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Unique Questions to Ask Prospective Employees

Derek Cirino - Mar 25, 2021

There’s no way around it: the Coronavirus pandemic has utterly changed the business world. Due to new health and safety restrictions and an abundance of precautions for both employees and customers, businesses around the nation have been forced to adapt their workplaces to this new way of life. 

For many businesses, adaptation has come in the form of a fully remote workforce. Companies that once conducted business in a bustling, fully loaded, and centrally located office building now have employees working from couches, kitchen tables, and desks around the city. Despite the diaspora of employees, companies must continue to conduct business. For some, that requires hiring new employees without ever meeting face-to-face. 

Have you found your business in need of stellar new employees, but feel unsure how to interview in this new environment? Read on to learn our favorite unique questions to ask prospective employees to suss out the best of the best. 

“How have you been feeling these past few months?” 

It’s always important to start an interview with a humanizing question. In more normal times, interviewers often asked what a candidate liked to do for fun, or what their hobbies and passions are. In pandemic times, everyone needs a bit of extra care and attention. Show your interviewee that you are a genuine and caring person and build rapport by inquiring about how they’ve been managing. Finish by sharing a bit about your own experience. Being genuine can help you hire the perfect employee, as they’ll be just as excited about working for the company as you are bringing them onto your team.

“How do you stay productive while working remotely?” 

As long as your business continues to remain in a fully remote state, it’s important to hire employees who can stay productive while working remotely. This question helps you understand more than whether your interviewee will be a productive one while working from home; it helps you understand their ability to adapt, too. 

Remote work requires a level of self-discipline that doesn’t come naturally to every employee. And that’s okay. This question is not intended to identify the naturally self-disciplined from the rest. Instead, the tithing this question really asks is whether those who aren’t naturally good at self-discipline have learned to do so. 

The best possible answer to this question is one that shows the candidate identified self-discipline as one of their weak points and learned to adapt. 

  • Did they adopt a new routine that allows them to prioritize and accomplish tasks better? 
  • Did they find a new marketing tool to help keep them on track? 
  • Did they work with a manager or a colleague for advice on structuring their day? 

The way your candidate has adapted to the pandemic can help you understand how they may adapt to other challenges at work, whether that may be a new job role, an unfamiliar task, or any other change they may face. 

“How do you handle distractions when working remotely?” 

These days, distractions are simply unavoidable. Everyone has them, whether it’s a roommate who also is working remotely, a child participating in virtual school, or a retired parent who has their own list of tasks for the day. 

Just like the above question, the goal isn’t to identify an employee with the most distraction-free requirement but to understand how the candidate manages distractions when they arrive. Do they sign off and go silent? Do they remain online but rather distracted? Or have they developed a system that helps them manage both work and distractions? 

“What are your preferred methods of communication?” 

Now that we’re over a year into the pandemic, your company has likely established its own processes for communication that works best for the whole team. While you should certainly remain open to new ideas and invite new hires who bring them to the table, it’s also important to remain realistic about what can change and what cannot. 

When it comes to communication, it’s important to find a new hire who thrives with the type of communication that your business has adopted. If your company tends to be Zoom and meeting heavy, it’s going to be a real challenge to bring on a new employee who resents time spent on Zoom. Not only will it make communicating with them difficult, but it also opens the door to frustrations from the get-go for both your company and for them. It’s a relationship that’s bound to fail. 

Make sure that whoever you bring on is comfortable with using your company’s methods of communication, no matter what that is.

“How do you handle the stress of the pandemic?” 

We all deal with stress these days. The important question is, how does your candidate actually deal with it? Do they have productive ways of managing their stress? Do they simply deny its existence and push it away? Their response should be insightful, or they might recommend their favorite body pillow

“How do you feel about returning to the office down the line?” 

If you’re planning on requiring employees to come back to the office down the line, it’s important to make sure anyone you hire is able to do so. Some employees have discovered that working remotely is preferable to them and may feel that returning to an office one day is an absolute dealbreaker. Make sure that your vision for the future aligns with their vision for the future, or else you may risk wasting both your time and theirs. 

“Do you have any questions for me?” 

During these turbulent times, it’s possible that your candidates may have more questions than normal. Each business has adapted to the pandemic differently and they likely want to know more about how your business has adapted. Due to the nature of onboarding as a remote employee, this may be their main chance to interface directly with you and ask you questions.  Make sure that you leave ample time to thoroughly answer employee questions.

Interviewing while fully remote is a whole new ballgame. That means you’ll need to ask new questions, have different conversations, and be open to this novel way of life. Use the above questions to guide your conversations. 


Matt Casadona

Matt Casadona has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, with a concentration in Marketing and a minor in Psychology. He is currently a contributing editor for 365 Business Tips. Matt is passionate about marketing and business strategy and enjoys the San Diego life, traveling and music. 


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