As a job seeker, you can often expect to speak to an HR professional before interviewing people in the department you are applying for.
It is important that you prepare well for your HR interview. Often times, a company uses its HR department to screen candidates and decide which candidates are best qualified to move forward in the interview process.
However, an HR professional has different goals at the interview than your direct hiring manager. While your hiring manager asks role-related questions (e.g. in a marketing interview), the HR professional is keen to get a deeper insight into culture adjustment and to see if you are demonstrating the company’s values.
With that in mind, let’s go over the definition for this interview and what to expect.
What is the HR interview?
The HR round is an interview that is usually conducted by a generalist from the HR department at the beginning of the hiring process. In this first screen, HR interviewers want general information about their previous roles, core skills, key strengths and weaknesses, and salary expectations.
It’s easy to underestimate HR interviews compared to interviews with, for example, your potential manager. There is even a misconception that the HR round is just a formality. However, the truth is that this interview is vital to the hiring process.
This is how you can make a positive first impression. Your HR contact will decide whether you will make progress. So you should make sure that you demonstrate your skills and establish rapport.
I spoke to Alexa Matthews, a senior recruiter here at HubSpot, who pointed out some additional benefits of the review process: “This is an opportunity to make a good first impression. Often times on the first call, a candidate can convey things that weren’t written about. We take this information so that we can be your advocate and make recommendations to hiring managers throughout the process. “
Additionally, Alexa mentioned initial interview screens to help candidates learn more about the role and evaluate their interest in the company. At the same time, these initial interviews help HR professionals prepare a candidate for success by learning what is required for the role and providing feedback to the candidate at all stages of the interview process.
Let’s go over some of the questions you might have about the HR interview.
What can I expect from an HR interview?
During an HR session, you can expect high-level general questions about you, your previous work experience, and your motivation for finding a new position. Expect questions that point to your skills and competencies, but don’t elaborate on role-specific responsibilities.
You can expect to be asked:
- What to expect for your salary
- Why are you looking for a new role?
- Why you are leaving your current company
- What to look for in a new opportunity
- How you might function in a new environment
- How you worked in your previous environment
- How you dealt with conflicts with colleagues
- How you dealt with high pressure situations
The HR interview can also cover the benefits, working hours and organizational structure of the company.
Is the HR round just a formality?
No. HR round is not a formality. This is an extremely important step in the hiring process, and often the part that determines whether you can move forward in the hiring process.
This is especially true for large companies where your hiring representative becomes an ally during the hiring process. They are your contact for every question and every concern that you might have on your way from round to round. At HubSpot, recruiters give you feedback so you can move forward successfully.
To prepare you for questions you might get from an HR professional, I’ve compiled a list of the most important questions along with the best sample answers.
Questions and answers about the HR interview
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why are you interested in this position?
- Why are you leaving your current job?
- Can you describe one instance of work or school where you screwed up?
- Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with a colleague and how you dealt with it.
- What do you know about our company?
- How would you improve our current product or service?
- How would your current manager describe you?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- What questions do you have for me?
1. Tell me about yourself.
Nonetheless, one of the more traditional questions on this list, “Tell me about yourself,” is a helpful question for HR professionals to get a feel for how this conversation is going to go and where to steer future questions.
Ultimately, you want to be prepared to describe previous roles, how those roles demonstrate your strengths, and what you want in a company and a future role. Also, be sure to include why you think this role is a good fit for your talents.
“I studied 20XX at ABC University. Since then I have worked my way up at Company X, from an intern in the content team to an associate SEO strategist. I learned that I work best in a team, as opposed to more lonely roles. As an SEO strategist, I’ve found that I like the analytical side of marketing and have strengths that allow me to excel in these roles. Due to my SEO efforts, the traffic on our website has increased by as much as 13%. during the past two years. I am now looking for new challenges and believe that your company and this role is a fantastic next step. “
- Focus on your past successes.
- Provide a comprehensive view of your career up to this point without being tedious.
- Try to use words from the job posting in your response.
- End up with the type of role or challenge you are looking for and why this company is a good fit for you.
- If you change your career, please provide a brief reason for it.
- Do not summarize your resume.
- Don’t start with where you were born or where you lived (unless that is role-related. Say you’ve lived in Japan for a few years and the role requires fluent Japanese).
- Leave out personal information.
2. Why are you interested in this position?
This question is a critical indicator of whether you are interested in this company and this role in particular, or whether you are simply applying for a role in this area. For example, if you say, “Well, I’m into social media, this role seemed a good fit” isn’t a good sign. Instead, you want to mention certain qualifications of the role itself and show how those qualifications match your personal strengths. Additionally, it is important that you mention how you can help improve results for the team.
“My last role taught me that I’m passionate about creating content for social media. I managed to grow our Instagram audience by 7%, and with my team, I created a successful Facebook campaign that was driving sales I have been following your business on Instagram and Facebook for a number of years and value your brand – more importantly, I see this role as one in which I am really challenged and can use my strengths. I think I would in terms of myself the customer-centric aspect of the role. I find meeting with customers to collaborate on marketing goals and objectives for social media exciting and goal-oriented. “
- Be as specific as you can – mention how your interest in the industry, previous experience, or love for this company led you to take on the role.
- Include information about the company culture in your response.
- Express your enthusiasm for the company and its offerings, especially if you have already used their products.
- Remember to use words from the job posting to emphasize your interest.
- If you are switching careers, use this question to examine your motive for switching in more detail.
- Don’t mention money or benefits in your answer.
- Don’t be smug (“Oh, I’m just looking for a new role in this area”).
3. Why are you leaving your current job?
This is an opportunity to outline positive benefits that you may hope to gain from moving into a new role. One of the biggest mistakes you can make in answering this question is to focus on negative aspects of your current employer instead of discussing positive aspects of the new company.
An HR professional will mark it as a red flag if you talk badly about your current employer or company. It depicts someone who is not very professional, has a negative attitude, and could bring toxic energy into their new work environment.
“I appreciate everything my current employer has done to help me grow, and I believe that working for a small startup over the past year has helped me develop leadership skills earlier than I would at a larger company However, now I am interested in transferring the skills I acquired here to a larger organization where I believe I will find more growth opportunities in the future. “
- Focus on career growth and skill development as the reason for finding a new role.
- Express your appreciation for your current employer without being overly positive (then they will wonder why you are actually leaving).
- Whatever you do, don’t complain about your current employer, your boss, or your work environment.
4. Can you describe a work or school instance in which you made mistakes?
This is an intentionally tricky question. It is intended to provide an insight into whether you can learn from past mistakes. If you can’t think of any past mistakes, it may be an indicator that you are unable to take responsibility for your own mistakes. However, making a long list of past mishaps can leave you looking unqualified for the role.
You should answer this question succinctly, pointing out a mistake that is not a lack of character. Look at and mention a well-intentioned mistake you made in the past, then talk about how you grew from the experience.
“In my previous role, when I first became a manager, I took on too many tasks myself and quickly became both overwhelmed and less efficient in my role. In addition, my team members were frustrated because they felt it was in ours Team Lack of Collaboration I quickly realized that I had to learn to delegate tasks and collaborate on projects with teammates, and that made me a successful manager. “
- Focus on just one incident.
- Conclude your answer with how you have improved or grown as a result of the incident, or what you are currently doing to improve.
- Own the mistake you made without criticizing yourself.
- Be short but serious.
- Do not place the blame on an employee or the company.
5. Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with a colleague and how you dealt with it.
The HR professional isn’t interested in hearing about the time your coworker said something about you in the kitchen or when your manager heard you gossip about a customer to a friend.
Instead, this question is asked to gain an insight into how to deal with professional conflicts. Conflicts can arise in the office, especially if you work closely with many different people. It is important that you know how to deal with conflict without pointing your fingers. Your answer should primarily focus on the solution and show some level of empathy towards your co-workers rather than focusing on the problem.
“I had a deadline to meet and I was working with a designer who promised me her designs on time. When the deadline approached, my designer wasn’t ready. It made us both look bad in front of our clients To solve the problem, I discussed the problem privately with my designer. She told me she was stressed and overwhelmed and just needed another week for the project. I told her that was fine with me, but in the future we would have to Be transparent and honest with one another. In the future, we have set guidelines and have become more efficient teammates. “
- As in the previous question, focus only on one incident, especially one that has a positive outcome.
- Always conclude your answer with the steps you took to improve it or how this incident resulted in positive change.
- Be balanced in your response – don’t make it seem like the conflict is entirely your colleague’s fault.
- Show compassion.
- Don’t blame yourself.
- Don’t focus on what you did right and what your coworker did wrong (it will make you sound legitimate).
6. What do you know about our company?
This is a fantastic opportunity to impress the interviewer. Ultimately, this question aims to measure your interest in the company. The more you’ve researched past achievements, company values, and basic information about the product or service, the more you can demonstrate a real desire to work there.
“I know your company is the number one web design company in Massachusetts. I love your mission statement. I also know that your company emphasizes continuous learning and growth, two things that I find incredibly exciting. I have spoke to Jen and Jen Mark, two marketers at your company, and they described the work environment as one of passion and innovation – which I hope to find in my next role. “
- Mention the company culture and your previous experience with the product.
- Be positive in your answer.
- Connect your response with your desire to work for the company and take on the role.
- Don’t discover potentially controversial information like a corporate scandal.
7. How would you improve our current product or service?
An HR professional wants to know if you are innovative, if you think fast and if you bring new ideas to the role. There’s not necessarily one wrong answer here – all you need to do is show some creativity and planning well ahead of time will help. Take into account potential issues that may arise with your product or service and how your unique skills can fill that void.
“I’ve found your product to be in English with no up-to-date translation options. I think your product could benefit from multilingual translations that would help you target a wider audience. This could help you become more of a global leader. As someone who is fluent in French and Spanish and might want to help advance a project that will move the product in those directions. “
- Be honest but brief about the product’s limitations.
- Focus on how you can help the company make improvements.
- Mention how this change can help the company grow.
- Prepare for this question by using the product or service prior to the interview.
- Tastefully mention competitors and their products – this shows that you know about the industry.
- Don’t hate the product. (“Ugh, I used it once and the UX was really buggy. I couldn’t get to the X side …”)
- Don’t sing too much praise for the competitor’s product.
8. How would your current manager describe you?
It can be uncomfortable to brag about yourself. While this question may seem strange, it is a hiring professional’s tactic to hear how your current boss sees you in a work environment. To make yourself less uncomfortable answering this question, consider carefully your most recent performance review and use direct quotes from your boss in your response.
“During my last performance review, my current manager told me that she appreciates how quickly I take constructive feedback and use it to improve my role. She’s grateful that she never has to repeat opportunities for improvement once she gives me feedback there, I take it seriously and make sure she never has to bring it up again.She has also described me as hardworking and trustworthy, two aspects that I believe are critical to the excellence of any role . “
- Quote your manager directly.
- Realize your strengths – this really is your moment to shine.
- Focus on a single feature that you want to highlight.
- Try to combine the strength with the role you are applying for.
- Do not concentrate on a specific performance, but on a soft skill that can lead to sustainable growth of the role.
- Don’t start with “Well, I’m really good at …”
9. Where do you see yourself in five years?
This question enables the HR professional to understand your career goals – and assess whether this company is the right place for your growth. In many ways, this question serves as a temperature check to make sure this is an area you want to stay in for the foreseeable future.
“In five years I see myself in a medium or large company driving organic growth, overseeing the SEO strategy and possibly leading a team in a leadership role. In the past I have focused on the execution side of SEO, but throughout my career I’ve wanted to delve more into strategies that contribute to sustainable growth. After working in the X role for a few years, I want to lead a company’s SEO strategy to meet acquisition goals and surpass sales targets. ”
- Connect your answer to the role and how you feel you can grow in the company.
- Be realistic and specific.
- Mention words from the job description.
- An indication of how you can help the company grow later.
- Don’t be smug or non-committal.
- Don’t state that you hope to leave for a better company or that this role is just a stepping stone.
10. What questions do you have for me?
If an HR professional asks you this question, you may want to end the call and say, “No, no questions.” That would be a mistake. Thoughtful, wise, and strategic questions show your interest in the role, as well as your potential worth as a future employee. You want to hire candidates who ask the questions and move the company forward. This cannot happen if you accept everything for what it is.
It is at this stage that you should consider what your real concerns about the role are. You could ask the interviewer, “What are the company’s values? What characteristics do you look for in candidates to express those values?” Or maybe you say, “What do you enjoy most about working at Company A?”
Ultimately, an interview is not just about giving an HR professional the opportunity to form an opinion about you. It’s also a chance for you to get a strong sense of whether or not you want to work for the company at all. Use this last question to your advantage.
How do I prepare for the HR round?
The HR interview is your only chance to make a lasting first impression. Since it determines whether you move forward, it is important to prepare for the interview as if the HR professional can make the final decision. (They probably won’t, but they will determine if you can move forward.)
Fortunately, it’s easy to prepare. In addition to knowing the questions you might be asked, you’ll want to research the company, read the job description several times, practice your answers beforehand, and make a list of questions to ask the hiring officer.
Let’s go through these one by one.
1. Research the company.
Researching the company is a breeze, but many of us conduct an interview with only a superficial understanding of the company and its product offerings. In your research, try to understand not just what the company is selling, but who it is selling to. Use the product beforehand if you can. Look at the company’s competitors. Lastly, try to gain a thorough understanding of the company culture.
2. Read the job description several times.
I know keeping track of job postings is difficult, especially when you’ve applied for dozens of jobs. Try to find the original post (or a copy of it on a job search page) and reread the description. If possible, print it out and mark sections that you think best fit your qualifications. Underline important terms and include these terms in your answers.
3. Practice your answers.
Practice, practice, practice. Practice in front of the mirror, in front of your camera, and in your room. But don’t memorize your answers – just go through them a few times so they are eloquent, enthusiastic, and brief, without feeling too clumsy or scripted. Use the STAR method to structure your answers. Don’t forget to focus on positive results.
4. Make a list of questions.
These questions should be general enough for an HR professional to answer (you don’t want to be too team- or role-specific), but targeted enough that they feel tailored to the company.
You could ask general questions about the role, such as: B. “Are there opportunities for professional development within the role and across the department?” If you cannot answer these types of questions because you are not familiar with the team, you can ask about their experience and work in the company.
Prepare for your HR interview to ensure success
While the HR interview has a bad rap as a formality, it is arguably the most important step in the hiring process. Prepare, practice your answers, and research the company and its culture. The HR professional is your ally during the process. You want them to know that you are a perfect fit for the role, which will bring you closer to a job offer.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2018 and has been updated for completeness.