What an Organization’s COVID-19 Response Reveals About its Culture

What an Organization’s COVID-19 Response Reveals About its Culture was originally published on Idealist Careers.

As the days go by, the myriad of negative consequences of the current pandemic are surfacing, one after the other. One that is on many people’s minds, especially in our community, is the impact that COVID-19 will have on the job market.

While you may not have as many options for jobs as you did a few months ago, you can still ensure that you’re making smart, strategic decisions about where you go next. And in fact, COVID-19 presents a unique opportunity to get a rare look at an organization’s culture and team dynamics—and to make sure it’s one you want to be a part of.

Crucial questions

Here’s a list of questions that can help you understand and uncover an organization’s environment. These are relevant for understanding the culture both before and during the crisis, as well as what’s to come in the future:

  1. What were your organization’s polices on work from home or sick leave prior to mid-March? Have they changed?
  2. What did that transition look like?
  3. What has been the most challenging part of navigating COVID-19 for the organization or team?
  4. How would you describe leadership’s response to COVID-19?
  5. What types of communications were sent to staff from leadership during the first few weeks or month of COVID-19?
  6. How do you think your team or organization’s response to the virus has been different from that of similar organizations?
  7. How are people staying connected and continuing to build and maintain relationships during this time?
  8. What challenges do you foresee for your team/organization/industry over the coming months as a result of COVID-19?
  9. What bright spots have you seen for your team/organization/industry as a result of COVID-19?

These questions can supplement other common interview questions that help you learn what it’s like to work in for a particular organization.

Background research

While you can certainly ask these questions during a phone call or a video interview, you can also Google the organization and see what press releases or news articles have come out in the last few weeks that give you additional insight into what the organization is doing in response to the virus. What changes have they made to their service model? What might that tell you about how they operate? And don’t forget to take a look at their website, as many (if not all) nonprofits seem to have a special announcement linked on their homepage.

If you’re currently interviewing right now, you may have a million questions you’d like to ask, but also consider throwing in one or two questions about how they’ve responded to COVID-19 as it’s the most recent situation that may illustrate, in real time, what’s happening within the organization.

One thing will always be true: organizations with strong, empathetic, and engaging leaders will continue to attract the best talent. There’s no reason to stop being smart and strategic when choosing organizations to pivot to.


Are you currently interviewing? We’d love to hear your experience and know what questions you’re asking. Let us know on social media or shoot us an email at careers@idealist.org.