When you interview with a human resources professional, it’s usually a little different than when you talk with someone who’ll be your direct supervisor. HR people are the gatekeepers for busy executives. It’s their role to send only the most qualified manager candidates on to the hiring executive. If you don’t impress the HR interviewers, you don’t talk to final decision-makers. Follow a few tips to ensure you pass muster.
Research the company before you meet with HR so you can familiarize yourself with its culture and business strategy. For example, you might find that the company has more of a horizontal management structure that is heavily reliant on teamwork. Or, you might find that it believes strongly in following the chain of command. With this knowledge, you can answer open-ended questions like “Tell me about yourself” with specific examples of how your experience and skills fit with the company's operating philosophy.
Give the HR person the same kind of respect and deference you give the hiring manager. Act as if this is the most important person in the company, and let the interviewer know by your attitude and demeanor that you understand the influence she has in the hiring process.
Highlight your previous experience by talking about the duties you fulfilled without repeating what’s on your resume. Be specific. For example, let the HR person know how many people you managed in past positions and some of the management techniques you used to improve productivity and morale. Mention certifications you’ve received, such as a certification from the International Facility Management Association. HR people like proof of the value you can bring to the company.
Talk about yourself so that the interviewer gets a sense of your personality, work ethics and communication style. The HR person is not so much interested in your technical abilities as she is in finding out if you’ll fit with the company culture. Share personal traits that demonstrate your suitability for the job.
Give the interviewer time to record your answers before babbling on. HR interviews are based on the requirements given to the department from the hiring manager, and the human resources interviewer has to make sure she covers all the necessary bases. Be patient and don’t continue talking while she records your responses.
Bring extra copies of your resume, cover letter and reference letters even though the HR department most likely has them. This way, you show the interviewer that you don’t expect her to do everything. She can share the extra copies with department heads and others in the company.
- Don’t expect to get a lot of feedback from human resources professionals. They’re trained to keep their emotions in check and not let on when they like or dislike a candidate.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."