[10.07.09]
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INTERVIEW WEEK: How To Nail The HR Interview

interview week, interview topics, job search, job interviews

During your interview process, the odds are you will spend a decent amount of time talking with people in HR.  For most jobs, you will at least have a screening or phone interview with someone in HR prior to being invited for an in-person interview.

Once on-site there is also a really good chance that you will interview with an HR manager or director during your interview day.  Depends on the level of your interview.

But why worry so much about the HR interview?

Well, if you are thinking that the HR interview is the least important of all. Or if you think that it will be simply a time to fill out the basic application and review benefits.  I got news for you.

The HR interview is not a walk-off and is not the time in the day where you relax or coast.  In my experience, it is a key time when you need to be on top of your game.

Do not underestimate the value of your on-site HR interview.  And do not assume it is yet another screening interview.  Or do so at your own peril.

If the HR interview is first up on the list and you are expecting an easy start, you may be jolted out of your chair and end up on the defensive for the rest of the day.  How does that sound?

So, here are my 5 tips for nailing the HR interview (and they may not be what you were expecting to hear):

1.  Prepare the same way for the HR interview as you do for any other interview.

Use the same vigor and same attention to detail. This shows respect and consideration of their role within the company.  Vet them and get to know their background.  Can you add some unique prep just for HR related issues?  Of course.  But if that is all you ask of the HR group, you are missing out on a significant learning opportunity.

2.  Ask HR the same questions you ask those in sales, marketing, finance and purchasing.

Ask a smart HR person about plans for the next company picnic and you may see the eyes roll back.  Not that building and managing a positive culture isn’t part of the HR role, but it is not the way to the HR heart.  Many HR staffers are keenly aware of the company’s compensation programs which are often tied to company performance and stock price.  So as long as you are not asking the “look how smart I am” question, assume HR is in the loop on company strategy.  And by asking each question to every person on your dance card, you get a better research result.  A better N or sample size.

3.  Assume HR is a key influencer in the decision process.

At the very least, the HR person will be a part of the end of day round-up where your next steps get decided.  More likely, HR will be the one compiling the larger group’s comments for the hiring manager.  And if they don’t get all the comments they need, they may fill in a few extra of their own to fill the gap.  And you get to influence those comments by being a strong interview.  Finally, many hiring managers use the HR team as a deciding opinion.  After all, they do a lot of interviewing and can compare you with a lot of others.

4. Kick off your day with a big burst of energy.

Since HR interviews are often first, it is the pace setter for your day.  Stumble early and you may have trouble catching up by lunch time. If you nail this interview, you not only have created early momentum.  You have created an informal sponsor of your candidacy.  Someone who can help you quietly work your way to the top of the list.  Your positive energy combined with a strong skill set and experience match reconfirms the decision to invite you for an interview in the first place.  You move on to round 2 and HR looks good for finding you.

5. Clearly highlight or reinforce your qualifying and memorable accomplishments.

Remember, of all the people you meet during the interview day, the HR team is going to be most schooled on what the hiring manager is targeting.  Often, they are also the most knowledgeable of the company’s desired personality or work-style fit.  So be clear on who you are, what you’ve done and how it will benefit the company.  And how you can drive or support its future growth.

So, be aware of the possibilities when interviewing.  It is possible that the HR interview will include filling out the application and the sharing  of company information.

It is also possible that during your HR interview you will earn every ounce of the complementary bottled water you got on your way in the door.

And wouldn’t you rather be prepared for the latter?  I thought so.


Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
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Categories: Job Interview Tips

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