What To Expect During An HR Interview? Five Questions You’ll Be Asked During A Screening Interview – by Melissa Llarena

Screening interviews with human resources professionals are a crucial step to getting the job. A good or bad interview with HR will determine how far you go in the interviewing process, so it’s best to know what to expect and go in prepared.

As a career coach, I have worked with job candidates on how to answer the most common questions asked by HR. My mock interviews place clients in situations similar to ones they will actually face and prepare them to ace their interviews and land the job.

Let’s take a look at the five most common questions asked by HR during screening interviews and how you should approach them.

1. Why are you interested in this position?

HR professionals love this question so use it as your chance to reiterate your strengths and highlight your applicable skill set and passion for the company and the role. Speak to how your past experiences match the qualifications for the job using keywords from the job description to make the connection stronger. By clearly linking your skills to the position, you are helping the HR manager envision you in the role.

Sample Answer: Having worked within the financial services sector for five years, I have gained an appreciation for the power of client-facing roles in terms of my professional development and organizational impact. As a relationship manager in your firm, I envision bringing my ability to resourcefully optimize any given client’s portfolio as the best way I can help your company’s five-year strategic goal of retaining its client base at a 50% rate. I have done this in the past in X capacity while working for my previous employer and am confident that I can help you accelerate your current goals while growing my career.

2. Tell me about yourself.

As an age-old prompt that will likely never go away, it’s important to know how to provide a compelling answer for an HR manager. Instead of the typical chronological progression of your background, I recommend doing a SWOT analysis within the context of a professional interview. Analyze the sector, the company, and the job function using a SWOT and look for opportunities to market yourself. I go into this in more detail in my blog post on how to tell your professional story in a way that will entice an interviewer to hire you.

Sample Answer: I have been a sales manager for X years, with experiences that include being able to lead a sales force toward the accomplishment of aggressive goals. In light of your organization’s core strength in hiring the brightest salespeople, I would know exactly how to coach them to sell both new and legacy products in new markets quickly. While at Company X, I created the gold standard incentive program that resulted in helping us sell-in potential charge volume that exceeded our goals by 20% in both travel expenses and daily expenses. Prior to that, I worked at X where I completed X, etc. Side note: figure out the assets of the hiring firm or its needs and tailor your response accordingly.

3. Why are you leaving your current job?

HR managers ask this question to determine if there are any red flags related to your departure. Are you leaving on good terms or bad? Are you looking to escape from your current job or grow within a new one? These are a few of the questions running through the interviewer’s mind. Take this opportunity to speak positively of your current employer but communicate that you’re looking at this new position as the next step in your career. By framing your answer positively, you’re making the interviewer focus on your potential contributions rather than any red flags.

Sample Answer: My business unit started with 50 full-time employees and today it has 10. While this reduction in personnel enabled me to showcase my ability to produce results with limited resources in an organization where management has turned over, I am interested in transitioning to an organization like yours where there is growth potential. For example, in my current role I managed to acquire 100K clients with only one other sales manager and a dwindling budget. In your company, I would be managing a team of 20 sales managers, where I stand to make a significant impact not only for your firm but on the firm’s market share.

4. What do you know about the company?

This is a test and one you should be able to pass easily. Doing research on a company prior to an interview is a necessity. You need to know the history and makeup of the company, who the key players are, recent accomplishments and mentions in the press, and any other relevant information. Communicate the positive information you learned about the company, from awards to new product launches, to demonstrate your knowledge.

Sample Answer: Your firm competes with firm A, firm B, and firm C in the U.S. My understanding is that you are better positioned in this area vs. firms A, B, or C. Meanwhile, firms B and C bring these strengths to the table. Given my skill set, I know that I can help you optimize your strength in this and offset the strengths that firms B and C plan to invest more heavily in during 2014. *Side note: the point is to be specific in how you’d use this information to drive results.

5. What questions do you have for me?

ALWAYS have questions for the interviewer. The strongest candidates show their enthusiasm and position themselves as potentially valuable team members by asking smart, strategic questions that benefit both the interviewer and the interviewee. If you’re stumped, here are five questions to ask HR that will take you to the next phase of the interviewing process.

“To learn more about how to navigate job interviews or if you have an upcoming interview, set up a 15-minute consultation.  I have helped professionals go from second choice to first.”

Melissa Llarena is a firsthand career transition expert (having gone through 16 business unit changes in 10 years) and president of Career Outcomes Matter.  Sign up for her blog at www.careeroutcomesmatter.com.

Inside the Recruiter’s Head: What He’s Really Asking You During the Interview- by Jayne Mattson

Jayne Mattson is Senior Vice President at Keystone Associates, a leading career management and transition services consulting firm in Boston, Massachusetts. Mattson specializes in helping mid-to-senior level individuals in new career exploration, networking strategies and career decisions based on corporate culture fit.
You applied for a new job, and you’ve been called in for an interview. During the interview process, there are three main questions that need to be answered to help the HR person determine if you’re the right fit for the job:
  • Can this person do the job?
  • Will he do the job?
  • Will he fit in with the company culture?

By asking what I call “the question behind the question,” hiring managers have a better chance to making the right hiring decision. As job seekers, your task is to answer them honestly and fully. Here are 10 top questions that the interviewer might ask, along with the hidden agenda behind each one. Tread carefully — the way you approach the answer might tell more than what you actually say.

1. As you reflect back at your last position, what was missing that you are looking for in your next role?

This question gets at the heart of why you’re leaving the current job or, in the case of a reduction in workforce, it helps the interviewer understand what was missing. If you answer with, “I didn’t have access to my boss, which made it difficult to get questions answered,” then the interviewer might follow up with, “Can you give me a specific example where you had to make a decision on your own because your boss was not available?” This follow-up question will help the interviewer determine your level of decision making and how much access to the manager you’ll need.

2. What qualities of your last boss did you admire, and what qualities did you dislike?

This is precarious territory because your answer needs to have a balance of positive and negative feedback. It will show if you are tactful in answering a tricky question and if your leadership style is congruent with the admired or disliked ones. If you name a trait the interviewer dislikes or that’s not in line with company culture, then you might not be a fit for the position.

3. How would you handle telling an employee his position is being eliminated after working for the company for 25 years, knowing they would be emotional?

This question is not unrealistic in today’s job market, since companies continue to downsize as a way of conducting business. Knowing that you might have to deal with this situation, the interviewer wants to know how you would tell the long-term employee the bad news. Would you tell the business reason why the company is downsizing, and would you thank the person in a genuine, heartfelt way for years of service?

4. How do you like to be rewarded for good performance?

As simple as this question is, it helps the interviewer get a sense of what motivates you — is it money, time off or more formal recognition? If you’re interviewing for a management role, the follow-up question could be: How do you reward the good performance of employees who work for you? Are you a “do as I say, not as I do” type of manager? The interviewer is looking for congruency in behaviors, because if you don’t practice what you preach, then it might not be a cultural fit.

5. Can you give me an example of when your relationship with your manager went off track and how you handled it?

The interviewer is listening for the reasons why the relationship went off track. Are you taking responsibility for your own actions first or placing blame on the manager? The interviewer wants to learn more about your communication style and how you approach conflict.

6. When a person says “I have integrity,” what does that mean to you?

The follow-up question is: “How have you demonstrated integrity in your work?” Integrity is broad, and most people think they have it, but can you really articulate what it looks and sounds like? The interviewer is looking for congruency of words and actions with this question.

7. Can you tell me about your experience working with the generation X or Y? What are the three qualities you admire about them?

There’s been much talk about the work habits of various generations. At a startup, you’ll likely be working with younger people, and employers want to know how you will integrate with this population. And young people will be working with baby boomers at bigger companies, like Dell and Apple. The interviewer will be looking for ways you’ve collaborated with workers of all ages and used each others’ talents to achieve a goal — do you have the energy, drive and attitude to work well with others?

8. Do you think age discrimination exists in the job market and if so, why?

Some job seekers use “age discrimination” or “I make too much money” as the reasons why they did not get the interview or the job. In reality, they have applied for a job for which they are overqualified. They have too many skills for this particular job and the employer can find someone who has the exact skill and salary that commensurate with the job. Don’t make that mistake.

9. Can you convince me you are the most qualified person for this role based on what we have discussed?

The interviewer wants to make sure you clearly understand what the problems are and what would be expected of you in the event of your hire. This is the opportunity for you to sell yourself effectively for the job.

10. As you look at your previous companies, can you describe in detail which company culture did you excel in the most and why?

The interviewer is looking for a culture fit, which is one of the essential criteria for job satisfaction. They want to hire someone who will do his best work for you, so do your research before you go in for the interview.


JAYNE MATTSONJayne Mattson is Senior Vice President of Keystone Associates, specializes in helping mid-to-senior level individuals in new career exploration, networking strategies and career decisions based on corporate culture fit

Duke University Study Shows Why People Prefer Dead End Jobs – by Alexandra Levit

When I was a child growing up in Maryland, we visited relatives in New York and Philadelphia often.  Back in the eighties, the toll booth operator job on the New Jersey turnpike was the national symbol of boredom. I remember sitting at the booth longer than we had to just so that the poor operator could have some human conversation.

Albert Camus might have been thinking of the toll booth operator when he wrote The Myth of Sisyphus. The famous essay refers to the ancient Greek story about a man who’s condemned by the gods to roll a boulder up a hill, watch it roll down, and then repeat the cycle for all eternity. In Camus’ view, the more modern worker is much like Sisyphus, working every day of his life at the exact same tasks.

In the enlightened twenty-first century, we often talk about work being meaningful, and about engaging in careers about which we feel passionate. But it turns out that at the end of the day, most people will still pick a Sisyphus-like job over an engaging one if they aren’t getting paid for the extra effort required by the latter. And in a recovering economy where salaries still have not come up to post-recession levels, this means that millions of disillusioned job seekers are selecting dead end jobs.

Duke University Fuqua School of Business marketing professor Peter Ubel and David Comerford, an assistant professor at Stirling University, explored the idea of “effort aversion,” or why people choose to put forth less effort even if it means less personal satisfaction. The results of their studies, “Effort Aversion: Job Choice and Compensation Decisions Overweigh Effort,” were recently published in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization.

The researchers found that even when an effort-filled job would be more interesting and enjoyable than a boring one, people tend to price themselves out of the job market because they feel their efforts need to be rewarded.

Three Studies on Effort Aversion

The researchers conducted several studies that showed how pay impacts a job seeker’s willingness to take on more challenges. In the first experiment, 144 people answered a questionnaire offering the choice of two short-term jobs at a cultural festival. Participants could either choose to be an usher (which would require publicizing the event, cleaning up after and escorting performers) or a monitor (which would only require alerting a security guard if needed.) Results showed that while most people (82 percent) preferred the job of usher, 36 percent would only take the job if it paid more than the monitor.

Commented Comerford:  “Ask someone which of two jobs they like better, and they will often pick the more interesting job, even if it requires more mental or physical effort. But ask them how much the two jobs should pay, and now that their mind is focused on wages, they often conclude that all that extra effort ought to be rewarded. Otherwise, they will take the boring job.”

In the second study, 74 graduate students agreed to take part in a short film. They could choose the role of worker (which would require doing a word puzzle for almost five minutes) or on-looker (sit and watch others.) Again, results showed that most people found the role of worker more enjoyable (66 percent), but of that group, only 18 percent agreed to solve the word puzzles without regard to whether they would receive more money than the onlookers.

In a third study, the researchers explored whether effort aversion could be overcome. Eighty people surveyed at airports were asked about the roles in a hypothetical film similar to the one above. Some were asked to rate the roles of workers versus onlookers based on enjoyment before considering wages. A second group was asked to set wages for the jobs before thinking about the enjoyment.

The people who considered enjoyment first were more likely to pick the job they said they would enjoy most. However, the results were not statistically significant enough to conclude that effort aversion could be overcome by simply thinking about enjoyment before wages.

What Have We Learned?

When I was writing the book How’d You Score That Gig? about dream careers, I realized that there’s actually an inverse relationship between pay and level of interest. That is, the more intriguing a job is considered to be, the less you are often paid at the entry level.

Camus would say that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the job. You have the consider the big picture, and if the money is enough to live on, isn’t it worth it to love what you do?  Financial compensation isn’t everything – just ask investment bankers who work 80 hours a week and have no time to spend their money.

Finally, because effort aversion is an unconscious process, you have to be especially careful that you aren’t falling prey without recognizing it. Be deliberate and thoughtful about any job offers you receive, weighing the pros and cons and envisioning your daily routine in each position. Every time you think about the plight of Sisyphus, you’ll be glad you did.

Alexandra Levit’s goal is to help people find meaningful jobs – quickly and simply – and to succeed beyond measure once they get there. Follow her @alevit.

3 Ways Employment Branding is Better than Job Postings

power of attractionJob postings have been around since the early ages. If an employer needed to hire, they simply wrote out what they were looking for and put it someplace for all to see.

Then, newspapers came along and radically changed job postings by making them all rest in one place for easy access.

Finally, the Internet came. I still remember the first time I visited Monster.com and realized anyone could look for job postings anywhere. It seemed too good to be true… and it was.

As we all know, somewhere along the way in our efforts to improve the job posting process, we created a system that now overwhelms recruiters with unqualified candidates. All of whom expect to be contacted – and then are offended when they don’t hear back about their application status. Add to that a bad economy where some job seekers have developed “angry mob” mentalities, and it has forced many recruiters to rethink their job posting strategies as a way to limit the applications submitted. For example, posting on industry-specific sites as opposed to larger sites. But the problem with limiting where we post a job also increases the odds that some of the best possible candidates (i.e. passive job seekers) will never see it.

Employment Branding = A Better Way to Attract & Filter Talent

The most exciting new development in the effort to attract top talent is Employment Branding. Now, companies of all shapes and sizes can strategically develop online content designed to catch the attention of and develop a relationship with the very talent they most desire. Using social media to push out blog posts and videos authored by their employer, recruiters are finding new, better ways to connect with the right applicants. However, effectively using Employment Branding techniques comes with a learning curve, leaving many time-crunched recruiters to still rely on job postings for the majority of the sourcing. To inspire you to commit some time and energy into building an Employment Branding strategy for your organization, here are 3 ways Employment Branding is better than traditional job postings for finding the top talent:

1.) It’s cheaper. Creating and circulating content that showcases your Co.Co.Fa. (Company Cool Factor) can be done for a fraction of the cost of a job posting today. Especially, if your company has in-house staff who can write and promote the content. For example, getting your company showcased on a high-ranking Google site will drive lots of organic traffic to your Careers page. Top talent is always on the lookout for the best companies to work for. When they see them written up, they go looking to learn more about them.

2.) It weeds out lazy people. Good Employment Branding not only grabs the attention of top talent, but it also invites them to make the effort to engage in conversation with your organization. Lazy job seekers just want to send you a generic cover letter and resume. Top talent wants to contribute to the conversation. An Employment Branding strategy that creates an opportunity to dialog with your company opens the door for the best and brightest to feel connected to you.

3.) It’s more valuable over time. Employment Branding is like a good wine, it gets better with age. That’s because the digital assets you create online increase in visibility over time. As your Employment Branding content gets circulated and re-circulated, it increases in Internet search engine rankings, ultimately driving even more talent to your company. News travels fast – and when it’s about a hot company like yours, it travels even faster!

Employment Branding is not a passing fad. As top talent becomes more savvy online, their expectations for content that helps them make an informed decisions about their next employers will increase dramatically.Those companies that have lots to offer in the way of Employment Branding will prove to job seekers they understand their needs.Those that ignore Employment Branding will find it harder and harder to attract the best talent and will be left dealing with the disengaged, entitled workers who stuff your online application system. Invest in Employment Branding now and you’ll reap the rewards later!

[Read more in Employer Branding]


J.T.J.T. O’Donnell is CEO of the career media services company, CAREEREALISM and founder of the virtual career coaching resource, CareerHMO. A nationally syndicated job and workplace expert, her company specializes in the development of digital assets for both individuals and companies in the areas of executive branding, employment branding, expert platform development, and authority marketing. On Twitter she tweets as @jtodonnell and @CAREEREALISM.