Interviewing During a Pandemic — Should I Shake Their Hand?!

That awkward moment when the Hiring Manager walks up to you and you don’t know whether you should shake their hand or not.

In the pre-COVID19 world, it was always good measure to shake the interviewers hand upon meeting them, but we’re in the middle of a pandemic so I know what you’re thinking… what the hell should I do?!

Although most interviews are conducted via Zoom or Google Meets, there are some instances where you may need to come in for an in-person interview. Here’s a simple way to avoid that awkward moment while still making a great impression.

Ask beforehand what their COVID-19 interview protocols are…

Most likely, you’ve received an email with the date/time for your in-person interview. If you haven’t, then consider that a warning — this is NOT a place you want to work!

If your HR Coordinator is a good one, they’ve already informed you of some interviewing protocols in the body of the email. If they haven’t that’s okay as well — ask them!

It’s better to ask than to sit through the embarrassment of extending your hand and having the HR Manager look at you like you’re wearing a snowsuit in the middle of summer.

Always Keep Your Mask On

Sometimes, interviewers will tell you whether or not you can keep it on — However, I strongly advise you to just keep it on. Imagine not getting the job AND getting COVID?! Exactly.

What if My Interviewer Isn’t Wearing Their Mask?

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Technically, your interviewer shouldn’t be so much of an ******* that they’re walking around with no mask. No regard for your life, no regard for their own. Again, a red flag. It’s not too late to run!


If for whatever reason you find yourself in this situation and you haven’t ran for the door, you can handle this in one of two ways.

1. Ask the interviewer to put their mask on

I know some people might cringe at the thought of this. It can be super intimidating coming in for an interview and asking the interviewer to put their mask on. But this is your life, the wellbeing of your *possible* future coworkers.

Any interviewer who is offended by this is probably not the type of person you want to work with, for, or under.

2. Keep Your Distance

This should be done anyway, but especially if they aren’t wearing a mask. Although I highly encourage you to ask them to put it on I know it can be hard when you might already be nervous interviewing anyway.

3. Ask about COVID-19 protocols for in-office staff.

If you’re in the interview with your mask on and keeping your distance but you notice the interviewer STILL doesn’t have theirs on you can always use this as an opportunity to ask what their COVID-19 protocols are for their working staff.

I cannot stress this enough — if the place you’re interviewing at doesn’t have any COVID-19 interviewing protocols then chances are they also don’t have measures for their employees who are already working. This is a HUGE redflag and shows a lack of proactiveness and mindfulness for their employees, but you can always ask.

Some questions to keep in mind would be….

  • What has been implemented to maintain a healthy work environment?
  • Do they conduct daily health/temperature checks?
  • Is there lots of natural ventilation in the building?
  • Is there a limit in how many individuals can be in the lunchrooms at a time? What about the bathrooms?
  • How do they conduct team meetings in accordance to social distancing protocols?
  • Do they offer the option to work remotely if need be?
  • What is their plan of action to ensure the safety of others if they find an employee has COVID-19?
  • Do they offer routine testing? (This is mandatory if you’re front line or come in contact with many people throughout your shift.)

Interviewing during a pandemic can be extremely off-putting. You have to worry about selling yourself while staying safe at the same time — but it is possible. If you take anything away from this article, let it be that any workplace that doesn’t implement and abide by CDC (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines is already in some serious sh*t and shouldn’t be considered for employment. If they don’t care about their own lives, what makes you think they would care about yours?



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Project Fifty5ive in an online informational hub for professional advancement. Basically, I’ve seen a lot of shit working in HR — these are my stories.