: Most Popular HR Interview Questions
me about yourself?
Start with the present and tell why
you are well qualified for the position. Remember that the key to all successful
interviewing is to match your qualifications to what the interviewer is looking
for. In other words you must sell what the buyer is buying. This is the single
most important strategy in job hunting.
So, before you answer this or any
question it?s imperative that you try to uncover your interviewer?s greatest
need, want, problem or goal.
To do so, make you take these two
Do all the homework you can before
the hr interview to uncover this person?s wants and needs (not the generalized
needs of the industry or company)
As early as you can in the
interview, ask for a more complete description of what the position entails. You
might say: ?I have a number of accomplishments I?d like to tell you about,
but I want to make the best use of our time together and talk directly to your
needs. To help me do, that, could you tell me more about the most important
priorities of this position? All I know is what I (heard from the recruiter,
read in the classified ad, etc.)?
Then, ALWAYS follow-up with a
second and possibly, third question, to draw out his needs even more.
Surprisingly, it?s usually this second or third question that unearths what
the interviewer is most looking for.
You might ask simply, ?And in
addition to that?? or, ?Is there anything else you see as essential to
success in this position?:
This process will not feel easy or
natural at first, because it is easier simply to answer questions, but only if
you uncover the employer?s wants and needs will your answers make the most
sense. Practice asking these key questions before giving your answers, the
process will feel more natural and you will be light years ahead of the other
job candidates you?re competing with.
After uncovering what the employer
is looking for, describe why the needs of this job bear striking parallels to
tasks you?ve succeeded at before. Be sure to illustrate with specific examples
of your responsibilities and especially your achievements, all of which are
geared to present yourself as a perfect match for the needs he has just
are your greatest strengths?
You know that your key strategy is
to first uncover your interviewer?s greatest wants and needs before you answer
questions. And from Question 1, you know how to do this.
Prior to any interview, you should
have a list mentally prepared of your greatest strengths. You should also have,
a specific example or two, which illustrates each strength, an example chosen
from your most recent and most impressive achievements.
You should, have this list of your
greatest strengths and corresponding examples from your achievements so well
committed to memory that you can recite them cold after being shaken awake at
Then, once you uncover your
interviewer?s greatest wants and needs, you can choose those achievements from
your list that best match up.
As a general guideline, the 10 most
desirable traits that all employers love to see in their employees are:
A proven track record as an
achiever?especially if your achievements match up with the employer?s
greatest wants and needs.
Good fit with corporate
culture?someone to feel comfortable with?a team player who meshes well with
attitude?sense of humor.
Good communication skills.
Dedication?willingness to walk
the extra mile to achieve excellence.
Definiteness of purpose?clears
Enthusiasm?high level of
Confident. Healthy. a leader.
are your greatest weaknesses?
Disguise strength as a weakness.
Example: ?I sometimes push my
people too hard. I like to work with a sense of urgency and everyone is not
always on the same wavelength.?
Drawback: This strategy is better
than admitting a flaw, but it?s so widely used, it is transparent to any
BEST ANSWER: (and another reason
it?s so important to get a thorough description of your interviewer?s needs
before you answer questions): Assure the interviewer that you can think of
nothing that would stand in the way of your performing in this position with
excellence. Then, quickly review you strongest qualifications.
Example: ?Nobody?s perfect, but
based on what you?ve told me about this position, I believe I? d make an
outstanding match. I know that when I hire people, I look for two things most of
all. Do they have the qualifications to do the job well, and the motivation to
do it well? Everything in my background shows I have both the qualifications and
a strong desire to achieve excellence in whatever I take on. So I can say in all
honesty that I see nothing that would cause you even a small concern about my
ability or my strong desire to perform this job with excellence.?
Alternate strategy (if you don?t
yet know enough about the position to talk about such a perfect fit):
Instead of confessing a weakness,
describe what you like most and like least, making sure that what you like most
matches up with the most important qualification for success in the position,
and what you like least is not essential.
Example: Let?s say you?re
applying for a teaching position. ?If given a choice, I like to spend as much
time as possible in front of my prospects selling, as opposed to shuffling
paperwork back at the office. Of course, I long ago learned the importance of
filing paperwork properly, and I do it conscientiously. But what I really love
to do is sell (if your interviewer were a sales manager, this should be music to
me about something you did ? or failed to do ? that you now feel a little
As with faults and weaknesses,
never confess a regret. But don?t seem as if you?re stonewalling either.
Best strategy: Say you harbor no
regrets, then add a principle or habit you practice regularly for healthy human
Example: Pause for reflection, as
if the question never occurred to you. Then say to hr, ?You know, I really
can?t think of anything.? (Pause again, then add): ?I would add that as a
general management principle, I?ve found that the best way to avoid regrets is
to avoid causing them in the first place. I practice one habit that helps me a
great deal in this regard. At the end of each day, I mentally review the day?s
events and conversations to take a second look at the people and developments
I?m involved with and do a double check of what they?re likely to be
feeling. Sometimes I?ll see things that do need more follow-up, whether a pat
on the back, or maybe a five minute chat in someone?s office to make sure
we?re clear on things?whatever.?
?I also like to make each
person feel like a member of an elite team, like the Boston Celtics or LA Lakers
in their prime. I?ve found that if you let each team member know you expect
excellence in their performance?if you work hard to set an example
yourself?and if you let people know you appreciate and respect their feelings,
you wind up with a highly motivated group, a team that?s having fun at work
because they?re striving for excellence rather than brooding over slights or
are you leaving (or did you leave) this position ?
(If you have a job presently tell
If you?re not yet 100% committed
to leaving your present post, don?t be afraid to say so. Since you have a job,
you are in a stronger position than someone who does not. But don?t be coy
either. State honestly what you?d be hoping to find in a new spot. Of course,
as stated often before, you answer will all the stronger if you have already
uncovered what this position is all about and you match your desires to it.
(If you do not presently have
a job tell the hr.)
Never lie about having been fired.
It?s unethical ? and too easily checked. But do try to deflect the reason
from you personally. If your firing was the result of a takeover, merger,
division wide layoff, etc., so much the better.
But you should also do something
totally unnatural that will demonstrate consummate professionalism. Even if it
hurts , describe your own firing ? candidly, succinctly and without a trace of
bitterness ? from the company?s point-of-view, indicating that you could
understand why it happened and you might have made the same decision yourself.
Your stature will rise immensely
and, most important of all, you will show you are healed from the wounds
inflicted by the firing. You will enhance your image as first-class management
material and stand head and shoulders above the legions of firing victims who,
at the slightest provocation, zip open their shirts to expose their battle scars
and decry the unfairness of it all.
For all prior positions:
Make sure you?ve prepared a brief
reason for leaving. Best reasons: more money, opportunity, responsibility or
Like a primitive tribal mask, the
Silent Treatment loses all it power to frighten you once you refuse to be
intimidated. If your interviewer pulls it, keep quiet yourself for a while and
then ask, with sincere politeness and not a trace of sarcasm, ?Is there
anything else I can fill in on that point?? That?s all there is to it.
Whatever you do, don?t let the
Silent Treatment intimidate you into talking a blue streak, because you could
easily talk yourself out of the position.
should I hire you?
By now you can see how critical it
is to apply the overall strategy of uncovering the employer?s needs before you
answer questions. If you know the employer?s greatest needs and desires, this
question will give you a big leg up over other candidates because you will give
him better reasons for hiring you than anyone else is likely to?reasons tied
directly to his needs.
Whether your interviewer asks you
this question explicitly or not, this is the most important question of your
interview because he must answer this question favorably in is own mind before
you will be hired. So help him out! Walk through each of the position?s
requirements as you understand them, and follow each with a reason why you meet
that requirement so well.
Example: ?As I understand your
needs, you are first and foremost looking for someone who can manage the sales
and marketing of your book publishing division. As you?ve said you need
someone with a strong background in trade book sales. This is where I?ve spent
almost all of my career, so I?ve chalked up 18 years of experience exactly in
this area. I believe that I know the right contacts, methods, principles, and
successful management techniques as well as any person can in our industry.?
?You also need someone who
can expand your book distribution channels. In my prior post, my innovative
promotional ideas doubled, then tripled, the number of outlets selling our
books. I?m confident I can do the same for you.?
?You need someone to give a
new shot in the arm to your mail order sales, someone who knows how to sell in
space and direct mail media. Here, too, I believe I have exactly the experience
you need. In the last five years, I?ve increased our mail order book sales
from $600,000 to $2,800,000, and now we?re the country?s second leading
marketer of scientific and medical books by mail.? Etc., etc., etc.,
Every one of these selling
?couplets? (his need matched by your qualifications) is a touchdown that
runs up your score. IT is your best opportunity to outsell your competition.
you overqualified for this position?
As with any objection, don?t view
this as a sign of imminent defeat. It?s an invitation to teach the interviewer
a new way to think about this situation, seeing advantages instead of drawbacks.
Example: ?I recognize the job
market for what it is ? a marketplace. Like any marketplace, it?s subject to
the laws of supply and demand. So ?overqualified? can be a relative term,
depending on how tight the job market is. And right now, it?s very tight. I
understand and accept that.?
?I also believe that there
could be very positive benefits for both of us in this match.?
?Because of my unusually
strong experience in ________________ , I could start to contribute right away,
perhaps much faster than someone who?d have to be brought along more
?There?s also the value
of all the training and years of experience that other companies have invested
tens of thousands of dollars to give me. You?d be getting all the value of
that without having to pay an extra dime for it. With someone who has yet to
acquire that experience, he?d have to gain it on your nickel.?
?I could also help you in many
things they don?t teach at the Harvard Business School. For example?(how to
hire, train, motivate, etc.) When it comes to knowing how to work well with
people and getting the most out of them, there?s just no substitute for what
you learn over many years of front-line experience. You company would gain all
?From my side, there are
strong benefits, as well. Right now, I am unemployed. I want to work, very much,
and the position you have here is exactly what I love to do and am best at.
I?ll be happy doing this work and that?s what matters most to me, a lot more
that money or title.?
?Most important, I?m
looking to make a long term commitment in my career now. I?ve had enough of
job-hunting and want a permanent spot at this point in my career. I also know
that if I perform this job with excellence, other opportunities cannot help but
open up for me right here. In time, I?ll find many other ways to help this
company and in so doing, help myself. I really am looking to make a long-term
NOTE: The main concern behind the
?overqualified? question is that you will leave your new employer as soon as
something better comes your way. Anything you can say to demonstrate the
sincerity of your commitment to the employer and reassure him that you?re
looking to stay for the long-term will help you overcome this objection.
do you see yourself five years from now?
Reassure your interviewer that
you?re looking to make a long-term commitment?that this position entails
exactly what you?re looking to do and what you do extremely well. As for your
future, you believe that if you perform each job at hand with excellence, future
opportunities will take care of themselves.
Example: ?I am definitely
interested in making a long-term commitment to my next position. Judging by what
you?ve told me about this position, it?s exactly what I?m looking for and
what I am very well qualified to do. In terms of my future career path, I?m
confident that if I do my work with excellence, opportunities will inevitable
open up for me. It?s always been that way in my career, and I?m confident
I?ll have similar opportunities here.?
your ideal company, location and job.
The only right answer is to
describe what this company is offering, being sure to make your answer
believable with specific reasons, stated with sincerity, why each quality
represented by this opportunity is attractive to you.
Remember that if you?re coming
from a company that?s the leader in its field or from a glamorous or much
admired company, industry, city or position, your interviewer and his company
may well have an ?Avis? complex. That is, they may feel a bit defensive
about being ?second best? to the place you?re coming from, worried that
you may consider them bush league.
This anxiety could well be there
even though you?ve done nothing to inspire it. You must go out of your way to
assuage such anxiety, even if it?s not expressed, by putting their virtues
high on the list of exactly what you?re looking for, providing credible reason
for wanting these qualities.
If you do not express genuine
enthusiasm for the firm, its culture, location, industry, etc., you may fail to
answer this ?Avis? complex objection and, as a result, leave the interviewer
suspecting that a hot shot like you, coming from a Fortune 500 company in New
York, just wouldn?t be happy at an unknown manufacturer based in Topeka,
do you want to work at our company?
This question is your opportunity
to hit the ball out of the park, thanks to the in-depth research you should do
before any interview.
Best sources for researching your
target company: annual reports, the corporate newsletter, contacts you know at
the company or its suppliers, advertisements, articles about the company in the
are your career options right now?
Prepare for this question by
thinking of how you can position yourself as a desired commodity. If you are
still working, describe the possibilities at your present firm and why, though
you?re greatly appreciated there, you?re looking for something more
(challenge, money, responsibility, etc.). Also mention that you?re seriously
exploring opportunities with one or two other firms.
If you?re not working, you can
talk about other employment possibilities you?re actually exploring. But do
this with a light touch, speaking only in general terms. You don?t want to
seem manipulative or coy.
have you been out of work so long ?
You want to emphasize factors which
have prolonged your job search by your own choice.
Example: ?After my job was
terminated, I made a conscious decision not to jump on the first opportunities
to come along. In my life, I?ve found out that you can always turn a negative
into a positive IF you try hard enough. This is what I determined to do. I
decided to take whatever time I needed to think through what I do best, what I
most want to do, where I?d like to do it?and then identify those companies
that could offer such an opportunity.?
?Also, in all honesty, you
have to factor in the recession (consolidation, stabilization, etc.) in the
(banking, financial services, manufacturing, advertising, etc.) industry.?
?So between my being
selective and the companies in our industry downsizing, the process has taken
time. But in the end, I?m convinced that when I do find the right match, all
that careful evaluation from both sides of the desk will have been well
worthwhile for both the company that hires me and myself.
me honestly about the strong points and weak points of your boss (company,
management team, etc.)
Remember the rule: Never be
negative. Stress only the good points, no matter how charmingly you?re invited
to be critical.
Your interviewer doesn?t care a
whit about your previous boss. He wants to find out how loyal and positive you
are, and whether you?ll criticize him behind his back if pressed to do so by
someone in this own company. This question is your opportunity to demonstrate
your loyalty to those you work with.
good books have you read lately?
Unless you?re up for a position
in academia or as book critic for The New York Times, you?re not expected to
be a literary lion. But it wouldn?t hurt to have read a handful of the most
recent and influential books in your profession and on management.
Consider it part of the work of
your job search to read up on a few of these leading books. But make sure they
are quality books that reflect favorably upon you, nothing that could even
remotely be considered superficial. Finally, add a recently published
bestselling work of fiction by a world-class author and you?ll pass this
question with flying colors.
me about a situation when your work was criticized ?
Begin by emphasizing the extremely
positive feedback you?ve gotten throughout your career and (if it?s true)
that your performance reviews have been uniformly excellent.
Of course, no one is perfect and
you always welcome suggestions on how to improve your performance. Then, give an
example of a not-too-damaging learning experience from early in your career and
relate the ways this lesson has since helped you. This demonstrates that you
learned from the experience and the lesson is now one of the strongest
breastplates in your suit of armor.
If you are pressed for a criticism
from a recent position, choose something fairly trivial that in no way is
essential to your successful performance. Add that you?ve learned from this,
too, and over the past several years/months, it?s no longer an area of concern
because you now make it a regular practice to?etc.
Another way to answer this question
would be to describe your intention to broaden your master of an area of growing
importance in your field. For example, this might be a computer program you?ve
been meaning to sit down and learn? a new management technique you?ve read
about?or perhaps attending a seminar on some cutting-edge branch of your
Again, the key is to focus on
something not essential to your brilliant performance but which adds yet another
dimension to your already impressive knowledge base.