An August estimate shows 11 million jobs need filled nationwide. As interviews continue, it’s wise to understand what questions can and cannot be asked along with being prepared for questions from candidates related to COVID protocols.

In our current and ever-changing COVID world, understanding and enforcing policy, mandate and regulation is tough. The reality of what can and cannot be asked during a job interview is murky. In some instances, states are creating regulations that contradict federal guidelines. As an employer, knowing what is inbounds today yet out of bounds tomorrow is hard to follow.

For example, even legal pundits have varying views about inquiring if someone has or has not been vaccinated. The bottom line is this: everyone has been impacted by COVID in one way or another. Be prepared for candidate’s questions about business policy. Likewise, candidates expect questions about COVID as they relate the job itself.

If a question feels out of bounds, don’t ask it. For example, some articles say candidates should be ready for pandemic-related interview questions such as “how did you spend your time during quarantine last year” or “what steps did you take to grow and improve during the pandemic?” More recent articles say these questions are completely inappropriate because they assume quarantine was time off for people to work on personal projects and development.

Use this question as a guideline to prepare, “What are the professional questions to keep a candidate feeling positive about the business and the job to help you learn if they fit your culture?” Remember you’re not just hiring for the here and now but for years to come.

Prepare yourself and the candidate

  • When scheduling the interview, communicate upfront how the interview will happen—in person, on the phone or virtually.
  • If it’s an in-person interview, communicate your mask policy along with any others when the interview is confirmed.
  • Communicate company COVID safety procedures in advance in case a candidate wants to or needs to step away due to conflicting beliefs.
  • Be sure to prepare the hiring manager and interview team so they know the questions that can be asked.

Safe questions to ask

Candidates sent a resume or completed an application prior to an interview. They’re being interviewed because their skills fit the job. The appropriate interview questions related to COVID will help the hiring team understand if the candidate fits your work culture short and long term. Here are suggestions:

  • What type of work environment helps you thrive and be productive?
  • If the position is remote or hybrid: Do you have experience with remote work? How do you feel about working from home? Would you be open to working in an office? Is there anything you might need to be better situated, if offered the position?
  • What is your experience using Skype, Whatsapp, Zoom, Microsoft Teams or other similar collaboration tools?
  • If the position is customer facing or in-person with a team: Are there additional safety measures you expect to be in place for customer and team interactions?
  • How would you connect with other staff and team members in this position? What would you expect of us to help you?
  • What things do you think are important to maintain a positive working relationship with colleagues? How do you nurture those relationships from a distance?
  • What are your career goals, and have they changed? If yes, why?
  • Are there ways we can help to improve the application/hiring process so far? What do you expect going forward?
  • Do you have any questions about our safety procedures and protocols?

Questions to expect

Good job candidates will be prepared to ask questions during the interview. Their preparedness and questions should give an indication if the candidate fits your business culture and team.

  • What are your current COVID protocols (if they haven’t been shared already)?
  • How do you communicate changes to protocols and staff health updates to employees?
  • What is sick leave policy for a new employee, in case of COVID?
  • If the job is in-person, what guidance do you have for team members to help employees manage or de-escalate customer disputes involving face masks and other safety rules? 
  • If a customer interaction turns dangerous, how would I be able get help?

During the conversation, listen carefully to ensure the candidate is a good fit not only based on experience and skills but also from a culture perspective short and long term. While there are many open jobs in the marketplace that need filled, having the right person in the right position serves a business well not just today but years from now.

George Lessmeister is CEO and founder of LGC Hospitality, a hospitality staffing firm that works with hotel and restaurant leadership. The company is headquartered in Indianapolis operating in over 30 cities across the country.

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