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HR Interview Questions Answers

Question 1 : What are your career options right now?

Answer 1 : 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, speak only in general terms. You don’t want to seem manipulative or copy.

Question 2 : What do you for when you hire people?

Answer 2 : 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 (qualifications)? Will the person do the work (motivation)? Will the person fit in (“our kind of team player”)? Sell me this stapler…(this pencil…this clock…or some other object on interviewer’s desk). 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 questions?” 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 for. 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. “The 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 pay?” 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 want more. 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. The Illegal Question 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 convictions. 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. The “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. Your 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. What 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.

Question 3 : Why have you been out of work so long ?

Answer 3 : 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. Tell 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.

Question 4 : Are you willing to relocate or travel ?

Answer 4 : 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 enthusiastically. 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.

Question 5 : Aren’t you overqualified for this position?

Answer 5 : 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 slowly.” “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 this, too.” “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 commitment.” 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.

Question 6 : Can you work under pressure ?

Answer 6 : Absolutely…(then prove it with a vivid example or two of a goal or project accomplished under severe pressure.)

Question 7 : Could you have done better in your last job ?

Answer 7 : 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 necessary) Describer 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…”

Question 8 : Do you have the stomach to fire people? Have you had experience firing many people ?

Answer 8 : 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.”

Question 9 : Have you been absent from work more than a few days in any previous position?

Answer 9 : If you have had no problem, emphasize your excellent and consistent attendance record throughout your career. 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.).

Question 10 : Have you consider starting your own business?

Answer 10 : 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 gotten rebuilt. 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.

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