will interviewers ask what you achieved during the pandemic?

A reader writes:

I’ve been seeing people online say that in the future, job interviewers will ask candidates questions like, “What did you do to continue developing your skills during the pandemic?” and “What did you achieve during the shutdown, even if you weren’t working?”

Some people in my circle have been spending time figuring out how to home school their children, applying for WIC and SNAP benefits, navigating the maze of applying for unemployment benefits, and figuring out how to stay in their homes. Are interviewers really going to expect everyone to be taking online classes and staying on top of their professional development? Right now there are lots of people who have been thrown into survival mode.

It seems as though people who are still safe and secure have no idea what life is like for others and they are a little disconnected and tone deaf. Since I am job seeking, I guess I going to have to figure out how I will be answering these question, but, I still feel a little sad about it.

I’ve seen these posts too. Here’s one ridiculous example of something that was being circulated by a university career center (they later retracted it).

It says something incredibly gross about the people propagating it. At a minimum it says that they’re remarkably out of touch with what’s happening right now and with what’s important to people. I’d argue it also reveals a serious deficiency in their values.

If someone is teaching themself a new language or building their coding skills during the pandemic, that’s great. But to present it as an expectation during a time when millions of people are struggling to keep their homes, feed their families, and stay alive — to imply people might be less worthy of employment if they needed to focus on their finances and their safety during a f’ing global crisis — no. No. Something has gone very wrong in anyone who believes that.

What’s more likely is that people are grasping on to this as it bounces around the internet without really examining it: “Oh, a timely question about resilience!” But it won’t stand up to any real examination, and it’s not likely to fall into common use.

That said, there will always be interviewers who ask absurd, inappropriate, out-of-touch interview questions — they’re the interviewers who ask about the worst thing that ever happened to you or who ask to look in your purse. Or in the less extreme, they’re the ones who ask what kind of tree you’d be or to rate the interview on a 10-point scale.

There are just a lot of crappy interviewers out there. We can’t control for all the absurd things they might ask.

But this isn’t going to become a standard interview question because no halfway aware employer will use it. Not only does it create potential liability around things like family status and disability, but it paints the employer as tremendously out-of-touch. It’s off-putting and alienating and makes the interviewer look like an ass.

But if you do ever get asked it, you should respond this way: “Well, I of course focused on keeping myself and my family solvent and safe, like most people! What can you tell me about how the company managed and what you did for employees during that time?”

will interviewers ask what you achieved during the pandemic? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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