The interview is changing.

Months after the onset of the pandemic, job seekers are starting to get used to the “new job-search normal.” But what exactly is different now? What are recruiters looking for during the process? What new questions will they be asking in the interview? 

In a recent survey conducted by our sister site TopResume, recruiters admitted caring less about employment gaps and more about cover letters and thank-you notes than before the COVID-19 crisis. They also revealed new, pandemic-inspired interview questions that they have started asking job seekers. 

“Undeniably, COVID-19 has thrown a wrench into the hiring process for both job seekers and recruiters alike, which our data confirms by uncovering what's newly important in one's candidacy,” said Amanda Augustine, a certified professional career coach (CPCC), certified professional resume writer (CPRW), and TopResume's resident career expert.

So what do you need to know for your next interview? 

New interview questions

Before you log on for your next virtual interview, you need to be aware of the pandemic-related interview questions you may be asked. From inquiries about working from home to your mental health, here's what to prepare for. 

Working from home 

Now that our homes have turned into our personal offices, many recruiters are eager to know how your work from home setup is going. Are you feeling motivated? Is your space distraction-free? Have you felt connected to your team while working from home? How have you stayed connected through all of this? 

Be prepared to answer these types of questions, highlighting how you've managed to stay productive and adapted to what was a rapid change in work-life balance. If you need more guidance, our article, “How to Answer Interview Questions About Working From Home,” can help. 

Mental health 

Understandably, the past several months have been hard for a number of reasons. Our mental health has taken a hit due to isolating away from our loved ones, the fear of getting sick, and other areas of lives being upended. And recruiters realize that, which is why they have started asking more mental health interview questions to gauge where professionals' headspaces are. 

Examples of questions you could be asked include: “How are you coping with the current situation?” and “How are you handling your work-life balance?” The key? To be honest. 

To learn more about what mental health questions you may be asked and how to answer them, read our latest article, “How to Answer Mental Health Interview Questions.” 

Returning to in-person work 

Right now, being outside and around people puts you at risk of contracting COVID-19. Even with safety protocols, there is still a chance you can get sick. And with companies tentatively opening back up, many jobs might start requiring you to come into the workplace. 

Depending on the job, interviewers have started asking questions like, “Are you comfortable working in an office environment right now?” or “Are you willing to travel internationally for projects if required?” 

Make sure you're prepared to answer these questions as you continue your job search. Not sure where to start? Our article, “7 Job Interview Questions You May Be Asked in the Time of COVID-19,” has the information you need. 

New skills 

The survey found that many recruiters are asking more skills-based questions; those hiring want to know that candidates have continued to grow and pick up new skills — even during COVID-19. From adapting to the virtual work environment to adding online certifications to your resume or learning new in-demand skills online, recruiters want to know how you've been improving yourself. 

That means you can expect a good number of skills-based questions at your next interview. Luckily, you've probably picked up many new skills while adjusting to a virtual world; learning how to better communicate online, setting up Zoom meetings, and leading online workshops are all examples you can use. 

If you get stuck, use our article, “6 Skills Interview Questions Recruiters Are Asking Candidates Since COVID-19,” to help guide you.  

Should you take a pay cut? 

Depending on where you are in the interview process, recruiters might also ask whether or not you would be able to take a pay cut to work remotely. While this may seem out of the blue, with the pandemic contributing to a struggling economy, many companies might not have the same budgets as before. 

While this question might not be asked during your first interview, you should still be prepared for the possibility. This is also a good question to think about in general as you continue your job search. 

For more information, check out our article, “Should You Take a Pay Cut To Work Remotely?

Post-interview thank-you notes 

In the survey, when recruiters were presented with the statement, “A candidate's thank-you email/note (or lack thereof) takes on greater importance when evaluating a candidate," an overwhelming majority (68 percent) agree that the interview thank-you has become more significant. One-fifth (20 percent) are neutral on the topic, and a mere 12 percent disagree.

This means that you can't forget to send a post-interview thank you note. Make sure you're sending out your thank-you email within 24 hours of your interview, summarizing why you are excited about the job and reminding the interviewer of anything else you might have spoken about that is relevant. Just finished your second-round interview? Send a follow-up note again.  

On employment gaps 

When recruiters were asked, “Do you now view candidates being unemployed and/or having an employment gap lasting more than three months as a red flag?” Eighty-seven percent were unfazed by inconsistent work history, while only 13 percent said there's still a stigma attached to unemployment or a lengthy employment gap. 

Considering the pandemic led to many professionals being laid off or fired (or having to quit for a multitude of reasons), it makes sense that employment gaps are going to take a back seat. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't be prepared to talk about your gap during your next interview. Recruiters may still ask for clarifications regarding your gap, so make sure you're ready to address it

As the pandemic continues to change how we work and live, make sure you stay on top of the latest recruiter interviewing practices with an expert coach. We at TopInterview know what recruiters and hiring managers are looking for in the interview; let us help you impress and land your next job. 

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