Over the past two years, companies and employees have had to adapt to new ways of working, ranging from shifting how they serve customers, to where employees work. But now, things are changing again. Many companies are planning to welcome employees back to the office, at least part of the time.
When the pandemic hit and many knowledge workers went home to work, organizations still needed to hire new employees and shifted to remote recruiting and onboarding. Now, says Eric Sydell, executive vice president at Modern Hire, things are changing again. And companies need to be sure they have the right talent to navigate that shift.
“I think a lot of companies [before the pandemic] were pretty stable in what they were looking for. And then, moving into the pandemic, obviously, things changed,” Sydell says. “We saw other types of competencies and questions become more emphasized—things that have to do with how much work ethic you have; how conscientious you are; how comfortable you are working independently.”
Some of that will remain, but companies have new concerns and priorities, as many bring employees back to the office, and become hybrid workplaces. Here are some of the topics and questions experts say prospective hires should be prepared to answer in 2022 and beyond:
As employees head back to the office, nearly two-thirds of employers are mandating vaccines, according to staffing and recruitment firm Manpower Group. So, expect questions about your vaccination status, says executive career consultant Sarah Hutchison. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued guidance that generally allows employers to require employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated. And an August 2021 survey from Resume Builder found that roughly a third (33%) of hiring managers reported eliminating résumés that don’t include vax status.
As roles shift from remote to in-office or hybrid, prospective employers will want to know that you’re an agile communicator across different platforms, says Christy Pruitt-Haynes, a consultant with NeuroLeadership Institute, a global consultancy that advises companies like Microsoft, Netflix, and Zoom on workplace culture, leadership strategies, and other issues. Whether your colleagues are in the office or in another time zone, the ability to ensure that everyone is getting the message is essential, she says. “Historically, the people on the screen have gotten lost in the process,” she says.
Pruitt-Haynes says you may get asked about a time when you had to communicate the same information to several different audiences in several different ways. “Or tell me about a time you were communicating both with some people in person and some people participating online. How did you make sure that each of the audiences was engaged and successfully received your message?” she says.
Preferences and needs
In this tight labor market, prospective employers are trying to do their best to ensure that they’re offering the benefits and accommodations that candidates want, says HR and leadership consultant Omar L. Harris, author of Leader Board: The DNA of High-Performance Teams. “Employees expect trust, stability, hope, and compassion from their employers as well as enhanced well-being benefits, virtual or hybrid working opportunities, and to see their employer taking on the causes that matter most to them,” he says.
As a result, more interviews are including questions about what, specifically, the employee wants and needs in the role to ensure the fit is right. Some of the questions that Harris is seeing emerge include:
- How many days per week would you be willing to come into a physical office space?
- What is the best experience you have had with a manager and what about their style worked for you?
- What are some causes that matter to you and how can you see this company contributing to these causes in a meaningful way?
- What sort of wellness benefits most interest you?
Sydell says that interviewers are also likely to ask questions about preferences to be sure that the interviewee’s preferences are in alignment with what the company is trying to build. Questions about various technologies the company is using—especially communication technology—and each candidate’s aptitude with them are also important, he says.
Diversity equity, and inclusion
Diversity, equity, and inclusion have become greater priorities for many companies. Hutchison says she’s seen an increase in the number of clients telling her they were asked to provide their thoughts on diversity, equity, and inclusion in their interviews. “They’re saying, ‘I’ve been asked to provide my thoughts on diversity and inclusion’ or ‘How, as a leader, I [will be] sure to have those as pillars of my leadership,’” she says. As more workers prioritize DEI as an integral part of their company’s culture, asking such questions in an interview setting shows candidates that DEI is a priority and that the company is looking for candidates who care about those principles, she says.
Pruitt-Haynes is also seeing more questions that relate to return-to-office readiness. Employers are “really trying to get to the core of ‘Are you ready to be back in person?’” she says. “We know that the answer is going to vary a little bit from one person to the next.” Employers want to know if prospective hires are truly at the point where they’re ready to re-engage in person, she says. “Different employers have different preferences.”