This is an authoritative guide to interview questions for anyone seeking a human resources specialist position. Use this guide to interview for HR specialist positions. Interviewers can use this guide to formulate questions to ask HR candidates. See “Interview questions for manager” for HR manager questions.
Many see the opportunity to work with people as desirable feature of being a human resources professional. That is in spite of the fact that many other professions in the U.S. employ more than 450,000 working as an HR specialist and many pay greater than the median of $55,800 annually, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics wage data.
Expect technical questions if the job is not entry level. Read the position requirements in the job ad and be prepared to describe your accomplishments in those areas. Interviewers should refer to internal job descriptions to formulate questions.
Past behaviors are the best predictor of future behaviors. Therefore, expect to be asked about what you have done in previous jobs, school or other venues. You need to think through very specific accomplishments related to job characteristics. Stop to take time to think through your answer to many of the questions. Effective interviewers will actually ask you to take time to think about your answers. It is more important to think through and accurately describe yourself and your accomplishments than to show you can answer questions quickly. Quick answers will more likely be less effective answers.
Preparing for the interview
Each answer should follow the STAR format, or Situation, Task, Action, Result.
- Describe the situation (S) in one or two sentences. Give the listener an idea of the context and the importance of the situation.
- Your task (T) should be summed up as, “It was my job to…”
- Detail your actions (A) in first person. (Say “I did this” and not “we did that.”)
- Focus on results (R): how you improved your organization, how you helped a person or how you benefited from the experience.
Think in terms of an elevator speech. In other words, you are going up an elevator and the chief executive in your organization asks, “How are you doing on that project?” Be ready to answer, “As you may recall, I was asked to improve our new employee orientation. I organized a cross functional group to identify the important elements. I implemented their suggestions and now new employees are responding with higher satisfaction ratings. Several supervisors have commented on how our new employee follow up program is helping them.” It should take only two or three minutes to answer the question.
Recency and frequency
Interviewers are going to weight recent and more frequent experiences as better indicators of job success.
The Department of Labor’s O*Net website defines and weights work styles related to success of human resources specialists as follows.
- 94% - Attention to Detail
- 93% - Integrity
- 91% - Cooperation
- 89% - Concern for Others
- 89% - Dependability
- 85% - Independence
- 82% - Self Control
- 80% - Initiative
Take a look at the pictures to see behavioral questions for each category.
What human resources professionals do
HR specialists recruit and help select job applicants; conduct new employee orientation; develop and maintain HR policies, job descriptions, compensation, benefits, schedules, working conditions, or promotion opportunities; interpret and explain laws, standards, or regulations (e.g., Equal Employment Opportunity and affirmative action guidelines and laws); address employee relations issues; maintain employment records and human resources documents.