For example:

1. “What were your key learns 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 the strategic priorities of the organisation, and have these changed due to the crisis? How does this role support in achieving them?”

As alluded to, business models are quickly pivoting to adapt to the new world, galvanising entire workforces in order to ensure they are met and exceeded. As a potential new employee – someone who is likely now looking for more meaning in their role – it’s important for you to understand, a. what the organisation’s new strategic priorities are, but also, b. 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 live its organisational purpose? How does this role help deliver on it?”

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.” So, it’s likely 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/how do you plan to support the lifelong learning of your employees to ensure they are able to work in an adaptable and agile way in the future?”

During the pandemic, we have all been awoken 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. Therefore, 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 support could I expect to receive when 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.” But, 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? Are there any best practices or rituals that you live by?”

As my colleague Nick Deligiannis explains, post-pandemic, “Variations in employee circumstances, preferences or requirements within the same workforce could lead to the rise of hybrid teams, which are teams in which some members work in the one co-located workplace while others work remotely. So, each day at your workplace could look very different, with part of your team coming into the office on some days, and others staying at home.” This is new territory for many managers, and will bring new 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 ensure the organisational culture is maintained when working in a hybrid way?”

The culture of an organisation is its personality – it can take years to build and requires input from all employees in order 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. So, it’s important to understand what steps the organisation is taking in this respect, whether that be, as our Group Head of People & Culture, Sandra Henke, explains, via regular catch ups or ensuring all communication lines are open and inclusive, for example.

Why asking questions is important in helping you build rapport, remotely

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 highly relevant, considered questions: Of course, key to building rapport is ensuring the questions the 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. For more advice on active listening, read our blog from Organisational Psychologist, Dr Maggi Evans.
  • Asking follow-up questions: 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 to your question: 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.”
  • Take a pause: 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 next era of work.

AUTHOR

Christopher joined Hays in 1996, he started at Hays as a consultant before assuming his current role. He previously worked for the group in the UK and Portugal, opening the Lisbon, Barcelona and Valencia offices before assuming his Managing Director’s role. Christopher studied in L’école Superieure des sciences commerciales d’Angers and also in Ashridge Bussiness School, an Executive development course. Two years ago he completed a business program at the International Institute for Management Development. Hays has been operating in Spain since 2001, and currently has offices in Madrid, Cataluña, Levante, País Vasco and Andalucía, all of them managed by Chris.

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