7 Top Interview Questions to Ask During the ‘Great Reshuffle’ Samantha McLaren Authored bySamantha McLaren Content Strategist by Day, Horror Critic by Night September 1, 2021 HBR

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The Great Reshuffle has left countless companies scrambling to fill open roles. That means recruiters are not only juggling multiple requisitions but are under a lot of pressure to get new talent through the door as soon as possible. But even if you feel rushed off your feet right now, it’s worth taking the time to review your interview questions, because they may not align with the current reasons people are switching jobs.

The pandemic has led many professionals to reevaluate what they want from their lives and careers. Their priorities have shifted, as have their tolerance levels for performing jobs they don’t find fulfilling for companies they feel don’t support their well-being. The upshot? Companies should calibrate their interview process to make sure their offerings align with what candidates are looking for. Otherwise, you may find yourself hiring for the same role again sooner than you expect.

To help you shape a Reshuffle-ready interview process, here are seven questions designed to evaluate why candidates are looking for a change — and whether your opportunity is the change they’re looking for.

1. What are the most important things you’re looking for in a new job?

Many candidates dread the common question “Why are you looking to leave your current employment?” In fact, one study found that it raises heart rates 51%. Candidates may have very good reasons for eyeing the door, but no one wants to come across as overly negative or flaky to a potential employer.

To avoid making candidates nervous, flip the question on its head by asking, “What are the most important things you’re looking for in a new job?” By focusing on the positives, rather than the negatives, you can encourage a productive, introspective, and less nerve-wracking conversation about what the candidate really wants from their next career move.

In a roundabout way, their answer will likely tell you why they’re leaving their current position, even if they don’t draw on specific past experiences as examples. After all, if their employer met the needs they point to, they probably wouldn’t be interviewing at all. This opens the door for you to highlight what your company is doing around the areas they talk about — whether it’s working as part of a diverse and inclusive team, having supportive management, finding opportunities to grow, or something else entirely.

2. What’s one thing you’ve learned recently that has changed how you think about work or your career?

A lot of lessons — both public and personal — have come from the pandemic. Asking candidates about what they have learned can help you better gauge their motivations for changing jobs, especially if they’re making a major transition. Their answer may also give you insight into their curiosity, a quality that the Harvard Business Review says leads to increased innovation, reduced group conflict, and better team performance.

Perhaps the pandemic has inspired them to finally pursue the role they’ve always wanted, or the stay-at-home orders have allowed them to hone their skills and turn an interest into a career. By giving them the space to share their pandemic learnings and revelations, you can show that your company is supportive of such transitions and find out more about their journey to get where they are now.

The lesson doesn’t need to be groundbreaking to be meaningful, however. Some candidates may have simply gained a stronger sense of the importance of self-care or realized that they prefer working from home because it allows them to spend more time with their kids. You’ll still gain a more nuanced understanding of what they want from their day-to-day work and what they need to be successful.

3. Talk me through your ideal work setting. 

A May 2021 survey found that 39% of U.S. adults would consider quitting their jobs if their employers weren’t flexible about remote work. Among millennial and Gen Z employees, the figure jumps to 49%. That makes it essential to talk about remote work early, especially if your company is still ironing out its policy — because the last thing you want is for your new hire to be disappointed and quickly jump ship.

Asking candidates to talk through their ideal work setting allows you to assess whether they prefer to be remoteonsite, or some combination of the two. It also gives them a chance to talk through why they find this setting preferable, providing insight into what they need to be productive and happy at work.

Whatever their answer, be sure to share details about your company’s policy to set their expectations at the right level. If things are still in flux, be clear about that so there are no surprises later.

4. Tell me about your experiences with communication while working remotely. What works and what doesn’t?

If the job you’re hiring for can be performed remotely, or if your new hire will be working as part of a hybrid team, it’s worth asking about your candidate’s experiences with remote communication. In doing so, you can signal that your company takes communication seriously and wants to ensure that employees never feel isolated or forgotten, no matter where they’re working.

A great answer may reveal a knack for problem-solving, especially if the candidates played a key role in keeping everyone connected and figuring out best practices when their team first went remote. Pay close attention to candidates’ communication preferences too, as this is useful information for the hiring manager to keep in mind as they prepare to onboard their new hire.

5. Tell me about a time you’ve felt burned out at work.

Between heavy workloads, little time off, and the stress and anxiety created by the pandemic, many workers are feeling worn down. A 2021 study found that 44% of employees are more burned out than they were a year ago, which has prompted some to look for an employer that will better support their well-being.

Asking candidates to share their experiences of burnout creates space for them to be vulnerable and talk about the challenges they’ve faced. Follow this up with specific details about what your company has done to support its people throughout the pandemic and what it’s doing in the long term.

Candidates’ answers may reveal that they’re highly resilient or that they take proactive steps to minimize burnout. But assessing for these traits shouldn’t be the main goal of the conversation — because if it is, candidates may get the sense that burnout is an inevitable part of the job.

6. How do you clock out at the end of the day?

One way to show candidates that your company cares about work-life balance is to prompt a discussion around what they do to clock out. Again, use their answer as a springboard to talk about what you do to support well-being and to help employees unplug. If candidates are looking to escape an “always-on” culture, they’ll appreciate knowing that your company takes steps to actively avoid creating this type of environment.

Hearing what boundaries candidates set for themselves can also help you assess whether they’ll be a positive influence on their team. If they note that they avoid checking or sending emails after hours, for example, you’ll know that they won’t need to be dissuaded from unhealthy habits.

7. What would a truly supportive employer look like to you?

Prompting candidates to share their perspective on what it means to be a supportive employer is one of the easiest ways to gauge whether their expectations of your company match the reality. Their description doesn’t need to align exactly with your approach, but if they’re looking for something fundamentally different from what you can offer, it’s better to find out during the interview than on their first day.

If there are small discrepancies, talk about them. No employer is perfect, and candidates will likely feel more confident knowing that your company is thinking about and working toward creating a more supportive environment.

Final thoughts: As the world of work evolves, the interview process must change with it

As the world of work changes, the interview process needs to reflect shifting expectations around work and perceptions of it. If your questions feel like the product of a bygone era, candidates may assume that your company is stuck in the past and can’t meet their current needs.

If your interviewers are a little set in their ways, remind them that interviews are as much about letting candidates evaluate your company as they are about your company evaluating candidates. By creating plenty of opportunities for prospective hires to learn about your culture and policies, they can make more informed decisions if they receive an offer — improving retention in the long run.

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