How to Answer HR Interview Questions the Right Way

HR interview questions have a different focus from those asked by your hiring manager, and since it is the first step in most hiring processes, it is important to understand how to answer them properly.

In this post, we’ll cover a few key topics that can help you understand what HR screeners want to know, what questions they’ll ask, and how to present yourself.

What Do HR Hiring Managers Want to Know?

As most of us know, except for low-level positions, most hiring processes involve several interviews, the first of which is the HR screening process. While screening interviews are not lengthy or in-depth, they are designed to weed out inappropriate candidates.

Understanding what’s involved in those interviews – and being able to pass them – is therefore crucial to successfully passing on to the next stage of the hiring process.

A few of the key areas HR screening interviewers are trying to asses include:

  • Skills, abilities, and knowledge
  • People skills
  • Personality
  • Technical requirements
  • Culture fit

This last point is arguably the most important, since it will have the greatest impact on many other aspects of the working relationship, such as workplace communications, team cohesion, and, ultimately, employee retention.

9 HR Interview Questions and Answer Tips

Here are a few examples of questions to expect during the HR interview:

Tell me about yourself. One approach to answering this question is to blend the personal with the professional – that is, tell them a bit about your backstory, then explain how that led you into your career and then into this job interview. 

Why are you applying for this role? A bad answer would be: “I need the money.” Instead, focus on why you would find the job interesting, then emphasize how your personal drive will push you to excel at that role. Another good topic to cover is why the organization itself is appealing to you, though they will likely ask this question if you don’t answer it first.

Why do you want to work at our company? Again, a bad answer would revolve around finances, location, or answers such as, “Because I need a job.” Instead, as with most of the questions here, the HR screener is trying to find out whether you are a good cultural fit for the company. Good answers will revolve around why the company’s values resonate with yours, why you like the company’s industry, as well as specific aspects of the company that draws you in, such as the employee training program.

Why are you leaving your current job? As with all of the questions in this list, answers should not be negative. Always put a positive spin on the answer. Good responses can revolve around: career development, wanting to expand one’s horizons, and so forth. That being said, HR interviewers are savvy professionals, so it pays to be honest with the answer – but maintain a professional attitude throughout.

Can you explain this gap in your resume? Many people have gaps in their resume, or time lags between jobs. These are often the result of causes such as school, volunteer work, or travel. 

What is your ideal work environment? When answering this question, it is again useful to emphasize the intangible aspects of the workplace, such as the culture, since that is really what HR interviewers are trying to ascertain. Discussing material aspects of the work environment, such as the ability to work from home or having nice equipment or a nice office, may be acceptable if you are actively searching for, for instance, employers who take care of their workers.

Can you tell me about a conflict you had at work and how you handled it? This question is very common, so it is a good idea to prepare the answer beforehand. Since conflict is unavoidable in any work environment, HR interviewers want to assess skills such as leadership skills, people skills, and conflict resolution skills. When answering, therefore, describe not only what happened, but how you handled it and helped to resolve the situation.

What are your salary expectations? If you are open to negotiating the salary, it pays to say so. One good technique is to check the average salary rates for this position in this geography, then ask what they are offering. Also, if you have minimum requirements, make sure to tell the interviewer what those numbers are.

Do you have any questions for me? As with most of the other questions here, it is a good idea to think about the answer – or, in this case, the questions – beforehand. Since this is an initial screening interview, you should also be thinking of screening questions of your own that might impact your decision to accept the job. If you can’t think of any, consider asking something anyways, since it shows the interviewer that you are actually interested in the position and the company.

One final tip: be sure to not only understand what questions the interviewer will ask and rehearse those answers, but understand what the interviewers are really looking for. In the HR screening interview, as mentioned, they are trying to select the candidates who fit the broadest criteria – culture, capabilities, interests, and technical requirements.

Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.