Two Interview Questions to ask During a Pandemic

Ange Connor

Just like everything else at the moment, how we recruit has been impacted by COVID-19. If you are in business, you’ll know the buzz word is all about how you are pivoting your business to survive during these challenging times. We are all adapting pretty much everything we have done in the past to keep our businesses operating as effectively as possible. Recruiting might be the last thing on your mind at the moment, however we are seeing an increase in job vacancies here in Ballarat and our unemployment figures dropped in June 2020 compared to May 2020 – great news for Ballarat!

Recruiting great new team members for your business can be tough at the best of times let alone during a pandemic. We are finding lots has changed when it comes to a job seekers motivations and expectations.  It does depend on the type of position you are recruiting for and the level of the role; if it’s a role where there is a short supply of candidates with a particular skill set or if there is an abundance of candidates with skills matching the criteria you need.

As a result of the changes in job seekers motivations and expectations, if you do have the need to recruit during the pandemic, there are two key questions we recommend that you build into your interview questions to help you get the best outcome.

1. What are your expectations regarding performing this role from our workplace or working remotely?

Working remotely has become the new norm for many of us. For some of us we have loved this flexibility, for others we have struggled with the social isolation and much prefer to be working in an office surrounded by our colleagues. There is no right way or wrong way. Many employers that I talk to still see working remotely as a short term option and once this is all over they intend to return their workforce to working back in the workplace as per how they used to operate. Regardless of what you think about the whole working remotely situation, if you are recruiting, you need to pose this question. With roles we are recruiting for, we have seen increased inquiry from candidates who are not based in Ballarat and have no intention of relocating here. These candidates are expecting to perform the role entirely remotely; acknowledging they’d be prepared to come to a Ballarat workplace periodically for the odd meeting or for initial training.

The reason you need to ask this question during your recruitment process is to reduce or eliminate the issue of working remotely and to ensure you are on the same page as your potential new team member. It’s much easier to have the conversation at the interview stage and find a balance that works for both of you rather than getting to making an offer of employment or worse yet, once they have commenced and are one or two weeks into the job only to find you have different expectations.

The majority of us are still getting our heads around what working remotely on an ongoing basis looks like and means for our business, our culture and employee engagement. Before you dismiss a candidate who is only interested in working remotely it’s well worth considering the remote work options for the particular position you are recruiting for and chances are it will be different for each position in your business; it’s not necessarily a one size fits all.

2. How are you feeling about leaving your current role and losing any personal leave you have accrued?

This question is only relevant to those candidates that are still employed in another position. You might think this is a strange question to ask and losing your accrued personal leaves goes with the territory when you change jobs. What we are seeing in this climate is people are more risk-averse and we have seen an increase in candidates who are currently still employed in other jobs, withdrawing right at the final stages because of their leave accruals. It is the fear of the unknown. In their current role, they have accrued annual and personal leave. If we were to go back into lock down or the CoVID-19 situation was to escalate, they have leave up their sleeve to help them get through if they were to contract the virus. As you would know, if any of us experience any symptoms, we are to stay home, get a COVID-19 test and wait for the results. This time typically comes out of the employees personal leave unless they can continue to work remotely. And then, what happens if they do contract the virus and are off work for a period of time? Our leave accruals have suddenly become much more important to us and can be a deal breaker when it comes to changing jobs.

My advice is to have the conversation and understand the job seekers perspective. At least armed with that knowledge you might be able to negotiate or alleviate their concerns by sharing with them how your business is handling (or planning to handle) those kinds of situations. Again, you don’t want to get to making the job offer only to have the candidate withdraw.


The purpose of these two questions is really all about understanding your potential new employee and what their concerns and expectations are. I’d much rather know early on in the process how they are thinking and feeling so I can either help overcome the concerns or identify that it’s not going to be the right fit for either of us on this occasion. No one likes to go through a rigorous recruitment process only to have it go pear shaped at the final stages so by posing these questions early on hopefully you can navigate the best outcome.



Disclaimer: The material contained in this publication is of a general nature only. It is not, nor is intended to be, legal advice. If you wish to act based on the content of this publication, we recommend that you seek professional advice.

About The Author
Ange Connor

Ange is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource (HR) and careers agencies. Ange is an ‘ideas’ person and a ‘big picture’ thinker. She loves to challenge the status quo – in fact, that’s how Inspire HQ began.

Ange has supported hundreds of businesses across Ballarat and regional Victoria to attract, engage, motivate, develop and retain their greatest assets; their people. Ange’s unyielding passion and invaluable knowledge of the recruitment and HR industry ensures she delivers the best solutions for her clients.

Ange has held various board positions and regularly volunteers her time to share her industry and market knowledge. She was recently a Councillor for the Victoria and Tasmania region of the Recruitment Consulting and Staffing Association (RCSA) of Australia and New Zealand, and she is a current Board Director of the Committee for Ballarat.

For more useful information, follow Ange on LinkedIn.

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