: Most Popular HR Interview Questions
What are your outside interests?
Try to gauge how this company?s
culture would look upon your favorite outside activities and be guided
You can also use this question to
shatter any stereotypes that could limit your chances. If you?re over 50, for
example, describe your activities that demonstrate physical stamina. If you?re
young, mention an activity that connotes wisdom and institutional trust, such as
serving on the board of a popular charity.
But above all, remember that your
employer is hiring your for what you can do for him, not your family, yourself
or outside organizations, no matter how admirable those activities may be.
?Fatal Flaw? question
As every master salesperson knows,
you will encounter objections (whether stated or merely thought) in every sale.
They?re part and parcel of the buyer?s anxiety. The key is not to exacerbate
the buyer?s anxiety but diminish it. Here?s how?
Whenever you come up against a
fatal flaw question:
Be completely honest, open and
straightforward about admitting the shortcoming. (Showing you have nothing to
hide diminishes the buyer?s anxiety.)
Do not apologize or try to explain
it away. You know that this supposed flaw is nothing to be concerned about, and
this is the attitude you want your interviewer to adopt as well.
Add that as desirable as such a
qualification might be, its lack has made you work all the harder throughout
your career and has not prevented you from compiling an outstanding tack record
of achievements. You might even give examples of how, through a relentless
commitment to excellence, you have consistently outperformed those who do have
Of course, the ultimate way to
handle ?fatal flaw? questions is to prevent them from arising in the first
place. You will do that by following the master strategy described in Question
1, i.e., uncovering the employers needs and them matching your qualifications to
Once you?ve gotten the employer
to start talking about his most urgently-felt wants and goals for the position,
and then help him see in step-by-step fashion how perfectly your background and
achievements match up with those needs, you?re going to have one very
enthusiastic interviewer on your hands, one who is no longer looking for
do you feel about reporting to a younger person (minority, woman, etc)?
You greatly admire a company that
hires and promotes on merit alone and you couldn?t agree more with that
philosophy. The age (gender, race, etc.) of the person you report to would
certainly make no difference to you.
Whoever has that position has
obviously earned it and knows their job well. Both the person and the position
are fully deserving of respect. You believe that all people in a company, from
the receptionist to the Chairman, work best when their abilities, efforts and
feelings are respected and rewarded fairly, and that includes you. That?s the
best type of work environment you can hope to find.
Your interviewer may press you for
this information for two reasons.
First, many companies use
interviews to research the competition. It?s a perfect set-up. Here in their
own lair, is an insider from the enemy camp who can reveal prized information on
the competition?s plans, research, financial condition, etc.
Second, the company may be testing
your integrity to see if you can be cajoled or bullied into revealing
What to do? The answer here is
easy. Never reveal anything truly confidential about a present or former
employer. By all means, explain your reticence diplomatically. For example, ?I
certainly want to be as open as I can about that. But I also wish to respect the
rights of those who have trusted me with their most sensitive information, just
as you would hope to be able to trust any of your key people when talking with a
And certainly you can allude to
your finest achievements in specific ways that don?t reveal the combination to
the company safe.
But be guided by the golden rule.
If you were the owner of your present company, would you feel it ethically wrong
for the information to be given to your competitors? If so, steadfastly refuse
to reveal it.
Remember that this question pits
your desire to be cooperative against your integrity. Faced with any such
choice, always choose integrity. It is a far more valuable commodity than
whatever information the company may pry from you. Moreover, once you surrender
the information, your stock goes down. They will surely lose respect for you.
One President we know always
presses candidates unmercifully for confidential information. If he doesn?t
get it, he grows visibly annoyed, relentlessly inquisitive, It?s all an act.
He couldn?t care less about the information. This is his way of testing the
candidate?s moral fiber. Only those who hold fast are hired.
would you say to your boss if he?s crazy about an idea, but you think it
Remember the rule stated earlier:
In any conflict between values, always choose integrity.
Example: I believe that when
evaluating anything, it?s important to emphasize the positive. What do I like
about this idea??
?Then, if you have
reservations, I certainly want to point them out, as specifically, objectively
and factually as I can.?
?After all, the most
important thing I owe my boss is honesty. If he can?t count on me for that,
then everything else I may do or say could be questionable in his eyes.?
?But I also want to express
my thoughts in a constructive way. So my goal in this case would be to see if my
boss and I could make his idea even stronger and more appealing, so that it
effectively overcomes any initial reservation I or others may have about it.?
?Of course, if he overrules
me and says, ?no, let?s do it my way,? then I owe him my full and
enthusiastic support to make it work as best it can.?
could you have improved your career progress?
You?re generally quite happy with
your career progress. Maybe, if you had known something earlier in life
(impossible to know at the time, such as the booming growth in a branch in your
industry?or the corporate downsizing that would phase out your last job), you
might have moved in a certain direction sooner.
But all things considered, you take
responsibility for where you are, how you?ve gotten there, where you are
going?and you harbor no regrets.
would you do if a fellow executive on your own corporate level wasn?t pulling
his/her weight?and this was hurting your department?
Try to gauge the political style of
the firm and be guided accordingly. In general, fall back on universal
principles of effective human relations ? which in the end, embody the way you
would like to be treated in a similar circumstance.
Example: ?Good human relations
would call for me to go directly to the person and explain the situation, to try
to enlist his help in a constructive, positive solution. If I sensed resistance,
I would be as persuasive as I know how to explain the benefits we can all gain
from working together, and the problems we, the company and our customers will
experience if we don?t.?
POSSIBLE FOLLOW-UP QUESTION
what would you do if he still did not change his ways?
ANSWER: ?One thing I wouldn?t
do is let the problem slide, because it would only get worse and overlooking it
would set a bad precedent. I would try again and again and again, in whatever
way I could, to solve the problem, involving wider and wider circles of people,
both above and below the offending executive and including my own boss if
necessary, so that everyone involved can see the rewards for teamwork and the
drawbacks of non-cooperation.?
?I might add that I?ve
never yet come across a situation that couldn?t be resolved by harnessing
others in a determined, constructive effort.?
been with your firm a long time. Won?t it be hard switching to a new company?
To overcome this objection, you
must point to the many ways you have grown and adapted to changing conditions at
your present firm. It has not been a static situation. Highlight the different
responsibilities you?ve held, the wide array of new situations you?ve faced
As a result, you?ve learned to
adapt quickly to whatever is thrown at you, and you thrive on the stimulation of
To further assure the interviewer,
describe the similarities between the new position and your prior one. Explain
that you should be quite comfortable working there, since their needs and your
skills make a perfect match.
I contact your present employer for a reference?
Express your concern that you?d
like to keep your job search private, but that in time, it will be perfectly
Example: ?My present employer is
not aware of my job search and, for obvious reasons; I?d prefer to keep it
that way. I?d be most appreciative if we kept our discussion confidential
right now. Of course, when we both agree the time is right, then by all means
you should contact them. I?m very proud of my record there.
Give me an example of your
creativity (analytical skill?managing ability, etc.)
Remember from Question 2 that you
should commit to memory a list of your greatest and most recent achievements,
ever ready on the tip of your tongue.
If you have such a list, it?s
easy to present any of your achievements in light of the quality the interviewer
is asking about. For example, the smashing success you orchestrated at last
year?s trade show could be used as an example of creativity, or analytical
ability, or your ability to manage.
could you use some improvement?
Keep this answer, like all your
answers, positive. A good way to answer this question is to identify a
cutting-edge branch of your profession (one that?s not essential to your
employer?s needs) as an area you?re very excited about and want to explore
more fully over the next six months.
do you worry about?
Redefine the word ?worry? so
that it does not reflect negatively on you.
Example: ?I wouldn?t call it
worry, but I am a strongly goal-oriented person. So I keep turning over in my
mind anything that seems to be keeping me from achieving those goals, until I
find a solution. That?s part of my tenacity, I suppose.?
concerned that you don?t have as much experience as we?d like in?
This question is related to ?The
Fatal Flaw? , but here the concern is not that you are totally missing some
qualifications, such as CPA certification, but rather that your experience is
light in one area.
Before going into any interview,
try to identify the weakest aspects of your candidacy from this company?s
point of view. Then prepare the best answer you possible can to shore up your
To get past this question with
flying colors, you are going to rely on your master strategy of uncovering the
employer?s greatest wants and needs and then matching them with your
strengths. Since you already know how to do this from Question 1, you are in a
much stronger position.
More specifically, when the
interviewer poses as objection like this, you should?
Agree on the importance of this
Explain that your strength may be
indeed be greater than your resume indicates because?
When this strength is added to your
other strengths, it?s really your combination of qualifications that?s most
Then review the areas of your
greatest strengths that match up most favorably with the company?s most
urgently-felt wants and needs.
This is powerful way to handle this
question for two reasons. First, you?re giving your interviewer more
ammunition in the area of his concern. But more importantly, you?re shifting
his focus away from this one, isolated area and putting it on the unique
combination of strengths you offer, strengths which tie in perfectly with his
do you feel about working nights and weekends?
First, if you?re a confirmed
workaholic, this question is a softball lob. Whack it out of the park on the
first swing by saying this kind of schedule is just your style. Add that your
family understands it. Indeed, they?re happy for you, as they know you get
your greatest satisfaction from your work.
If however, you prefer a more
balanced lifestyle, answer this question with another: ?What?s the norm for
your best people here??
If the hours still sound
unrealistic for you, ask, ?Do you have any top people who perform
exceptionally for you, but who also have families and like to get home in time
to see them at night?? Chances are this company does, and this associates you
with this other ?top-performers-who-leave-not-later-than-six? group.
Depending on the answer, be honest
about how you would fit into the picture. If all those extra hours make you
uncomfortable, say so, but phrase your response positively.
Example: ?I love my work and do
it exceptionally well. I think the results speak for themselves, especially in
?(mention your two or three qualifications of greater interest to the
employer. Remember, this is what he wants most, not a workaholic with weak
credentials). Not only would I bring these qualities, but I?ve built my whole
career on working not just hard, but smart. I think you?ll find me one of the
most productive people here.
I do have a family who likes to see
me after work and on weekends. They add balance and richness to my life, which
in turn helps me be happy and productive at work. If I could handle some of the
extra work at home in the evenings or on weekends, that would be ideal. You?d
be getting a person of exceptional productivity who meets your needs with strong
credentials. And I?d be able to handle some of the heavy workload at home
where I can be under the same roof as my family. Everybody would win.?
you willing to relocate or travel?
First find out where you may have
to relocate and how much travel may be involved. Then respond to the question.
If there?s no problem, say so
If you do have a reservation, there
are two schools of thought on how to handle it.
One advises you to keep your
options open and your reservations to yourself in the early going, by saying,
?no problem?. You strategy here is to get the best offer you can, then make
a judgment whether it?s worth it to you to relocate or travel.
Also, by the time the offer comes
through, you may have other offers and can make a more informed decision. Why
kill of this opportunity before it has chance to blossom into something really
special? And if you?re a little more desperate three months from now, you
might wish you hadn?t slammed the door on relocating or traveling.
The second way to handle this
question is to voice a reservation, but assert that you?d be open to
relocating (or traveling) for the right opportunity.
The answering strategy you choose
depends on how eager you are for the job. If you want to take no chances, choose
the first approach.
If you want to play a little
harder-to-get in hopes of generating a more enticing offer, choose the second.
you have the stomach to fire people? Have you had experience firing many people?
Describe the rational and sensible
management process you follow in both hiring and firing.
Example: ?My whole management
approach is to hire the best people I can find, train them thoroughly and well,
get them excited and proud to be part of our team, and then work with them to
achieve our goals together. If you do all of that right, especially hiring the
right people, I?ve found you don?t have to fire very often.
?So with me, firing is a last
resort. But when it?s got to be done, it?s got to be done, and the faster
and cleaner, the better. A poor employee can wreak terrible damage in
undermining the morale of an entire team of good people. When there?s no other
way, I?ve found it?s better for all concerned to act decisively in getting
rid of offenders who won?t change their ways.?
have you had so many jobs?
First, before you even get to the
interview stage, you should try to minimize your image as job hopper. If there
are several entries on your resume of less than one year, consider eliminating
the less important ones. Perhaps you can specify the time you spent at previous
positions in rounded years not in months and years.
Example: Instead of showing three
positions this way:
6/1982 ? 3/1983, Position A;
4/1983 ? 12/1983, Position B;
1/1984 ? 8/1987, Position C;
?it would be better to show
1982 ? 1983, Position A;
1984 ? 1987 Position C.
In other words, you would drop
Position B altogether. Notice what a difference this makes in reducing your
image as a job hopper.
Once in front of the interviewer
and this question comes up, you must try to reassure him. Describe each position
as part of an overall pattern of growth and career destination.
Be careful not to blame other
people for your frequent changes. But you can and should attribute certain
changes to conditions beyond your control.
Example: Thanks to an upcoming
merger, you wanted to avoid an ensuing bloodbath, so you made a good, upward
career move before your department came under the axe of the new owners.
If possible, also show that your
job changes were more frequent in your younger days, while you were establishing
yourself, rounding out your skills and looking for the right career path. At
this stage in your career, you?re certainly much more interested in the best
You might also cite the job where
you stayed the longest and describe that this type of situation is what you?re
looking for now.
do you see as the proper role/mission of?
?a good (job title you?re
?a good manager;
?an executive in serving the
?a leading company in our
Think of the most essential
ingredients of success for each category above ? your job title, your role as
manager, your firm?s role, etc.
Identify at least three but no more
than six qualities you feel are most important to success in each role. Then
commit your response to memory.
Here, again, the more information
you?ve already drawn out about the greatest wants and needs of the
interviewer, and the more homework you?ve done to identify the culture of the
firm, the more on-target your answer will be.
you lie for the company?
Try to avoid choosing between two
values, giving a positive statement which covers all bases instead.
Example: ?I would never do
anything to hurt the company..?
If aggressively pressed to choose
between two competing values, always choose personal integrity. It is the most
prized of all values.
back, what would you do differently in your life?
Indicate that you are a happy,
fulfilled, optimistic person and that, in general, you wouldn?t change a
Example: ?It?s been a good
life, rich in learning and experience, and the best it yet to come. Every
experience in life is a lesson it its own way. I wouldn?t change a thing.?
you have done better in your last job?
Again never be negative.
Example: ?I suppose with the
benefit of hindsight you can always find things to do better, of course, but off
the top of my head, I can?t think of anything of major consequence.?
(If more explanation seems
a situation that didn?t suffer because of you but from external conditions
beyond your control?
For example, describe the
disappointment you felt with a test campaign, new product launch, merger, etc.,
which looked promising at first, but led to underwhelming results. ?I wish we
could have known at the start what we later found out (about the economy
turning, the marketplace changing, etc.), but since we couldn?t, we just had
to go for it. And we did learn from it??
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