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How to Answer Interview Questions about Your Furlough, Remote Work and the Pandemic

by THEA kelley | August 13, 2020

You may be used to answering the old interview questions about why you left your job or where you see yourself in five years, but in 2020 you need to answer interview questions about topics like your furlough, working remotely, and COVID-19 safety. How should you answer?

Plan and practice answers to questions like these:

“How are you doing these days?” or “What does your shelter-in-place life look like?”

Although questions like this may seem a bit intrusive, accept them as expressions of kindly concern and give an upbeat answer, like “I’m doing fine. How about you?” Resist any temptation to talk about how difficult it is to job search when your children are at home, and so on.

“Are you on furlough? What will you do when your company calls you back?”

If you have been furloughed, you are still an employee, and prospective employers can find that out via a simple background check. So although interviewers may be concerned that you’ll quit when your original company is ready to bring you back, you do need to be honest about your status. Be ready to express your enthusiasm for the job you’re interviewing for, and your commitment to staying even if offered your old job back.

“What’s your experience with working remotely?” or “What’s your home office setup?”

If you have any such experience, even long ago or temporarily, mention it. Give examples of how you effectively managed your time, communicated with co-workers and your manager, and consistently met or exceeded goals.

If you have some or all of the necessary hardware, software and furniture, say so. You don’t have to be completely set up, but demonstrate a confident attitude about working these details out if hired.

Do a little research about who typically pays for what remote office equipment, which will vary from state to state. Be careful about getting into these details too early in the process, since these points may be negotiable and you’ll be in a much better position to negotiate once they’ve extended a written job offer.

“In the office, what would you personally do to help keep the workplace safe?”

Demonstrate an understanding of safe social distancing, as well as a wholehearted willingness to follow the company’s guidelines.

“What would you do if you saw a co-worker standing too close without a mask?”

You can turn the question back to the interviewer, with a pleasant smile: “That’s a good question. Can you tell me your company’s policy about situations like that? What would I be expected to do?”

“Have you used Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, Slack, Zoom?”

Tools like these can be tried out for free, and tutorials are available. I recommend brushing up on these skills ahead of your interviews.

“What questions do you have for us?”

In addition to the usual great questions to ask in interviews, you can also ask questions about COVID-19 safety and job security, as well as about remote work procedures such as how often the team would meet, whether you would ever meet in person or have opportunities to socialize with the team, what IT support would be provided, and how the needs and opportunities of remote and co-located (non-remote) team members would be balanced and integrated.

Now that you know how to answer some typical pandemic-year interview questions, you may want to think about another growing area in interviews: interview questions about diversity and inclusion.

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