HR Interviews: What to Expect

phone interview

If you’ve applied to a position with a larger company, either through a recruiter or on your own, the first step is most likely an interview with someone from Human Resources or Talent Acquisition.   You may be a perfect fit for the culture and the strongest candidate for the job but if you start looking ahead to the in-person interview with the Hiring Manager and fail to prepare for the call with HR it might be game over for you.

To succeed, you must first understand the purpose of an HR interview.  Hiring Managers rely on their internal HR partners to weed out time-wasters and present only qualified candidates for consideration.  

Your objective is to not only get past the HR interview, but to win over the interviewer.  He or she can be a strong advocate for you, as often times their opinions weigh heavily on the hiring decision-making process.  They can also give you valuable insight and information that will help you as you prepare to meet the Hiring Manager.  You should view this step as an opportunity to increase your chances of getting an offer.

From the employer’s perspective, there are 3 objectives of the HR Interview:

1.  To confirm you have the right experience for the job.

2.  To make sure you will fit well culturally with the team and company as a whole.

3.  To make sure your motivations for pursuing their opportunity are acceptable.

Knowing this, you can prepare by doing a few things.

First, review the job description in-depth.  Print it out and put a check mark by every responsibility you have experience doing and every qualification that you meet, and an “X” by every one that you don’t.  Tell the HR Interviewer how you stack up and, if possible, explain how you make up for any shortcomings.  Remember, the HR employee conducting the interview most likely won’t know the technical aspects of what you do so you’ll need to explain it concisely and in simple terms that match the job description.  Be prepared to give specific examples, if asked or if you determine it necessary to make your point, but do not get long-winded or go on tangents.

Second, convey that you understand the company culture and that you would be a fit.  Employers want to make sure they are hiring team players who will be pleasant to work with.  You may want to be more formal in your communications if you are interviewing with a professional services firm and more casual if you are interviewing with a construction company.  In any case, however, enthusiasm, politeness, humbleness, and demonstration of strong listening skills are fundamental.  Also fundamental is your ability to clearly and confidently articulate your technical skills, strengths, and achievements.  Make sure to express gratitude and let them know you are interested in moving to the next step.

Lastly, articulate your motivation for pursuing the opportunity.  Employers want to confirm that (1) the job they are looking to fill is a good opportunity for you and something that makes sense as the next step in your career, (2) your reason(s) for leaving your current employer makes sense, and (3) your salary requirements are within their targeted range.  Be prepared to answer those questions.  Avoid talking poorly of your current or previous employers or bosses or indicating that you are looking beyond the role, viewing it as a stepping stone.  Focus instead on the fact that their opportunity is your movitation and that it would be a unique fit for you.  Depending on your situation, provide either your salary requirements (in a number or a range) or your current compensation package and tell them you are looking for a fair offer.  Discuss your strategy ahead of time with your recruiter, if you are working with one.  There is an article on Harvard Business Review’s website with some insightful tips on compensation negotiation here.

Taking time to review and implement this game plan will drastically improve your performance during the HR screening and therefore increase your chances of meeting the hiring manager and getting an offer.

About The CSP Group

The CSP Group is a boutique recruitment firm focused solely on finance and accounting professionals. Our focus has allowed us to successfully develop a network with the express purpose of matching leading companies with top talent.

Our firm places transparency and honesty at the forefront of our process, taking every opportunity to do what is right, build trust and further enhance the customer service experience. We are fast. We are accurate. We are a value-added partner with the nuanced and dynamic market knowledge to keep your business competitive and growing.

The CSP Group conducts contingency and retained searches around the country, with operations in St. Louis, San Diego and Denver.

Contact The CSP Group today.

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