: Most Popular HR Interview Questions
Can you work under pressure?
Absolutely?(then prove it with a
vivid example or two of a goal or project accomplished under severe pressure.)
makes you angry?
Give an answer that?s suited to
both your personality and the management style of the firm. Here, the homework
you?ve done about the company and its style can help in your choice of words.
Examples: If you are a reserved
person and/or the corporate culture is coolly professional:
?I?m an even-tempered and
positive person by nature, and I believe this helps me a great deal in keeping
my department running smoothly, harmoniously and with a genuine esprit de corps.
I believe in communicating clearly what?s expected, getting people?s
commitment to those goals, and then following up continuously to check
?If anyone or anything is
going off track, I want to know about it early. If, after that kind of open
communication and follow up, someone isn?t getting the job done, I?ll want
to know why. If there?s no good reason, then I?ll get impatient and
angry?and take appropriate steps from there. But if you hire good people,
motivate them to strive for excellence and then follow up constantly, it almost
never gets to that state.?
If you are feisty by nature and/or
the position calls for a tough straw boss.
?You know what makes me
angry? People who (the fill in the blanks with the most objectionable traits for
this type of position)?people who don?t pull their own weight, who are
negative, people who lie?etc.?
aren?t you earning more money at this stage of your career?
You like to make money, but other
factors are even more important.
Example: ?Making money is very
important to me, and one reason I?m here is because I?m looking to make
more. Throughout my career, what?s been even more important to me is doing
work I really like to do at the kind of company I like and respect.
(Then be prepared to be specific
about what your ideal position and company would be like, matching them as
closely as possible to the opportunity at hand.
has inspired you in your life and why?
Have a few heroes in mind, from
your mental ?Board of Directors? ? Leaders in your industry, from history
or anyone else who has been your mentor.
Be prepared to give examples of how
their words, actions or teachings have helped inspire your achievements. As
always, prepare an answer which highlights qualities that would be highly
valuable in the position you are seeking.
was the toughest decision you ever had to make?
Be prepared with a good example,
explaining why the decision was difficult?the process you followed in reaching
it?the courageous or effective way you carried it out?and the beneficial
Tell me about the most boring job
you?ve ever had.
You have never allowed yourself to
grow bored with a job and you can?t understand it when others let themselves
fall into that rut.
Example: ?Perhaps I?ve been
fortunate, but that I?ve never found myself bored with any job I have ever
held. I?ve always enjoyed hard work. As with actors who feel there are no
small parts, I also believe that in every company or department there are
exciting challenges and intriguing problems crying out for energetic and
enthusiastic solutions. If you?re bored, it?s probably because you?re not
challenging yourself to tackle those problems right under your nose.?
you been absent from work more than a few days in any previous position?
If you have had no problem,
emphasize your excellent and consistent attendance record throughout your
Also describe how important you
believe such consistent attendance is for a key executive?why it?s up to you
to set an example of dedication?and why there?s just no substitute for being
there with your people to keep the operation running smoothly, answer questions
and handle problems and crises as they arise.
If you do have a past attendance
problem, you want to minimize it, making it clear that it was an exceptional
circumstance and that it?s cause has been corrected.
To do this, give the same answer as
above but preface it with something like, ?Other that being out last year (or
whenever) because of (your reason, which is now in the past), I have never had a
problem and have enjoyed an excellent attendance record throughout my career.
Furthermore, I believe, consistent attendance is important because?? (Pick
up the rest of the answer as outlined above.).
changes would you make if you came on board?
You, of course, will want to take a
good hard look at everything the company is doing before making any
Example: ?Well, I wouldn?t be a
very good doctor if I gave my diagnosis before the examination. Should you hire
me, as I hope you will, I?d want to take a good hard look at everything
you?re doing and understand why it?s being done that way. I?d like to have
in-depth meetings with you and the other key people to get a deeper grasp of
what you feel you?re doing right and what could be improved.
?From what you?ve told me
so far, the areas of greatest concern to you are?? (name them. Then do two
things. First, ask if these are in fact his major concerns. If so then reaffirm
how your experience in meeting similar needs elsewhere might prove very
many hours a week does you normally work?
If you are in fact a workaholic and
you sense this company would like that: Say you are a confirmed workaholic, that
you often work nights and weekends. Your family accepts this because it makes
If you are not a workaholic: Say
you have always worked hard and put in long hours. It goes with the territory.
It one sense, it?s hard to keep track of the hours because your work is a
labor of love, you enjoy nothing more than solving problems. So you?re almost
always thinking about your work, including times when you?re home, while
shaving in the morning, while commuting, etc.
the most difficult part of being a (job title)?
First, redefine ?difficult? to
be ?challenging? which is more positive. Then, identify an area everyone in
your profession considers challenging and in which you excel. Describe the
process you follow that enables you to get splendid results?and be specific
about those results.
Example: ?I think every sales
manager finds it challenging to motivate the troops in a recession. But that?s
probably the strongest test of a top sales manager. I feel this is one area
where I excel.?
?When I see the first sign
that sales may slip or that sales force motivation is flagging because of a
downturn in the economy, here?s the plan I put into action immediately??
(followed by a description of each step in the process?and most importantly,
the exceptional results you?ve achieved.).
The ?Hypothetical Problem?
Instead, describe the rational,
methodical process you would follow in analyzing this problem, who you would
consult with, generating possible solutions, choosing the best course of action,
and monitoring the results.
Remember, in all such, ?What
would you do?? questions, always describe your process or working methods, and
you?ll never go wrong.
was the toughest challenge you?ve ever faced?
This is an easy question if
you?re prepared. Have a recent example ready that demonstrates either:
A quality most important to the job
at hand; or
A quality that is always in demand,
such as leadership, initiative, managerial skill, persuasiveness, courage,
persistence, intelligence, etc.
you considered starting your own business?
Again it?s best to:
Gauge this company?s corporate
culture before answering and?
Be honest (which doesn?t mean you
have to vividly share your fantasy of the franchise or bed-and-breakfast you
someday plan to open).
In general, if the corporate
culture is that of a large, formal, military-style structure, minimize any
indication that you?d love to have your own business. You might say, ?Oh, I
may have given it a thought once or twice, but my whole career has been in
larger organizations. That?s where I have excelled and where I want to be.?
If the corporate culture is closer
to the free-wheeling, everybody?s-a-deal-maker variety, then emphasize that in
a firm like this, you can virtually get the best of all worlds, the excitement
of seeing your own ideas and plans take shape?combined with the resources and
stability of a well-established organization. Sounds like the perfect
environment to you.
In any case, no matter what the
corporate culture, be sure to indicate that any desires about running your own
show are part of your past, not your present or future.
The last thing you want to project
is an image of either a dreamer who failed and is now settling for the corporate
cocoon?or the restless maverick who will fly out the door with key accounts,
contacts and trade secrets under his arms just as soon as his bankroll has
Always remember: Match what you
want with what the position offers. The more information you?ve uncovered
about the position, the more believable you can make your case.
are your goals?
Many executives in a position to
hire you are strong believers in goal-setting. (It?s one of the reasons
they?ve achieved so much). They like to hire in kind.
If you?re vague about your career
and personal goals, it could be a big turnoff to may people you will encounter
in your job search.
Be ready to discuss your goals for
each major area of your life: career, personal development and learning, family,
physical (health), community service and (if your interviewer is clearly a
religious person) you could briefly and generally allude to your spiritual goals
(showing you are a well-rounded individual with your values in the right order).
Be prepared to describe each goal
in terms of specific milestones you wish to accomplish along the way, time
periods you?re allotting for accomplishment, why the goal is important to you,
and the specific steps you?re taking to bring it about. But do this concisely,
as you never want to talk more than two minutes straight before letting your
interviewer back into the conversation.
do you for when you hire people?
Speak your own thoughts here, but
for the best answer weave them around the three most important qualifications
for any position.
Can the person do the work
Will the person do the work
Will the person fit in (?our kind
of team player?)?
me this stapler?(this pencil?this clock?or some other object on
Of course, you already know the
most important secret of all great salesmanship ? ?find out what people
want, then show them how to get it.?
If your interviewer picks up his
stapler and asks, ?sell this to me,? you are going to demonstrate this
proven master principle. Here?s how:
?Well, a good salesman must
know both his product and his prospect before he sells anything. If I were
selling this, I?d first get to know everything I could about it, all its
features and benefits.?
?Then, if my goal were to
sell it you, I would do some research on how you might use a fine stapler like
this. The best way to do that is by asking some questions. May I ask you a few
Then ask a few questions such as,
?Just out of curiosity, if you didn?t already have a stapler like this, why
would you want one? And in addition to that? Any other reason? Anything else??
?And would you want such a
stapler to be reliable??Hold a good supply of staples?? (Ask more questions
that point to the features this stapler has.)
Once you?ve asked these
questions, make your presentation citing all the features and benefits of this
stapler and why it?s exactly what the interviewer just told you he?s looking
Then close with, ?Just out of
curiosity, what would you consider a reasonable price for a quality stapler like
this?a stapler you could have right now and would (then repeat all the
problems the stapler would solve for him)? Whatever he says, (unless it?s
zero), say, ?Okay, we?ve got a deal.?
NOTE: If your interviewer tests you
by fighting every step of the way, denying that he even wants such an item,
don?t fight him. Take the product away from him by saying, ?Mr. Prospect,
I?m delighted you?ve told me right upfront that there?s no way you?d
ever want this stapler. As you well know, the first rule of the most productive
salespeople in any field is to meet the needs of people who really need and want
our products, and it just wastes everyone?s time if we try to force it on
those who don?t. And I certainly wouldn?t want to waste your time. But we
sell many items. Is there any product on this desk you would very much like to
own?just one item?? When he points something out, repeat the process above.
If he knows anything about selling, he may give you a standing ovation.
Salary Question? ? How much money do you want?
For maximum salary negotiating
power, remember these five guidelines
Never bring up salary. Let the
interviewer do it first. Good salespeople sell their products thoroughly before
talking price. So should you. Make the interviewer want you first, and your
bargaining position will be much stronger.
If your interviewer raises the
salary question too early, before you?ve had a chance to create desire for
your qualifications, postpone the question, saying something like, ?Money is
important to me, but is not my main concern. Opportunity and growth are far more
important. What I?d rather do, if you don?t mind, is explore if I?m right
for the position, and then talk about money. Would that be okay??
The #1 rule of any negotiation is:
the side with more information wins. After you?ve done a thorough job of
selling the interviewer and it?s time to talk salary, the secret is to get the
employer talking about what he?s willing to pay before you reveal what
you?re willing to accept. So, when asked about salary, respond by asking,
?I?m sure the company has already established a salary range for this
position. Could you tell me what that is?? Or, ?I want an income
commensurate with my ability and qualifications. I trust you?ll be fair with
me. What does the position pay?? Or, more simply, ?What does this position
Know beforehand what you?d
accept. To know what?s reasonable, research the job market and this position
for any relevant salary information. Remember that most executives look for a
20-25%$ pay boost when they switch jobs. If you?re grossly underpaid, you may
Never lie about what you currently
make, but feel free to include the estimated cost of all your fringes, which
could well tack on 25-50% more to your present ?cash-only? salary.
Illegal questions include any
regarding your age?number and ages of your children or other
dependents?marital status?maiden name?religion?political
affiliation?ancestry?national origin?birthplace?naturalization of your
parents, spouse or children?diseases?disabilities?clubs?or spouse?s
occupation?unless any of the above are directly related to your performance of
the job. You can?t even be asked about arrests, though you can be asked about
ANSWER: Under the ever-present
threat of lawsuits, most interviewers are well aware of these taboos. Yet you
may encounter, usually on a second or third interview, a senior executive who
doesn?t interview much and forgets he can?t ask such questions.
You can handle an illegal question
in several ways. First, you can assert your legal right not to answer. But this
will frighten or embarrass your interviewer and destroy any rapport you had.
Second, you could swallow your
concerns over privacy and answer the question straight forwardly if you feel the
answer could help you. For example, your interviewer, a devout Baptist,
recognizes you from church and mentions it. Here, you could gain by talking
about your church.
Third, if you don?t want your
privacy invaded, you can diplomatically answer the concern behind the question
without answering the question itself.
Example: If you are over 50 and are
asked, ?How old are you?? you can answer with a friendly, smiling question
of your own on whether there?s a concern that your age my affect your
performance. Follow this up by reassuring the interviewer that there?s nothing
in this job you can?t do and, in fact, your age and experience are the most
important advantages you offer the employer for the following reasons?
Another example: If asked, ?Do
you plan to have children?? you could answer, ?I am wholeheartedly dedicated
to my career?, perhaps adding, ?I have no plans regarding children.? (You
needn?t fear you?ve pledged eternal childlessness. You have every right to
change your plans later. Get the job first and then enjoy all your options.)
Most importantly, remember that
illegal questions arise from fear that you won?t perform well. The best answer
of all is to get the job and perform brilliantly. All concerns and fears will
then varnish, replaced by respect and appreciation for your work.
?Secret? Illegal Question
Much more frequent than the Illegal
question (see Question 55) is the secret illegal question. It?s secret because
it?s asked only in the interviewer?s mind. Since it?s not even expressed
to you, you have no way to respond to it, and it can there be most damaging.
Example: You?re physically
challenged, or a single mother returning to your professional career, or over
50, or a member of an ethnic minority, or fit any of a dozen other categories
that do not strictly conform to the majority in a given company.
interviewer wonders, ?Is this person really able to handle the job????Is
he or she a ?good fit? at a place like ours????Will the chemistry ever
be right with someone like this?? But the interviewer never raises such
questions because they?re illegal. So what can you do?
ANSWER: Remember that just because
the interviewer doesn?t ask an illegal question doesn?t mean he doesn?t
have it. More than likely, he is going to come up with his own answer. So you
might as well help him out.
How? Well, you obviously can?t
respond to an illegal question if he hasn?t even asked. This may well offend
him. And there?s always the chance he wasn?t even concerned about the issue
until you brought it up, and only then begins to wonder.
So you can?t address ?secret?
illegal questions head-on. But what you can do is make sure there?s enough
counterbalancing information to more than reassure him that there?s no problem
in the area he may be doubtful about.
For example, let?s say you?re a
sales rep who had polio as a child and you need a cane to walk. You know your
condition has never impeded your performance, yet you?re concerned that your
interviewer may secretly be wondering about your stamina or ability to travel.
Well, make sure that you hit these abilities very hard, leaving no doubt about
your capacity to handle them well.
So, too, if you?re in any
different from what passes for ?normal?. Make sure, without in any way
seeming defensive about yourself that you mention strengths, accomplishments,
preferences and affiliations that strongly counterbalance any unspoken concern
your interviewer may have.
was the toughest part of your last job?
State that there was nothing in
your prior position that you found overly difficult, and let your answer go at
that. If pressed to expand your answer, you could describe the aspects of the
position you enjoyed more than others, making sure that you express maximum
enjoyment for those tasks most important to the open position, and you enjoyed
least those tasks that are unimportant to the position at hand.
How do you define success?and how
do you measure up to your own definition?
Give a well-accepted definition of
success that leads right into your own stellar collection of achievements.
Example: ?The best definition
I?ve come across is that success is the progressive realization of a worthy
?As to how I would measure
up to that definition, I would consider myself both successful and
fortunate??(Then summarize your career goals and how your achievements have
indeed represented a progressive path toward realization of your goals.)
Opinion Question? ? What do you think about ?Abortion?The
President?The Death Penalty? (Or any other controversial subject)?
In all of these instances, just
remember the tale about student and the wise old rabbi. The scene is a seminary,
where an overly serious student is pressing the rabbi to answer the ultimate
questions of suffering, life and death. But no matter how hard he presses, the
wise old rabbi will only answer each difficult question with a question of his
In exasperation, the seminary
student demands, ?Why, rabbi, do you always answer a question with another
question?? To which the rabbi responds, ?And why not??
If you are ever uncomfortable with
any question, asking a question in return is the greatest escape hatch ever
invented. It throws the onus back on the other person, sidetracks the discussion
from going into an area of risk to you, and gives you time to think of your
answer or, even better, your next question!
In response to any of the
?opinion? questions cited above, merely responding, ?Why do you ask??
will usually be enough to dissipate any pressure to give your opinion. But if
your interviewer again presses you for an opinion, you can ask another question.
Or you could assert a generality
that almost everyone would agree with. For example, if your interviewer is
complaining about politicians then suddenly turns to you and asks if you?re a
Republican or Democrat, you could respond by saying, ?Actually, I?m finding
it hard to find any politicians I like these days.?
(Of course, your best
question of all may be whether you want to work for someone opinionated.)
you won $10 million lottery, would you still work?
This type of question is aimed at
getting at your bedrock attitude about work and how you feel about what you do.
Your best answer will focus on your positive feelings.
Example: ?After I floated down
from cloud nine, I think I would still hold my basic belief that achievement and
purposeful work are essential to a happy, productive life. After all, if money
alone bought happiness, then all rich people would be all happy, and that?s
?I love the work I do, and
I think I?d always want to be involved in my career in some fashion. Winning
the lottery would make it more fun because it would mean having more
flexibility, more options?who knows??
?Of course, since I can?t
count on winning, I?d just as soon create my own destiny by sticking with
what?s worked for me, meaning good old reliable hard work and a desire to
achieve. I think those qualities have built many more fortunes that all the
lotteries put together.?
back on your last position, have you done your best work?
To cover both possible paths this
question can take, your answer should state that you always try to do your best,
and the best of your career is right now. Like an athlete at the top of his
game, you are just hitting your career stride thanks to several factors. Then,
recap those factors, highlighting your strongest qualifications.
Why should I hire you from the
outside when I could promote someone from within?
Help him see the qualifications
that only you can offer.
Example: ?In general, I think
it?s a good policy to hire from within ? to look outside probably means
you?re not completely comfortable choosing someone from inside.
?Naturally, you want this
department to be as strong as it possibly can be, so you want the strongest
candidate. I feel that I can fill that bill because?(then recap your strongest
qualifications that match up with his greatest needs).?
me something negative you?ve heard about our company?
Just remember the rule ? never be
negative ? and you?ll handle this one just fine.
a scale of one to ten, rate me as an interviewer.
Once again, never be negative. The
interviewer will only resent criticism coming from you. This is the time to show
However, don?t give a numerical
rating. Simply praise whatever interview style he?s been using.
If he?s been tough, say ?You
have been thorough and tough-minded, the very qualities needed to conduct a good
If he?s been methodical, say,
?You have been very methodical and analytical, and I?m sure that approach
results in excellent hires for your firm.?
In other words, pay him a sincere
compliment that he can believe because it?s anchored in the behavior you?ve
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