Top 6 COVID-19 Prompts to Ace Your Next Virtual Interview

Top 6 Covid-19 Prompts to Ace Your Interview Banner

Going digital is the new normal. This could be about moving in-person services to the virtual space or adjusting from on-location work to remote work. As the world is adapting to the pandemic by transitioning online, we must also adapt our skills and job search to this change as well. This includes having to do co-op placements or jobs at home on your computers and having to be interviewed for those positions virtually with answers that highlight your digital skills.

Below we have compiled some key interview questions with helpful answers to get you through the interview successfully. These are questions highly likely to appear at your next virtual interview. We’ve also included answers that highlight the way you are adjusting to the pandemic.

1. Have you ever worked remotely? If so, what changes were made to adapt to an at-home work environment?

As we continue to familiarize ourselves to our new remote work reality, employers may want to know how you may have adapted to the at-home work environment and how the transition occurred. Ultimately, we have all gained new soft and hard skills while working at home. Trying to navigate a rapid workplace change, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, continues to be a challenge for us all. This is your time to explain to your potential employers your adaptive and transitional skills, and your ability to work independently.  

If this is indeed a work-from-home role, the employer is attempting to understand your comfort and ability for taking on a fully remote role. This interview question gives the employer an understanding of your remote work skills. Nevertheless, there are a couple of ways to tackle this question. 

For those who have worked remotely in the past, this is an easy one for you! You could start off by briefing them of your past remote experience, the skills you have gained and what you have ultimately learned.

When thinking of setting up your workstation in an ergonomically correct manner, it would be beneficial to refer to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety guidelines. By following the proper ergonomic protocols, this will ultimately improve productivity and increase awareness, which is proven to lead to higher quality work while reducing the risk of Musculoskeletal Disorders. A few examples of Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) that you may perhaps be familiar with include carpal tunnel syndrome, tension neck syndrome, muscle/tendon strain and more. Although the cause of these disorders may differ, you can help prevent MSDs by using ergonomics when setting up your workstation. Check out question #3 for more details! 

In the instance that you have never worked remotely, don’t fret! If you have studied online, attended online courses, volunteered remotely or freelanced on your spare time, these are all important facts to mention. When studying remotely, you have met deadlines, collaborated in groups, and built strong communication skills. These are all vital remote work skills. This is especially important for those who do not have previous work experience, speaking about how you have transitioned along with the pandemic is key.

2. How do you communicate with your colleagues while working remotely?

Being able to communicate with others while at home is a huge part of making remote work successful. Having the experience and knowledge of integrating virtual meeting applications into your day-to-day duties is now not just a preferred skill, it is a required skill. If you are unable to communicate effectively with your teammates or co-workers, then how will they know what you’re working on? How will you get to know the people you’re working with?

Most interviews, if not all, are now held virtually through Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Skype, Zoom, Slack, and other virtual meeting apps. Unsurprisingly, these apps are also ways to communicate with co-workers when working online.

 With this interview, you already have that one experience of attending a virtual meeting. At least one experience of using a virtual meeting app makes a difference because you get to understand how to use the app with first-hand experience, which can make meetings run smoother and quicker. As previously mentioned, you do already have more than one experience using these apps for school and communicating with classmates.

One of the important points to make note of when responding to this question is to acknowledge the time differences between your co-workers. Not everyone is working in the same time-zone, and understanding this fact is just one step closer to having an inclusive remote work environment.

Want to learn a few more strategies and gain further knowledge about email etiquette, voice mail messages, and other ways to communicate in your workplace? Sign up for the one-on-one WCC workshop called “Communication for the Workplace”. For more information, head to uwaterloo.ca/wcc/workshops.

If you don’t already have experiences with the different virtual meeting apps, we’ve compiled a few how-to links to some of our favourite apps. Get familiar with all of them or just a particular one you know you’ll spend a lot of time on for your work.

Use the STAR format to talk about these experiences, describe any relatable issues and how you’ve found solutions, and explain a mode of communication that worked for you.

If you don’t know what the STAR format consists of, it is:STAR Format

  • Situation – Establish the scene. Give as much detail of your experience for the interviewers to understand the circumstances.
  • Task – Describe what your tasks and duties were in this experience.
  • Action – Describe your plan of operation and measures you took in order to deal with the situation.
  • Result – After thoroughly explaining the circumstances and how you handled the issues, talk about the resolution or the conclusion.

(Photo Source: https://zety.com/blog/star-method-interview)

This format gives you a clear step-by-step process of making yourself comprehensible in a way that will not leave out any crucial details. It also makes it easier for the interviewers to follow your explanation of your experiences.

3. How do you structure a productive workday when working remotely? 

Interviewers are interested in learning how you keep organized and prioritize your tasks while working remotely. They may also be interested in learning what tools you use, and how you have organized yourself to work productively for the workday. As mentioned previously, utilizing the STAR method to answer this question could be ideal. By explaining the event, task, action and presenting the result will allow the employer to visualize your productivity.

As Dr. Fladd discussed in her blogpost, it’s important to “get in the right mindset,” in order to have a productive day. In her article, she also places importance on self-care and as a method she recommends using Headspace or watching meditation videos on YouTube.

Productive Work Day Guide

4. What could be a hinderance to you when working remotely?

For this question, the employer is most likely trying to understand your work-at-home environment, and whether you can integrate into the team with quick thinking and fast problem-solving skills.

 Depending on your responsibilities, you will probably encounter different hinderances. The most prevalent one for working remotely can be establishing your workspace and connecting to your co-workers from afar.

We’ve previously mentioned how you can communicate with your colleagues using virtual meeting apps and other digital communications. Ideally, the meeting goes smoothly with no glitches. In the worst-case scenario, the app malfunctions. In these cases, it’s best to have sufficient experiences with these tools enough to handle technical issues. Having a back-up plan is also a plus. For example, moving towards a phone call meeting if your wi-fi is not working.  

When setting up a workable home office area, try choosing a place where you can have quiet time to think and do your work away from any distractions. It would be great to place yourself in an area with the best internet connection, but it is equally as important to find a place that makes you productive. An area that is loud, uncomfortable, and full of distractions will be a huge hinderance to your work progress. Of course, we know that not everyone has the perfect space in the home. Now that we have the summer weather with us, the outdoor space can also be your home office too.

Another thing to keep in mind is the level of transparency you disclose to your colleagues. Your personal home-life can distract you away from your work. Whether that be big or small distractions like taking care of your kids. Make sure you manage these matters unobtrusively to your work progress or, at least, notify your colleagues the best time you’re available by email, messaging apps or even in a virtual meeting.

These aren’t the only hinderances you can encounter. Sharing your personal experiences in the STAR format is best for responding to this question as it puts into perspective what happened and how you acted in real-life.

5. What do you do if you encounter a challenging issue while working remotely?

We all know that working remotely is not the same as working in the office or on-location with several colleagues. Though you probably have the same responsibilities as you would have in-person, there are cases for when not all your tasks can be fulfilled remotely.

For this question, it might be beneficial to bring up any past experiences using the STAR format. If you do not have remote work experience that encounters challenging issues, not to worry. As a student from the University of Waterloo during the pandemic, you’ve also got remote school experience! Talk about a challenging issue while you were taking a course online. Did you have issues with a project? Was it about technical issues for presenting online or how to prepare a virtual presentation? Did you use the Writing and Communication Centre (WCC) services to help you with your project? Did you successfully present an awesome presentation at your virtual class meet?

In these challenging circumstances, we recommend to first stay calm. No one will see you panicking without your webcam, but nothing will be done if you are distressed. Begin by reorganizing your priorities. List out your tasks by starting with the most important with the closest deadline to the least important with the farthest deadline. When you have listed out all your tasks, chances are the task that cannot be resolved remotely is not at the top of the priority list. Make your way through the list. Once you land on a task that is giving you trouble, do as much as you can, and then plan out how you will finish the task when restrictions are lifted. If you need help organizing and planning your time, check out Dr. Clare Bermingham’s blogpost on finding the “Write” balance.

If you need support for your virtual communication projects or papers, consult with one of the WCC’s writing and multimodal communications specialists by booking a one-on-one appointment on WCOnline

6. As things are slowly transitioning back into the workforce, how do you feel about coming to work in-person?

This is a question many interviewers may ask to understand what direction you are leaning towards. Ideally, workplace safety is on the minds of employers. By establishing guidelines and implementing protocols, employers are at the forefront of bringing employees back to work. Although some organizations may have embraced the work from home culture during the pandemic, many companies, businesses and organizations have fell short with their employees working from home.

You should ideally be prepared to discuss about transitioning back into the office. As an approach, you may follow up with asking questions about their return-to-office policy, protocols, and how covid was previously managed. It’s important to mention the value of working in-person and collaborating with team members. If it is a role where you must interact with customers, it would be clever to ask what guidelines or protocols are in place to protect the employee and consumer.

At the end of the day, it’s important to be honest and ask questions that may make you feel more comfortable. If there are tasks that make you uncomfortable, you can ask the employer if there are alternative methods. In the instance where you would still have the option to work remotely, you may discuss hybrid options that many organizations and institutions have adopted. The hybrid method includes both in-person and remote work, where employees will have the option to do both. Don’t forget to mention how you value in-person collaboration during your discussion of transitioning back into the workplace. Another important aspect you may ask is the opportunities for advancement while working remotely. Acknowledging the positives of our rapidly changing world can ultimately illuminate your responses and excite employers. More so, it’s important to have confidence in employers and their leadership style. Many organizations and companies have an updated COVID-19 information page on their website, it would be a good idea to read the details and write down any questions you may have prior to your interview.

Questions to ask Interviewers:

At the end of your interview, there will be some time for you to ask the interviewer questions about the company or further detail of the responsibilities of the position. If you need some suggestions on what to ask, we’ve compiled some interesting and important COVID-related questions that you should ask after your interview.

  • How do you feel your company responded to the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • How has COVID-19 affected this role?
  • If working remotely, will equipment be provided?
  • How do you ensure employees feel included at work?
  • What were the company’s biggest challenges when COVID-19 started?
  • Collaboration is key in the workplace, what methods have you implemented for safe communication and collaboration with team members

Concluding Statements

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the lives of everyone globally, it’s also important to recognize how we have gained valuable skills through these tough circumstances. By using positive language with an optimistic mindset in your interview, this will allow you to not only connect with the employer in a confident way but also reflects on your growth and development.

During the process of adapting to the circumstances, one of the positive gains from this is skill development growth. An article from Page Personnel showcased ten skills employees may have developed during the pandemic. The author discusses how employees “rapidly had to evolve” their skill set to keep up with the rest of the world. A few skills individuals have developed throughout the pandemic include effective remote communication, patience, tech savviness, adaptability and flexibility. Does this sound familiar to you? If so, go on ahead and look at Page Personnel’s article to see which of the skills you have gained.

The Career Hub website is also another place with excellent interview resources ranging from situational questions, case interviews, problem solving questions and classic questions. Be sure to familiarize yourself with these important questions as they may come up at your next interview.

Infographic links:

https://www.bostontec.com/benefits-of-ergonomics-in-the-workplace/

https://www.verywellmind.com/multitasking-2795003#:~:text=Multitasking%20seems%20like%20a%20great,by%20as%20much%20as%2040%25.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ilyapozin/2013/08/14/9-habits-of-productive-people/?sh=71dad95a2d3f

https://www.themuse.com/advice/take-it-from-someone-who-hates-productivity-hacksthe-pomodoro-technique-actually-works

https://www.calendar.com/blog/the-benefits-of-the-pomodoro-technique/

We would like to thank the Centre for Career Action for their help. For assistance with your resume, cover letters, mock interviews and more, please visit the Centre for Career Action website at https://uwaterloo.ca/career-action/.

We would also like to thank the Writing and Communication Centre for publishing this article. For assistance with ePortfolios, resume proofreading strategies and more, please visit the Writing and Communication Centre website at https://uwaterloo.ca/writing-and-communication-centre/.

 

 

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