Here's how to answer these pandemic questions.

Thanks to everything that has happened in 2020 our lives have changed dramatically. From visiting relatives to simple trips to the grocery store, the COVID-19 pandemic has made its mark on just about every aspect of our daily lives. 

And work is no exception. For many, the new normal is working from home full-time, while others are heading back into the office after a brief hiatus and under uncertain circumstances

Meanwhile, many professionals have been laid off while others have struggled to find work in a competitive job market. This has led the hiring game in 2020 to be a lot different than it was before COVID-19. 

Today's applicants need to be prepared to answer questions they've never dreamed of before, but are of crucial importance to today's interviewing process. Here are seven questions you should be prepared to hear — and what you should consider before you answer. 

Interview questions in the time of COVID-19

Companies who are hiring simply can't ignore the pandemic and how it affects work life. That means they need to ask some questions during interviews to get a feel for where each candidate stands.

There are many ways you could answer each of these questions, but the one absolute truth for any of them is this: Be honest. If you tell the interviewer what they want to hear, you're setting both you and the employer up for failure. Be honest, but focus on the positive; staying upbeat during a pandemic can set you apart from the crowd in a big way — especially when it comes to these interview questions:

Are you comfortable working in an office environment right now?

This is a big one. While some businesses are embracing the remote work model and discovering that it is not hurting productivity while lowering overhead costs, that doesn't work for every business. Some are beginning to bring workers back into the office or at least plan to do so in the near future. Are you okay with that?

If you are, you could start by explaining that you understand the benefits of working on-site, such as ease of collaboration and improved accountability. Did you work on-site before the pandemic? If so, talk about what you miss about that kind of work environment. 

If you are not comfortable, you can ask for a remote alternative. Just make sure to do your research beforehand to figure out the feasibility of the ask, as well as demonstrate how you will stay productive when working from home.   

Are you open to being tested for COVID at the job?

Some employers are testing their employees on a regular basis. While it may not be fun, it is a smart move for everyone involved. 

Let the interviewer know that you understand the need for it and that you appreciate that the employer cares enough to spend the resources necessary to take such precautions. You'll come across as informed, aware of those around you, and as a person who easily expresses gratitude — who doesn't like that?

Do you have a fear of face-to-face customer service?

If face-to-face customer service is a part of the job, you don't have much choice here — but that doesn't mean you can't express concern. 

Ask what precautions are in place to protect both the workers and the customers. If you've been to an in-store customer in recent months, mention precautions that you saw being implemented and why you liked them. Be thoughtful and honest. 

Are you open to travel when it is safe?

Travel can be one of the great perks of a new job. In a pandemic, though, it can be stressful — especially as the CDC still advises people to stay home

Ask the interviewer how they will determine “when it's safe” and what precautions they will assist you with during your travels, such as single-occupancy rooms or providing hand sanitizer and masks for the trip. 

Are you willing to travel internationally for projects if required?

Same as above, except you'll want to ask if destinations will be limited according to pandemic status. Express your desire to see the world, but with an intelligent amount of caution. 

Do you feel comfortable working in a healthcare environment 40 hours a week, knowing that you could possibly be exposed to COVID-19?

This is an opportunity to show your passion. If you are applying to work in a healthcare environment, your chances of exposure are very high compared to most other occupations. 

But there's a reason why you chose that field; you want to help others and that help is needed. Explain that you understand the risks, as long as the proper precautions are observed. 

What is your biggest concern returning to work with COVID-19 restrictions?

This open-ended question could catch you off guard, but it's a good one. While one person may be concerned about catching the virus and infecting family members another may be more concerned about finding child care and other help. 

It's okay to be a little light-hearted here as long as you follow it up with a thoughtful answer. Express your concerns and give the interviewer an opportunity to say how the company can mitigate that concern. 

Or, even better, tell the interviewer how your concerns are eased by what you have learned about the company's precautions during the interview so far. 

Be prepared and be honest

In any interview nowadays, you need to be prepared to answer questions about work and life in a pandemic; it's unavoidable. While employers are establishing their policies and processes to keep things moving forward, they need to find employees who are willing to work in the environment they create. 

Your success — and the success of the company you choose to work for — depends on you answering these questions sincerely. There is nothing to be gained by faking your way into a job that is going to make you uncomfortable or even afraid. 

While we all hope that the pandemic will slow down and clear out, we're left to deal with this new normal. So, be prepared to talk about it in your interviews and come to some solid conclusions for yourself so you know where you stand. 

The right answers and the right attitude could win you the job you've been dreaming of — even in uncertain times. 

Worried about how to answer these and other pandemic-related questions? Our interview coaches are here to help you through these unique situations.

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