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How to Interview Someone in the HR Industry

You’ve put it off as long as you can, but now you have to hire. Until now your team has handled it all, with a little help here and there, but it’s just too much to manage by yourself. You have too many fires to put out; you need more people, good people, to handle some internal conflicts brewing, benefit and/or compensation requests, compliance (and you could use some help with strategic planning as well).


Maybe, you have to hire a human resource professional to help you with your growing company. Or maybe, you need to replace an HR professional that has left.

How to Interview Someone in the HR Industry

Ideally you want the person that is going to come in, read your mind, make your life easier and can be trusted. Anyone that you interview should be minimally qualified, so let’s assume you’ve jumped that hurdle. Now unless you’re clairvoyant, you’re going to need some help asking the right questions to determine who has the passion, the desire, and the guts to be the best candidate.

Here are a few of my favorite interview questions and why.

1. What do you like about human resources? Why do you want to be an human resource professional?

We’re looking for passion, people! We want someone who loves the profession and is not just doing it for a pay check. We don’t want anyone mailing it in and getting complacent. We want HR innovators that want to use the latest trends to help achieve our goals.

2. Tell me about a time you made a mistake and what was the resolution and outcome?

I love this question because it’s really about accountability. You need someone that is not afraid to be honest about past mistakes and the corrective actions that they took to ensure it does happen again, the lesson learned. We know that everyone makes mistakes at work. No one’s perfect; so if the candidate says, “ I don’t make mistakes, or I can’t think of any, or I have so much experience that I don’t make mistakes” –  that’s a FAIL. What I’m hearing is, “I am too stubborn and self-conscious to admit that I’ve made mistakes.” So there’s your mistake, pretending as if you don’t make them! If they do give a specific example, listen very closely to how the interviewee overcame the example mistake; this will tell you a lot about their resilience and problem solving ability.

3. What are some of your weaknesses? What are your strengths?

Again, I’m looking for introspection and self-evaluation. This is a very standard interview questions across all positions. I don’t want to hear that you have no weaknesses because that’s a lie. How an interviewee talks about their own weaknesses will give you an idea about how he or she will talk about company weaknesses. The same idea applies when you listen to his or her strengths. You want someone that can inspire pride but be wary of a long unrealistic list of feats that makes one wonder why this person is even in the job market. He or she may be giving you the run around. Look for someone level-headed.

4. What do you look for in an organization and team dynamic?

Personally I like this question because the answer helps me to know what kind of employee you’re going to be. No one wants to be micromanaged but there must be a level of accountability. You must be able to work alone or under the pressure of a deadline without flaking out. You want someone that can be trusted to complete tasks and make decisions without too much coddling.

See also:

So now I got to tell you my least favorite HR interview questions. And these have actually been asked of me or I’ve heard someone ask them. Don’t be a victim to this kind of interview bias.

1. What person living or dead would you most like to have dinner with?

How about yo momma (don’t say that candidates)!  Nevertheless, this question bothers me because it leads the candidate to a place where they could be discriminated against. You want to stay away from entertainment icons, religious leaders and athletes. For instance you may think of Jesus Christ or Elvis Presley or Michael Jordan, but it just so could happen that the interviewer doesn’t like any of those leaders. Now you don’t “fit.” Candidates, if you get this question, I recommend going with a family member.

2. Tell me something that you probably shouldn’t tell me. 

Uh nothing! Just don’t see the point to this question. Again it leads the interviewee to talk about something inappropriate like, “There are some primo chicks in here.” Candidates, consider steering the conversation back to something work related, such as, “I’m huge fan of Macs. What type of computers / operating systems does the office use?”

When interviewing a person for an HR position you want to make sure you are looking someone who has a passion for HR because that minimizes the risk of them getting frustrated and quitting. You want someone who is knowledgeable and resourceful. You want someone who relies on skills just as much as experience, because things change quickly and you need someone who can adopt and is open-minded. Sometimes people with a lot of experience become entitled know-it-alls unwilling to learn new concepts or strategies (think social media, HR). Hiring decisions are costly, especially for a small growing business you want to be certain that you make the best choice available.

Hope this helps, what questions would you ask – or not ask – when hiring someone for your HR department?

For more information on how to interview.

cost of workChris Fields is an HR professional and leadership guy who blogs and dispenses great (not just good) advice at Cost of Work. Connect with Chris via email at chris@costofwork.com.

Chris Fields

Chris Fields

Chris Fields is an HR professional and leadership guy who blogs and dispenses great (not just good) advice at Cost of Work & ResumeCrusade.