Interviews for human resources positions, ideally, become a fluid exchange between the company’s leadership and the HR candidate. Your ability to answer and ask questions is more essential in this type of interview than interviews for any other job in the organization. The fact that you’re interviewing for a position that may ultimately determine the strengths and capabilities of the organization’s workforce should illustrate how insightful your responses are to the recruiters and hiring manager.
The preliminary screening for an HR position generally involves an assessment of your professional background as well as your knowledge of HR best practices and procedures. The recruiter who conducts the preliminary interview by telephone or face-to-face also may determine whether your skill set is that of an HR generalist or HR specialist. Many of the job postings for HR positions specify whether the company needs a generalist or specialist, therefore, determining this during the first interview is necessary for appropriate screening of job applicants.
Depending on the HR position you’ve applied for, your in-person interview may consist of a meeting with the recruiter and another interview with the manager in charge of the discipline for which you’re qualified. An interview for an HR position could be with the company’s owner, a high-level manager or company executive. If the company doesn’t have a dedicated HR department, you could be interviewing with a member of the company’s top leadership. Larger organizations that have dedicated HR departments may have several layers and disciplines; therefore, your initial interview might be with an HR department manager and your final interview with the HR director.
Qualifications for HR positions are based, in part, on job knowledge and functional expertise. Candidates for specialist positions, such as compensation, benefits, employee relations, safety or recruiting, are likely to be asked discipline-specific questions. For example, a compensation and benefits specialist may be asked to explain whether she understands employers’ obligations under the U.S. health care reform laws or if she has experience negotiating group health care plans with insurers. Likewise, a candidate for an HR management role might be asked about her expertise in all of the HR areas, as her job would entail managing the workflow and assignments for HR specialists as well as HR generalists.
Given the nature of the HR field and its visibility throughout the workplace, candidates for HR positions generally have core competencies that include strong communication skills, conflict resolution and negotiation skills, and the ability to develop relationships with employees at every level within the organization. During an interview for an HR position, many of the questions will be behavioral interview questions that enable the hiring manager to discern whether you have what it takes to work well with others, often regarding confidential or sensitive workplace issues.
Interviews for HR positions also focus on what the candidate perceives is the role of HR and the company’s strategic partnership with HR. Companies looking for progressive-minded HR practitioners will look for candidates that can implement HR strategic plans, which includes developing the action plans to put strategy into place. In other words, an HR candidate who has both the tactile skills and the ability to engage in long-range planning is likely to be favored during the interview process.