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Human Resources Interview Questions and Answers

Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter
who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.

Position Summary

A Human Resources department, in short, is the unit of a company or organization that focuses on the people-related aspects of the business.

A person in a Human Resources function is responsible for tasks such as:

- Talent attraction
- Hiring
- Training
- Processing payroll
- Addressing employee grievances
- Repairing communication issues
- Performing disciplinary action
- Leading terminations
- Ensuring compliance with labor laws
- Advising on employee benefits and compensation structure
- ...and WAY more!

The term Human Resources is often shortened to 'HR.’

Note:  The term Human Resources is often shortened to 'HR.’

What is the purpose of an HR department?

A Human Resources department leads numerous initiatives for companies, large and small.

Some of the primary areas of focus for an HR professional include:

Workforce Planning: Planning the employee-related needs of the company in the near and longer-term future.

Recruitment & Selection: Attracting the right people to work for the organization and then selecting who to hire by using an organized and fair approach.

Documentation & Administration: Completing necessary paperwork and documentation both physically and electronically. Keeping the organization compliant with proper administrative procedures, including employee files and security around sensitive data and information. Maintaining accurate and detailed records related to employee complaints, performance reviews, promotions, disciplinary action, and grievances around bullying, harassment, etc.

Performance Management: Performance management includes setting clear goals with employees, offering consistent feedback on performance, and providing resources and tools to achieve success.

Learning & Development: Learning and development efforts require investing in helpful tools, resources, and employee growth opportunities. This includes ensuring that company leaders contribute to employees' professional growth by offering their time and mentorship.

Employee Benefits & Rewards: Creating satisfying rewards and benefits for employees such as competitive compensation packages, promotion opportunities, health benefits, and constructive workplace culture.

Health & Safety: Ensuring the company and its employees are compliant with laws and regulations. Creating a culture of safety by putting employees' physical and emotional well-being at the forefront of operations.

Union, Member & Association Relationships: Creating and nurturing professional and mutually beneficial relationships with industry associations, labor unions, and other partners or collectives impacting the organization, industry, and employees.

What are a Human Resource professional's responsibilities?

The scope of your involvement in the HR purposes listed above will depend on your level of HR. In general, an HR professional will spend the majority of their day:

  • Recruiting and screening job applicants.
  • Leading job offers and negotiations.
  • Writing job descriptions and posting job ads.
  • Identifying the hiring needs of department managers.
  • Facilitating discussions with employees on performance, discipline, and praise.
  • Assessing employee requests for promotions and salary raises.
  • Reviewing employee benefits, exploring vendors, and making benefit decisions.
  • Leading new-hire orientation.
  • Listen to, document, and resolve employee issues.
  • Regularly assess your industry and remain a competitive employer.

What is the career path of a Human Resources professional?

The realm of Human Resources offers an incredible range of opportunities. Typically, an HR professional will follow a staged career path based on education, knowledge, and years of experience.

Entry-level HR-related job titles:

- HR Assistant
- HR Coordinator
- HR Associate
- HR Administrator
- Staff Coordinator
- Payroll Clerk
- Junior Recruiter
- Recruitment Assistant

Mid-level HR-related job titles:

- HR Manager
- HR Generalist
- HR Trainer
- HRIS Manager (Human Resources Information Systems)

Upper-level HR-related job titles:

- HR Director
- HR Executive
- HR Specialist
- HR Business Partner
- Director of Training
- Payroll Director
- VP of Human Resources
- VP of Talent Acquisition
- VP of Recruitment
- VP of Talent Management
- Chief Diversity Officer
- Chief Human Resources Officer
- Chief People Officer

Other HR Related Roles:

- Corporate Recruiter
- Resources Manager
- HR Analyst
- HR Generalist
- Employer Brand Manager

How do I become a Human Resources professional?

Most HR professionals will have a certificate, diploma, or degree in Human Resources or Business field. Be sure to carefully explore your career path opinions as they are wide and vast in the HR field.

Training can include specialization in a wide variety of areas such as:

  • Business Communications
  • Computer Applications & Systems
  • Organizational Development
  • Human Resources Analytics
  • Strategic HR Development
  • Employee & Labor Relations
  • Diversity & Inclusion
  • People & Culture
  • Compensation & Benefits
  • Health & Safety
  • Human Resources Risk Management
  • Learning & Development
  • Workforce Management
  • Ethics & Social Responsibility
  • HR Laws & Regulations

Important:  Depending on your location, you may be required to join a professional governing body for Human Resources professionals. These member associations ensure that HR professionals act under law and ethics in their region. These associations are often beneficial in a job search through referrals and partner networks.

Interview Process

When being assessed for a Human Resources position, you can expect a thorough and detailed interview process. After you apply, the interview process may include:

- A brief pre-screen phone call.
- An in-depth first interview.
- An in-depth second interview.
- Subsequent interviews. An HR position may require your participation in multiple job interviews and online personality/compatibility assessments.

Once you reach the final interview stage, the hiring company will contact your employment references. They will most likely conduct pre-employment background checks and other steps such as education verification and member association verification. The last portion of the hiring process is the job offer and negotiation stage.

An aspiring HR professional should expect to answer technical interview questions highlighting their depth of experience in various HR platforms and industry tools.

They should also be prepared to demonstrate an exceptional understanding of current marketing trends, laws and regulations, and extensive questioning regarding behavior, communication, leadership, and teamwork skills.

What should I wear for my interview?

Correct attire will depend on the nature of the hiring company.

If your interview is with a start-up or small organization, you may encounter a more relaxed dress code. However, if you applied to an HR role with a major organization, dress code expectations will probably be formal business attire.

If you are not sure what to wear to your HR interview, check out the hiring company's website or LinkedIn profiles of current employees for visual clues.

What are some basic HR terms I should know for my interview?

Retention Strategy: Retention refers to 'keeping' something. In Human Resources, the term Retention Strategy refers to the methods a company its HR department uses to encourage high-performing employees to stay with the organization long-term. Hiring and addressing employee turnover is expensive, so most companies put a lot of time, effort, and money into creating a strong Retention Strategy.

Succession Planning: Succession is the action of inheriting a title or position. In Human Resources, the term Succession Planning refers to the plans a company puts in place to take their most talented employees and ensure their future career growth needs and desires are met. This action includes creating opportunities for high-performing employees to gain a jump in job title or position.

Benchmarking: Benchmarking is a term used to describe how a company will measure various aspects like employee performance, compensation, client satisfaction, and sales. The data collected from benchmarking is used to determine future employee raises, compensation packages, benefits offerings, and more. Companies will often benchmark against the market, economy, and their most significant competitors.

Onboarding: The process of familiarizing a candidate with their new role and employer. A recruiter will often help facilitate a newly hired candidate’s onboarding process to ensure that they have a positive experience.

Applicant Tracking System: Also called an ATS, an Applicant Tracking System describes the software a recruiter uses to handle the recruitment and hiring process. An ATS can accept and filter online job applications and even rank job applicants on behalf of a recruiter. An ATS takes care of many cumbersome tasks and keeps a recruiter organized and on track with their project.

HRIS: Human Resource Information System is a common experience requirement for an Internal Recruiter who will perform many HR-related tasks for their employer. An HRIS allows a company to keep detailed, accurate, and confidential data on its employees.

Employee Turnover: Turnover refers to the loss of an employee. HR professionals face both voluntary and involuntary employee turnover. Voluntary turnover is when an employee finds a different opportunity and decides to move away from the company. Involuntary turnover is when an employee is terminated by the decision of the organization.

Employee Attrition: Attrition refers to the natural reduction of workforce numbers due to employee retirements, health, or terminations and resignations. Different from staff turnover, the numbers become attrition when the company does not fill the vacancy. Attrition can be measured by dividing the number of employees who left the company by the number of employees at the company over a specific timeframe.

Nepotism: A term often heard in smaller or family-owned companies, nepotism refers to company leaders favoring and giving preferential treatment to family members or close friends over other qualified and deserving employees.

Diversity & Inclusion: There is an essential difference between diversity and inclusion. Every aspiring HR professional must understand the distinction. Diversity is often explained as what the company has planned to attract a range of workplace talent. Inclusion is the 'how' referring to what the company is doing to embrace this diversity plan. Diversity efforts mean much less when inclusion efforts do not follow. For instance, a company can hire a female person of color as their next HR Manager; however, if she does not have an equal voice to her HR counterparts and leaders, this diversity hire is simply for optics.

General Human Resources Interview Questions

  1. When interviewing a candidate, what is the most important question you could ask?

  2. Do you have experience using an ATS? Which applicant tracking systems do you know best?

  3. Do you have experience choosing, introducing, and explaining employer health benefits?

  4. What does the term attrition mean, and what are the biggest causes of employee attrition rates?

  5. What new human resources topic is piquing your interest the most right now?

Continue: View All 30 Human Resources Interview Questions

HR Consultant Interview Questions

  1. Discuss a time when you explored organizational gaps and created new opportunities for employees.

  2. What type of long-term incentive programs have you leveraged to drive employee performance?

  3. Do you possess the knowledge and awareness required to communicate in a multicultural workplace?

  4. In your opinion, what are the core competencies of organizational effectiveness?

  5. Hiring smart is the key to an organizations' success. What interview techniques do you lean on to ensure effective new hires?

Continue: View All 30 HR Consultant Interview Questions

Human Resources Manager Interview Questions

  1. Have you ever had a particular circumstance where you needed to deviate from HR policy? How did you approach the dilemma?

  2. If you could create a D&I plan for your current employer, what would you prioritize?

  3. What are the 3 most important functions of an HR department?

  4. Tell me about a hiring mistake you made. Were there any details in the hiring process you missed and realized later? How did you adjust from what you learned?

  5. How do you find qualified candidates? Discuss a time when your approach helped you to hire a great employee.

Continue: View All 40 Human Resources Manager Interview Questions

Payroll Specialist Interview Questions

  1. How would you familiarize yourself with our payroll system?

  2. What cost-cutting measure have you been in charge of implementing?

  3. If an employee called in with a payroll complaint, how would you handle it?

  4. There are times when we are placed under extreme pressure on the job. Tell about a time when you were under such pressure and how you handled it.

  5. Walk me through your payroll experience.

Continue: View All 34 Payroll Specialist Interview Questions

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