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.

2014: The Year Social HR Matters – by Jeanne Meister

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In 2013, organizations finally began in earnest to integrate social technologies into recruitment, development and engagement practices. In 2014, this social integration will become the status quo.

The digital immigrants have now caught up to the digital natives – we are now all digital citizens. The fastest growing demographic on Google+ is 45-54 and on Twitterit is 55-64!

And it’s a good thing that baby boomers and other older generations have embraced these tools, because using social media inside companies will be increasingly important in 2014 and beyond.

For one thing, this year we’ll see more forward-thinking HR leaders making the connection between having a solid social media strategy and finding top talent. After all, 47 percent of Millennials now say a prospective employer’s online reputation matters as much as the job it offers, according to a survey by Spherion Staffing.

The year will also see a new phase of what I call “the consumerization of HR,” wherein employees not only demand to bring their own devices to work, but also want to use these mobile devices to change the way they work with peers, communicate with their manager and even interact with the HR department.

Employees are requesting to view new job postings on their tablets, learn and collaborate with peers on their smartphones, and provide feedback on a team member’s performance with the click of a button. According to a Microsoftsurvey of 9,000 workers across 32 countries, 31 percent would be willing to spend their own money on a new social tool if it made them more efficient at work. This last finding is quite interesting as it shows the extent to which Millennial employees, who will make up 50% of the 2020 workplace, see the business value of using technology on the job.

2014 is the year HR departments must start creating “social media playbooks” to determine their game plans.

Looking at the big picture helps to determine those priorities. Here are seven social media trends to watch in the coming year as organizations leverage all forms of social collaboration to re-imagine how they source, develop and engage employees.

1. Big Data Lets New Jobs Find You Before You Even Know You’re Looking

Amid our nation’s legendary dearth of skilled workers, talent acquisition has risen to the top of the CEO agenda. According to PwC’s global CEO Study, 66 percent of CEOs say that the absence of necessary skills is their biggest talent challenge. Eighty-three percent say they’re working to change their recruiting strategies to address that fact.

Meanwhile, a host of big data recruiting firms are set to benefit from the newly emphasized value being placed on recruiting. These firms tout that they can find new talent before the prospective employees even know they are in the job market.  Companies such as EnteloGildTalentBin and the U.K.’sthesocialCV analyze not just a job candidate’s LinkedIn profile, Twitter feed and Facebook postings, but also their activity on specialty sites specific to their professions, such as the open-source community forums StackOverflow andGitHub (for coders) Proformative (for accountants), and  Dribbble (for designers.) This approach to recruitment is creating a new technical world order where job applicants are found and evaluated by their merits and contributions, rather than by how well they sell themselves in an interview.

These companies, at the intersection of Big Data and Recruiting, have made a science out of locating “hard to find” talent. Gild does it by scouring the Internet for clues: Is his or her code well regarded by other programmers? Does it get reused? How does the programmer communicate ideas? How does he or she relate on social media sites? How big are their networks and who is in them?

Entelo and TalentBin take a different approach: Their search tools consider the experience and history mentioned in users’ profiles, but also their use of social networks. These companies can pinpoint users who have updated their bios lately or often, to determine which candidates are getting ready to enter the job market.

Getting this head start on head hunting is crucial as corporations’ search for top candidates becomes ever more competitive. The goal: finding talent invisible on widely popular social platforms before your competitor does.

2. Mobile Apps Are the New Job-Search Frontier

According to a study of Fortune 500 companies conducted by CareerBuilder, 39% of the US population uses tablet devices. A recent survey conducted byGlassdoor.com even found that 43 percent of job candidates’ research their prospective employer and read the job description on their mobile device just 15 minutes prior to their interviews.  And yet, only 20 percent of Fortune 500companies have a mobile-optimized career site.

The rest of the 80% of companies are missing the fact that tablet andsmartphone users expect to see job listings and information in a visual way, one that reflects the visual approach they bring to their personal lives on the Web.

The food-services corporation Sodexo, the 20th-largest employer in the U.S., got a head start in that process in early 2012, when it developed both a mobile-optimized career site and a smartphone app to pull together all the information about the company’s recruiting efforts into one easy-for-Millennials-to-access place. Prospective employees could visit the mobile app to search and apply for jobs, join a talent community, receive job alerts, and get an insider’s view about what it’s like to work for Sodexo.

The results according to Arie Ball, VP Talent Acquisition at Sodexo, 17 percent of job traffic from potential new hires now comes from the mobile app versus just 2 percent of mobile traffic in early 2012. In the first year, mobile app downloads totaled 15,000, leading to over 2,000 new job candidates and 141 actual new hires, all while saving the company $300,000 in job board postings.

Organizations need to keep pace with the way prospective employees live their lives, and being able to access a mobile app in the job search process will become standard in 2014.

3. Companies Use Gamification In The Workplace

Over 60 percent of the Western world’s population plays video games, and companies are taking note of the huge numbers of future prospective employees who love to play Angry BirdsFruit NinjaCandy Crush, andWorld of Warcraft.

Gamification in the business context is taking the essence of games—attributes like puzzles, play, transparency, design and competition—and applying them to a range of real-world processes inside an organization, from new hire on-boarding, to learning & development, and health & wellness.

Video game-players are known for being singularly focused while at play. So naturally, companies have begun to ask how they can harness that same level of engagement and apply it to critical problem-solving, on-boarding new hires or developing new leaders?

With technology research firm Gartner predicting that 40 percent of global Fortune 1,000 companies will soon use gamification as primary method to transform their business processes, 2013 saw a number of them leveraging game mechanics as a tool to drive higher levels of business performance.

NTT Data, which I profiled in my previous Forbes column, Gamification in Leadership development, has been using gamification to develop leaders, and it is already seeing results. The company’s “Ignite Leadership” Game, aligned with its overall employee engagement framework, was created to develop five key skills for leaders: negotiation, communication, time management, change management and problem solving.  To date, a total of 70 leaders have completed the gamified leadership program, and 50 employees ended up taking on team leadership roles – that’s 50% higher than had done so through traditional training and coaching methods. Plus, these “graduates” of the Ignite Leadership Game generated 220 new ideas in their roles as leaders, which led to a 40 percent increase in employee satisfaction and helped lower attrition by 30 percent.

Gamification in the workplace is not just about using badges, mission and leaderboards. Instead, the strategy is about truly understanding who you are trying to engage, what motivates them, and how gamification can change the way they work, communicate and innovate with peers and customers.

4. Re-think The Performance Review

The annual performance review is dead. When 750 senior level HR professionals were recently asked to grade their current performance management system, 60% gave it a grade of C or below, according toWorldAtWork. In another survey conducted Globoforceand SHRM 45% of human resources leaders don’t think annual performance reviews are an accurate appraisal for employees’ work. So what is happening in its place?

There are two innovations on this front. First companies are leveraging the wisdom of the crowds and discovering that by leveraging social recognition data managers are able to continuously collect information on employee performance. This result is an on-going dialogue rather than a once a year review.

Now that you have collected various data inputs, some companies are going one-step further to create a new process focusing on having a “Check-In. The software company Adobe now relies on managers controlling how often and in what form they provide feedback. The Check-In –is an informal system of real-time feedback, which has no forms to fill out or submit to HR.

Instead, managers are trained in how to conduct a check-in and how to focus the conversation on key goals, objectives, development and strategies for improvement and how to leverage the wisdom of the crowds to create a holistic view of one’s performance. And most importantly, employees are evaluated on the basis of what they achieved against their own goals, rather than how they compare to their peers.

According to Donna Morris, Adobe’s Senior V.P. of Global People & Places, the company has saved 80,000 hours of management time by replacing its old process, and voluntary attrition is now at an all time low of 6.7 percent.

The goal here is to make key HR processes more transparent, leverage the wisdom of the crowds and to democratize the flow of information throughout the organization.

5. Learning Will Be Social and Happen Anywhere & Anytime

In my book The 2020 Workplace, an entire chapter was devoted to how and why companies are adopting social learning. I then created the Social Learning Boot Camp  profiling companies re-imaging learning.. All that research boiled down to one realization: social learning is not new; in fact, we have always learned from one another in the workplace. Only now that social media has revolutionized how we communicate in our personal lives, organizations are bringing “social” inside the enterprise and adopting tools such asYammerAdobe Connect and Google Hangouts to make it far easier to find experts, collaborate with peers and learn both from and with colleagues.

The results have been impressive, ranging from increased employee collaboration to re-imagining face-to-face learning programs. Nationwide Insurance, for example, now has nearly all of its 36,000 employees active on its internal social platform, making it far easier for employees to find subject experts and solve business problems in one fell swoop, rather than sending copious emails or searching through hard drives.

At Montefiore Hospital, which has nearly 50 primary care locations throughout the New York metropolitan area, social learning was introduced in order to build a sense of community and connection among employees, while creating a shared mental model of leadership. One of the assignments during the leadership development program was to co-create a new behavioral interview guide using the hospital’s social collaboration platform. So rather than just talking in class about the new interview guide, the participants were able to actually co create a new guide using Yammer.

Finally, the consulting firm Accenture (disclosure: my former employer), which has over 260,000 employees in more than 120 countries, has gone so far as to add gamification to its social collaboration platform. Like other firms adopting gamification, Accenture studied what motivates people to compete while gaming, and then harnessed those principles to spur collaboration and enhance peer-to-peer networking, to solve client programs.

As yourself: are you thinking of social learning as another delivery mode rather than a new way of working and communicating.

6. MOOC’s Will Revolutionize Corporate Learning & Development

As noted in my blog post last year on “How MOOCs Will Revolutionize Corporate Learning & Development,” the buzz about MOOCs (Massive, Open, Online Courses) has focused on the  disruption they will bring to institutions of higher education. But far from being limited to that sphere, MOOCs most important legacy may in fact be its impact on the world of corporate training – a $150 billion industry.

The early MOOC report card shows a few standout examples of corporate partnerships that use MOOCs to replace certain executive education courses. For example, Yahoo and Coursera have joined forces enabling Yahoo to fund employees for verified Coursera certificates in computer science, priced at under $100 each. This represents a huge savings compared to what Yahoo would normally spend on university-sponsored executive education.

But other companies are creating their own versions of MOOCs – within the company. Sometimes the courses exist to train prospective candidates in the skills they need to be considered for employment, as a sort of train before hire process. Aquent, a staffing firm with over 8,000  employees, recently launched its first in an ongoing series of MOOCs to teach creative professionals how to use emerging technologies. Aquent calls its program “Aquent Gymnasium,” drawing on the connotations of the gym as a place for fun, training and engaging in a series of “work-outs.”

Aquent offers an interesting example of a company developing a MOOC strategy that is an industry game-changer. Rather than search for job candidates based upon the spec’s given to them by their clients, Aquent flipped the process, instead creating a brand of MOOCs to help candidates develop the skills Aquent‘s clients will seek.

And importantly, Aquent is doing all this with real-world practitioners as instructors rather than university professors.

The results: after its first year of offering a range of MOOCs in Aquent Gymnasium, Aquent had a 10-times return on the program’s investment.

7. Capture Your Organizational Klout   

Klout, which calls itself “the SAT score for business professionals,” measures each user’s online “influence.” A Klout score is a statistical score from 1-100, which ranks you on variables such as: how many people you reach through social media; how much they trust you; and on what topics you are perceived a thought leader.

To date, most users have focused on building and measuring their individual Klout hoping this will help in landing them a new job or promotion.

In the year ahead, the focus will also be on Klout for Business. That’s because in June of 2013, Yammer and Klout announced a partnership that allows Kloutto factor Yammer users’ data and activity into its social ranking algorithm, and also lets Yammer users display their Klout scores on their Yammerprofiles.

For employees, these data points can mean the difference between a raise, a promotion or staying in the same job. For employer, the ability to assess individual employee expertise at scale can enable companies to take a more strategic approach to what needs to be outsourced and what can be managed internally, based upon the identification of a company’s collective expertise.

Are you and members of your team ready for a year of Social HR? Readers sound off in the comments section and I will respond.

Jeanne Meister is Partner, Future Workplace, co-author of The 2020 Workplace book. You can follow Jeanne on Twitter, connect with her on Linkedin, learn more about the Social Learning Boot Campand sign up here to receive the latest Future Workplace newsletter here.

Change the World: Treat the Interview as a Sales Call

Most employment interviews are a waste of time. Candidates think they’re about correctly answering the interviewer’s questions and interviewers think they’re designed to figure out if the candidate meets the requirements listed in the job description. They’re not.

Google just found out after exhaustive research that brainteasers don’t predict on-the-job performance. (To be a bit cynical here, this is not new news. I read about this classic problem in the mid-1990s doing research for my first book.) The bigger news at Google is that they found that very few of their hiring managers have a good track record using the interview for predicting on-the-job success. Google’s revelation is not uncommon.

Given that the common and traditional interview is flawed, including the vaunted behavioral interview (see below), what is a job-seeker, hiring manager, recruiter or anyone on the interviewing team to do? I suggest all parties take a page from any well-trained sales department and convert the employment interview into a discovery call. Here’ssalesforce.com’s blog describing this core activity. In essence, the idea is to use the sales call to find out the customer’s needs and then craft a solution that demonstrates your product is a perfect fit. Whatever side of the desk you’re on, this is what interviewing should be about.

During the interview the buyer and seller roles often switch, so conducting parallel discovery can become a bit unnerving – similar to dating. Regardless, here are the basic steps.

The Discovery Process for the Job-seeker

Step 1: Find out what’s being sold. Don’t assume the person interviewing you is competent. If the interviewer is either box-checking skills, asking pointless questions, or asking brainteasers, begin your discovery right away. This starts by asking questions at the beginning of the interview to uncover real job needs. Here are some questions that will get you started:

  • What’s the focus of the job?
  • What are some big problems or issues the person will face right away?
  • How will performance be measured?
  • Are there any team related challenges?
  • Why is the position open?

Step 2: Prove you’re the solution. Once you have some understanding of the job, you’ll then need to describe some past accomplishment that demonstrates you’re capable of doing the work required. Use the SAFW two-minute response to form your answers. This involves providing a 1-2 minute overview of a major past accomplishment with just enough details to naturally prompt the interviewer to ask some clarifying follow-up questions. You’ll need to do this for at least 2-3 of the most important aspects of the job during the interview in order to “win the sale.”

Step 3: At the end of the interview ask for the order, or at least find out the next steps. Something like, “Based on what we’ve discussed, do you think my background is a good fit for the position? (Pause) What are the next steps in the process?” If you are a good fit for the job, the interviewer will be specific about the next steps. A vague response is not a good sign.

The Discovery Process for the Interviewer

Step 1: Be different. Don’t ask behavioral questions since all candidates have practiced answering these. (Here’s Google’s multi-million answers.)

Step 2: Figure out what you’re selling. Start by making sure everyone on the hiring team is familiar with the performance-based job description listing the top 4-5 performance objectives required for on-the-job success. Interviewing accuracy is dramatically improved when everyone knows what they’re evaluating.

Step 3: Early in the interview find out why the candidate is looking for another job, most likely it’s something involving economic need or lack of sufficient career growth. You’ll use the balance of the interview to determine if your position meets these needs. This will be essential for negotiating the offer, especially if the person is a passive candidate and/or has multiple opportunities.

Step 4: Validate what you’re buying. Use The Most Important Interview Question of All Timeand the associated fact-finding questions to find out if the candidate is competent and motivated to do the actual work required. This involves describing one of the performance objectives and then asking the candidate to describe a comparable accomplishment. You’ll need to do this for the 3-4 most important performance objectives to make an accurate assessment. From this you’ll be able to determine if the gap between what you’re offering and what the candidate has done is a career move, a lateral transfer or something below or beyond the candidate’s current abilities.

Step 5: Determine thinking skills. Rather than using brainteasers to figure out thinking and problem-solving ability, ask about a real problem the person in the role is likely to face. (This is the second half of the two-question Performance-based Interview.) The purpose is to get into a back-and-forth dialogue to determine if the candidate’s approach to solving the problem is appropriate. Focus on the process of getting the answer, not the answer itself. Then Anchor the question by getting an example of what the person has done that’s most comparable to the problem being discussed. (See Anchor and Visualize questioning pattern.)

Step 6: If the candidate is someone you’d like to consider, describe the opportunity gap and present your job as a true career move. Then find out the candidate’s interest in further discussion. (Here’s the complete explanation behind the selling process involved in negotiating offers.)

Whether you’re on the hiring or job-seeking side it’s important to recognize that an interview is a sales call. While figuring out who’s the buyer and seller is a function of supply and demand, meeting the performance objectives for the job is what’s being bought and sold. Unfortunately, too many companies, job-seekers and interviewers lose sight of the core purpose of the interview. You won’t, if you put yourself in the shoes of a top sales rep on a 100% commission plan, and are always fully prepared.

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Lou Adler (@LouA) is the creator of Performance-based Hiring and the author of the Amazon Top 10 business best-seller, Hire With Your Head (Wiley, 2007). His new book, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired, (Workbench, 2013) has just been published. Feel free to joinLou’s new LinkedIn group or ‘like’ us on Facebook to discuss all types of hiring issues.