Author: Darren Sacks

Interviewing tips for the new COVID-normal

It’s an inescapable fact that majority of conversations that you’ll have with another person for the foreseeable future will most likely, at some point, at least touch on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. People tend to speak about topical issues, and job interviews are no different. Hiring managers may ask COVID-related questions so it is important to anticipate interview scenarios and prepare responses.

These are examples of some questions you may find yourself answering in an interview:

Are you set up to work from home?

Asking for too much personal information can sometimes create legal complications for businesses, so recruiters and hiring managers will most likely not pry too much into your day-to-day life. However, a company that plans to hire someone soon will probably need to onboard them even though they’re located at home. You should expect questions about your ability to work from home and the resources you have available to do the job.

You can mention that you have a dedicated workspace, reliable internet, good phone reception, and a balanced lifestyle.

What have you learned about yourself during the pandemic?

There is the standard ‘tell me about yourself’ question, but nowadays recruiters and hiring managers may alter it or follow it up with another question to find out what you learned about yourself during the pandemic. It could be one way for an interviewer to assess your emotional intelligence and assess your natural response when faced with a crisis or a stressful situation.

A positive response is the order of the day, it is an opportunity to demonstrate how you have become adaptable, flexible, open to change, and that you can thrive in any circumstances. You could demonstrate your proactive time management skills by talking about how you have done volunteer work, additional study, or you’ve updated things like the policies and procedures manual you have been meaning to get to for years.

Are you willing to work from an office when the pandemic is over?

Over the last week there have been encouraging signs the worst of the pandemic has passed in Australia. The Prime Minister has declared that they will be gradually easing restrictions to allow people to go back to work.

Alexander Kumar, a British medical doctor once said: “Living in Antarctica is hard; coming home is harder”.  Reintroduction back into mainstream office work can be psychologically tricky. “At a reunion, I found it difficult to connect to my friends, colleagues and relatives.”

Many people are working from home during the pandemic, but what happens once the Government relaxes the restrictions and allows people to work at an office again. At some point in the not-too-distant future many people will head back to an office. You should be clear in your mind as to whether you are prepared to transition into an office when it’s safe to do so.

If you’re unwilling to work from an office, we suggest that you look for positions that are clearly advertised as “remote”. Otherwise, flexibility and adaptability are once again the key.

Do you have any interview questions for which you would like Quality People to help you to frame a response? Comments welcome.

Homeschooling while Working from Home

Lately I’ve been seeing a frenzy of posts on social media along the lines of “I have a new appreciation for school teachers!” or “Is it ok for homeschool teachers to drink on the job?”. One thing we can agree on is that working parents who are suddenly homeschool teachers for the first time are experiencing the type of challenges we aren’t fully prepared for.

Our world has been altered by COVID19. Just a few weeks ago we had a perfect system. The office. The cup of tea. The kids at school. The routine. Now is the time to demonstrate how adaptable we can be.

I’m here to tell you that it is possible to do your job with the kids home from school. Here are some tips and tricks to get make the most of the next few weeks:

  1. Allow yourself an adjustment period. Remember that this is a new routine for you, your boss, your kids, and their regular school teachers. Try be patient with yourselves as you collectively embrace the new normal
  2. Constant communication is vital to keep the kids informed of your expectations of them, and your do-not-disturb work hours. Don’t forget that you’re still their parents despite your new teacher role, and you still need to feed them and attend to their emotional needs. At the end of the working day it’s a good idea for you to put your phone down, shut the laptop and reconnect as a family
  3. Kids usually thrive on routines. In conjunction with their regular school teachers, create a schedule for them so they know what’s coming up that day. Allow flexibility in that schedule to cater for the unexpected
  4. Prioritise your work. It has never been more crucial to attend to your most critical tasks. Understand that you’ll be more distracted at certain times of day so the more important tasks should be done when you’re distraction-free. Sometimes that distraction-free time might be at night so it’s essential to manage the expectations of your boss and your clients
  5. Allow time not only for guiding the kids through their learning tasks, but also for unanticipated shifts in priorities. Sometimes deadlines get brought forward, and that tends to happen at the same time as the dog gets sick, or the entire container of rice falls on the floor. Not to mention the wifi playing up and you have run out of tissues… These are the times to breathe, hug your child, get some fresh air and do the best you can. Some days will be hard, but some days will feel easier
  6. Give your child the tools they require to occupy their time while they wait for you to get off the phone. Leave a box of activities and healthy snacks in easy reach for them
  7. Take good care of yourself by getting enough exercise, eating healthy, meditating, staying hydrated, and getting enough sleep
  8. Remember the reasons you are doing this. You are lucky to have a family and you’re lucky to have a job. The good far outweighs the bad, the rewards are worth it! Hang in there!

How to conduct virtual job interviews

For those employers who have never done video interviews, it requires a shift in mindset. Candidates may be new at it too so you can relax them by letting them know that you’re on the journey together.

Ensure that the platform (eg Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams) is operating efficiently, a meeting request has been sent and accepted by the candidate. Ensure you log on and arrive for the interview first.

One tip is to be more candid than you might normally be. Virtual recruiting can be clumsy and awkward. A laptop might be sitting at an unflattering angle, the internet connection could lag and distractions can emerge from off screen on both ends. 

It’s advisable to set aside some time at the beginning to iron out any wrinkles. The normal ice-breaking time at the start of an interview can happen on top of this. If you normally set aside half an hour for a face-to-face interview, set aside forty five minutes for a virtual one. Take the time to ask, ‘Can you hear me? Can you see me? I understand that this might be a new experience for you, I want to assure you this is all new to me too.’ It is okay to guide them, make sure they are not disadvantaged by sitting a little too far away from the camera. If there is a lag in the connection it’s ok to let them know. You won’t be able to make a good assessment if there is a lag or you can’t have good eye contact.

In case technology fails is a really good idea to have a backup plan (like each other’s mobile numbers).

It is important to be frank about the environment candidates are joining. In times like this, you can’t afford to invest in new people only to have them jump ship during the middle of a global crisis.

If you’re hiring someone who will join your business without a face-to-face induction, you will need someone who can pick things up quickly. Focus on competency-based questions around their learning ability. This is important, especially if this outbreak drags on for months.

It may also be a good idea to assess the level of support the candidate expects before they even begin. You may consider asking candidates about their current or former employer’s response to coronavirus and how they think it has impacted the culture.

It can be hard to assess cultural fit via a computer screen, especially when you are used to looking for nuances in face-to-face interactions. More than previously, it may be prudent to ask candidates about interactions with other staff, their preferred management style, and their external interests. Get them talking.

At Quality People we’re here to help, be it with technical issues, screening questions, or emotional guidance in these troubled times. Feel free to reach out to any of our consultants at any time.

Working from Home

Who else is now working from home? Is it new for you?

These are a few tips for getting through the day:

1. Set up a space so you can feel comfortable, good chair, right height table or desk, good lighting and fresh air (if possible)

2. Always get up and be ready for the day have a set work start and finish time, try align these times with your regular work hours so that your colleagues, clients and customers aren’t greatly affected by your flexi-hours

3. Make sure you know how to use the workplace video conferencing, be it Skype, zoom etc

4. In light of 3 & 4 brush your hair & have a shirt on for the video! Not only will feel professional, that you’re at work, but your colleagues will get the sense that you aren’t slacking off

5. If your kids are at home with you, all of this could be a little tricky. Depending on their age they’ll need varying levels of supervision. You’re a parent despite your work commitments. Try set them up with activities that require less of your time. Take regular breaks from work to check up on them and prepare snacks for them. It’s important to stay patient with them, it may be a new routine for them too! If your kids are struggling with the “social distancing” thing, try explaining it to them by using the example from “Frozen” when Elsa had to stay away from Anna to keep her safe

6. Don’t have the TV or music on unless you normally would if you were working in the office

7. Say good morning via text or Team app to your team every day and check in on everyone regularly. Human contact is vital for your sanity!

8. Have a to do list for the day so you know what you need to achieve

9. Have regular breaks, have a coffee/ tea & stand up and walk around. Ensure you spend 15-30 minutes outside for a breath of fresh air during your lunch break! (Yes make sure you have a lunch break)

10. If you are struggling please seek help there are many resources available, it may be talking to a line manager a colleague.