As an aspiring human resources specialist or generalist, you’re familiar with the theories and practices of recruiting new talent. However, as you interview for your first HR job out of college, you’re approaching the interview process from the other side, which can be stressful. Some ways to ease your nerves and improve your interview performance is to practice answering common questions, be familiar with the skills most employers are looking for in human resources workers and be diligent about networking with established human resources employees.
Practice Interview Questions
There are some questions that are so universal that candidates for business-related jobs – or any job function – should expect them to come up during the interview. Be prepared to give a brief introduction to yourself and your background and to answer questions about why you chose human resources as a field of study and career path. Questions about your strengths, weaknesses and why you want that particular job with that particular company are also common.
Then there are questions that are unique to HR roles. These questions more so test your knowledge of human resources practices and principles and your experience working in HR, although your answers can also give your interviewer further insight into your personality and soft skills, too. Some of the most common human resources job interview questions include questions about how HR functions impact organizational strategy and workplace culture and how you would identify problems within an organization that a human resources professional should solve. You might be asked to talk about how you have handled certain kinds of situations in the past, or how you would handle those problems if they arose.
Recent graduates of HR degree programs who don’t yet have professional work experience might use examples from the internships they have completed, volunteer or extracurricular activities they took part in or classroom projects they have done, and they may have to discuss more hypothetical scenarios than an experienced HR worker would. On the other hand, if you have human resources work experience already and went back to school to advance your education and career, you might face more questions that related to leadership and management, and your interviewer will expect you to have more real experience to talk about in the context of these questions.
When you take your turn asking questions, it is always a good idea to ask your interviewer about workplace culture, what he or she likes about working at the company and what business progression and advancement opportunities you could expect within the company.
Know What Skills Employers Value in HR Candidates
When you respond to interview questions, you want to be sincere but strategic in your answers. It’s important to show your potential employer that you have the skills the company is looking for in its human resources professionals. The most in-demand human resources job skills encompass everything from soft skills to technology skills and from logistical skills to leadership skills. For example, employers want HR professionals to be excellent collaborators and team players who handle employee relations well. However, they also want to see that their human resources specialists are familiar with subjects such as onboarding new hires and handling worker’s compensation matters. Your employer may turn to you for tasks that range from scheduling shifts to managing projects and employee performance. When an interviewer brings up any of these skills or job functions, share whatever academic knowledge or hands-on experience you have that relates to the skill.
As technology becomes a bigger part of HR, employers are seeking more technological skills in their human resources personnel, too. Having skills using human resources information software and doing data analysis and projections can help you get a job.
Don’t Forget About Networking
Relationship-building is a big component of success in the field of human resources. In fact, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) ranks interpersonal and communication skills as among the most important qualities for human resources specialists to have. Don’t save your networking and relationship-building efforts until after you become an established HR professional. The networking you do during college and throughout your job search can help you snag an interview for a competitive human resources position or be among the first to know about a job opportunity that hasn’t been advertised. Even if these professional connections don’t lead to a job right now, they could help you as a job seeker or recruitment specialist later on in your career.
During college, taking part in extracurricular activities such as the Society for Human Resource Management and the Sigma Iota Epsilon National Honorary and Professional Management Fraternity can offer you opportunities to network with HR professionals.