Before the pandemic, people experienced work in a completely different way. Specifically, remote and hybrid work models were much rarer, and the stigma of unemployment kept people hopping from job to job to avoid resumes employment gaps. Unfortunately, the systems supporting work (e.g., talent strategy, tools, work design, etc.) failed to keep pace. Companies still expected employees to work the same hours, resumes to remain unchanged, and teams to function with existing tools in an entirely different business landscape.
This was particularly hard on job seekers who struggled to explain long gaps in employment during the hiring assessment process - even if that unemployment was due to pandemic layoffs. One recent survey found that 84% of job seekers assumed there was a stigma attached to being out of work, yet a separate survey showed that 96% of hiring managers would consider hiring someone laid off due to the pandemic. But talk is cheap, and unemployed workers could still be at a disadvantage in the minds of recruiters and hiring managers when compared to candidates with no gaps. Perception bias is hard to break, and managers usually "mind the gap" unless there's a compelling reason to ignore it.
As an HR leader, you need to reassess the hiring process and integrate an efficient method for quickly identifying the best candidates available. Considering how everything has changed, it's time to embrace the nontraditional. Pre-employment assessments and interview questioning must look different in the post-pandemic era. Job searchers currently have their pick of positions, so you need to know how to attract and select top talent with transferable job skills and behaviors before someone else hires them.
To help, here are a few interview questions for hiring managers to ask. (Note: The more specific you can be about the role and preferred transferable job skills and strengths in the job posting, the better your interview results will be.)
1. What strengths and skills can you bring to this company?
2. Describe a time you perceived a need in your organization and took steps to fulfill that need without being asked to do it.
3. What is the most important thing you learned in your last position?
4. How did that learning inform your career and what you can offer?
5. What is a recent example of you believing your future would be positive?
These types of open-ended questions for managers can give you a feel for a candidate's skill set. They also allow a candidate to demonstrate self-awareness, commitment to development, and initiative, which are far more critical than past failures or successes. Plus, these questions create a mutually beneficial rapport. In the post-pandemic era, these are the behavioral interview questions for hiring managers (like you) who want to gauge modern applicants.
You can gauge whether a candidate is a good fit with pre-employment assessments. Personal opinions can be misleading because everyone has hidden biases, so it's important to rely on more than first impressions. Pre-employment assessments allow you to compare each candidate using the same rubric, ensuring that conversations focus on competency rather than individual affinities.
To be effective, your assessment must review eligibility and suitability based on the job requirements and then provide a total score for quickly ranking the most qualified candidates. Eligibility factors include previous experience, education, and certification; suitability factors include attitude, motivation, and interpersonal skills. Both sets of transferable skills must be measured to get the complete picture of a candidate.
Nontraditional candidates still face challenges in today's job market, but they might be exactly what you're seeking. As an HR manager, your goal is to hire the best person for the company and the position, so you may need to reassess your interview questions and hiring assessment process. Take a hard look at your hiring criteria and ask whether your strategy will reveal someone's transferable skills. Chances are, it's the questions you aren't asking that could be the most valuable right now.