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Preparing for an HR Position's Interview Questions

by Ruth Mayhew

Your A-game is a requirement when you're interviewing for a human resources position. And it's natural, because you're being considered for a job in the very department that gauges whether candidates are qualified based on their interview responses. Therefore, your own answers to interview questions should be on point and never canned answers that you've simply learned by rote.

Know the Organizational Structure

Whether you're interviewing for the job as HR manager or HR coordinator, you must know the HR department's role in the organization and what kind of HR presence there is within the organization. For example, if it's a large company with several HR specialists and generalists who provide services from payroll to benefits and from investigations to workplace conflict, chances are that it's a highly structured HR operation. On the other hand, small businesses may have one or two HR generalists who work cross functionally to serve employees' needs on a rather informal basis. Prepare to respond to interview questions about your experience working in organizations of different sizes with various levels of HR influence on the workforce.

Emphasize Your HR Strengths

By now you should know the HR disciplines in which you're well-versed and the disciplines represented in the hiring company's HR department. Practice your answers to interview questions about HR generalist duties, as well as responsibilities that specialists may have, such as compensation and benefits specialists, employee relations specialists and recruiters. If you're interviewing with a small company, you may need a generalist background so that you can handle tasks in more than one HR discipline. Also, if you're an HR generalist, you could add value to the organization because you may be able to handle the responsibilities of more than one HR staff member.

Demonstrate Your Integrity

HR department employees generally are held to a higher standard concerning confidentiality, trust and credibility. As an HR professional, you have access to employees' personal and work records, so your ability to maintain strict confidentiality is essential to your job performance. You cannot be the type of worker who spreads information throughout the workforce -- the information you have access to by virtue of your work in the department must only be shared on a need-to-know basis, and that's typically only within the HR department. Employers want their workers to trust that HR staff won't misuse their authority or access, so you should anticipate questions about your business principles and ethics about workplace confidentiality.

Prepare Questions for the Interviewer

A critical question in the interview process usually comes near the end of the meeting. It's the "Do you have any questions for me?" question. Here's where you demonstrate that you've taken time to learn about the organization through research, perusing the company's website and maybe even talking to colleagues or professional contacts who are currently employed with the company. Never pass up the opportunity to ask well-constructed questions of the recruiter or the hiring manager. Preparing for this portion of your interview should involve bringing questions with you to the interview and active listening during the early part of the meeting so you can pose at least two or three thoughtful and intelligent follow-up questions.

About the Author

Ruth Mayhew began writing in 1985. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry" and "Human Resources Managers Appraisal Schemes." Mayhew earned senior professional human resources certification from the Human Resources Certification Institute and holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

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