Interview Questions You Should Ask About COVID-19

Asking questions of everyone you encounter during the hiring process can help you evaluate a future employer’s response to COVID-19. In turn, that can help you determine if management truly has your personal safety, job security and financial interests in mind.

To help you gain important insights as you interview, here is a list of suggested questions to ask managers related to COVID-19

Questions to Ask HR

HR is responsible for protecting employees during the pandemic, setting policies and legal compliance, and keeping workers engaged, enthused and productive.

“What safety procedures have you put in place?”

Your first priority is to ensure that a prospective employer is following guidelines from OSHA and the CDC to prevent the spread of COVID-19, especially if you will be working on-site, noted Thea Kelley, a job search and interview coach based in San Francisco. 

Research has found that you will get more information by listening than talking. If the interviewer doesn’t address key elements of an effective safety plan or widely adopted best practices, drill down by asking pertinent follow up questions such as:

  • “What methods are you using to screen employees and visitors for possible signs of COVID-19 and how often are you screening?”
  • “How do you deal with an employee who appears to have symptoms at work?”
  • “How do you decide if an employee who has been out sick is safe to return?”

Also, don’t just focus on the words the interviewer says, Kelley warned: “Listen carefully to the tone of their response and read between the lines to know whether a potential employer has your back.” 

“What happens if I get COVID-19 or need to be quarantined?”

As a new employee, its important to know whether you will be immediately eligible for the emergency paid sick leave if you develop COVID-19 symptoms (or need to care for a family member with COVID-19).

“Have you laid off employees due to the pandemic? If so, how did you help them transition to new jobs?”

Supporting a company’s most valuable resource—its people—after a layoff is a major responsibility, stated Chi-Chi Egbo, who provides job search assistance to new graduates and alumni as manager of career services for Juno College of Technology. The way displaced workers are treated also says a lot about a company’s culture and what it values.

For example, in addition to severance pay and any benefits extension, conscientious employers continue to show concern and provide outplacement services, tools and resources to help laid-off employees find new jobs. 

Questions to Ask Tech Hiring Managers

Tech leaders are responsible for shifting and redefining priorities, pivoting the strategy, and ensuring that their team and company survive the crisis. Also, the best companies ensure that the strategy is followed throughout the organization, so listen for consistency in the stories you hear from line managers and HR.

“How has your business plan changed in response to COVID-19?”

You need to know if a company is financially stable and whether they have a strategy to drive sales and manage budgets in a way that prioritizes job security for employees before you accept an offer.  

“You want to get a feel for how money is being spent,” Egbo said.

For instance, are they planning to invest more in R&D? Or are they trying to generate more revenue from current customers? It’s a red flag if a company is continuing in the same way when customer behavior is changing. 

If you’re comfortable with the manager’s response, this is the perfect opportunity to transition into a discussion about tech’s role in supporting the business plan and how you can help.

“Will I have the option to work remotely? And if so, how will working remotely affect my career and future opportunities?”

You want to get a sense for how your manager actually feels about working from home and whether continuing to work remotely, even if you’re uncomfortable returning, could impact your career. 

For instance, one of Kelley’s clients told her that he believed he had kept his job because he was available to work onsite after his office reopened, while a permanently remote colleague was laid off. The bottom line is that you should be concerned if a potential boss is less than enthusiastic about the idea, or can’t assure you that your career won’t suffer (or you won’t be overlooked for plum assignments).

“How are you supporting your (newly) remote workers?”

Tech managers should have a formal plan to support the mental health and well-being of their remote workers so they don’t burn out. How will they help you connect during onboarding, as well as build relationships with your colleagues?What is their plan for fostering team collaboration? Will they cover some of your costs if you need new equipment or to sign up for certain services?

A manager you want to work for will recognize the impact of COVID-19 on organizational culture and have a strategy to help employees adjust and thrive as they chart a new course.