Top 10 HR Interview Questions & Answers
Nervous about that big job interview? This post is for you! These are the top 10 HR interview questions, with information on what the interviewer is looking for, and suggestions on preparing responses. Keep answers brief and to the point for maximum impact!
So you’ve got a call for interview. Congratulations! Next step (although this is something you can always devote time to) involves preparing to present yourself as the candidate the recruiter is looking for.
This will come down to how well you can respond to a fairly standard set of HR interview questions devised by human resources professionals. Of course, interviews are not everyone’s comfort zone, but don’t be derailed by nerves.
The interview is not a trap. These recruiters or HR interviewers want to meet you. Their questions are opportunities for you to set out how your skills fit the organisation. As stated, these questions are fairly standard. Don’t get caught out for want of preparation!
Preparing Responses to the top 10 HR Interview Questions
These are the top 10 HR interview questions, with advice on what the interviewer is looking for with each, and tips on how to prepare answers. When answering these standard HR interview questions, be brief, concise and to the point.
The suggestions below are just that—guidelines on preparing tailored answers to draw from during an interview. For maximum impact, personalise the responses by illustrating with your own experiences.
And even if you are asked a question you didn’t anticipate, don’t be flustered or defensive. Stay calm, and, using the advice on the questions in this list, take a moment to think about what you are actually being asked, before you answer.
1. “Tell me about yourself.”
The interviewer does not want to know your life story! What they want to know is whether you’re a good fit for the position. Research your resume, and prepare an answer about yourself that describes your qualifications, previous roles and skills, emphasising the most relevant skills.
2. “What have your achievements been to date?”
Describe a recent work-related achievement, identifying skills used and quantifying its benefit to your employer. For example, you used graphic design and marketing skills to devise a social media strategy that has improved your company’s SEO ranking. Or, you used your IT skills to design and/or implement a new system that has streamlined customer payments, improving the company’s debtor position and saving significant monthly sums on interest.
3. “Are you happy with your career to date?”
There is only one answer to this HR interview question, and that’s “Yes.” The question is designed to determine your self-esteem, confidence, and what your professional aspirations might be. The best approach is to briefly explain why you are happy with your career. If you genuinely feel you’ve reached a plateau, be prepared to explain why, and again, keep it positive, framing it in terms of your wish to stick to a long-term career plan or progression.
4. “What’s the most difficult situation you’ve faced, and how did you tackle it?”
“Difficult” is subjective. This HR interview question is used for two things: to find out how you define “difficult”, and whether you have logical problem-solving processes. Again, keep things simple. Choose a difficult work situation that was not of your making, but which you helped to resolve satisfactorily. Use a brief 4-step description, outlining:
- How you identified the problem;
- Options that you considered for resolving it;
- Which solution you chose and why; and
- The outcome.
5. “What do you like about your present job?”
Again, the key to answering this HR interview question lies in your own resume. The model response should ensure that what you like tallies with the essential skills listed in the specifications for the role advertised. It’s important to strike a balance here. Okay, you want to be positive and enthusiastic, but not so much as to provide an opening for a “So why do you want to leave?” question!
6. “What do you dislike about your present job?”
Tread carefully. This HR interview question is a bit of a trap, and a very easy one to fall into. You want to stay away from specifics that might expose your own weaknesses, and definitely avoid be negative towards individuals. Go ‘macro’ with your answer. Focus on a big-picture characteristic, such as the size of your present place of employment, or the slow speed of its decision-making processes. Maintaining a positive, can-do, take-it-in-your-stride demeanour is the key here.
7. “What are your strengths?”
Another of the HR interview questions that is certain to be asked, there is no excuse for anything other than a meticulously prepared answer. Think about three to four general ‘headline’ aptitudes—for example, determination & focus; positive attitude; collaborative team skills; ability to learn quality—and think of specific examples to illustrate these proficiencies when asked during the interview. To repeat, of all HR interview questions, this one is a sitter, so be prepared!
8. “What is your greatest weakness?”
Another of the HR interview questions that, along with greatest strengths, is almost guaranteed to arise. The key advice is, do not say that you have none! Everyone has weaknesses. So do one of two things. Either speak about a weakness or shortcoming that’s not vital for the job (such as lack of experience); or, describe a weakness that might also be considered a strength, and talk about what you do to keep it in check. So, you might have forensic attention to detail that serves you well, but can also be time-consuming, so you must devise your own rigorous timelines for every task. Also, your high standards sometimes may make your team think you’re too demanding, but you always try to keep a balance between carrot and stick and encourage as much as direct.
9. “Why do you want to leave your current employer?”
As with Number 6 on this list, the response to HR interview questions such as these should always be positive, never negative. Do not focus on personalities or individuals. And don’t say that your primary motivation is salary. Keep it simple; express your response in terms of seeking a new challenge with greater responsibility.
10. “Why have you applied for this particular job?”
Last on our list of HR interview questions, but by no means least… in fact, it may well be the first thing you are asked. Through your response to HR interview questions like this one, you should be using specific points from your resume to emphasise that the role is a good fit for your general and specific skills, that it fits with your career progression and long-term goals, and that you will enjoy it. Again, preparation is the key. Undertake research about the business generally, and drill down into the specific role to ensure that you understand its position within the organisation, so that you can fluidly discuss things about the company and the position that particularly interest you.