Interview Questions for HR Specialists

Use SAR stories to describe questions related to tough decisions you've made.
i George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Use SAR stories to describe questions related to tough decisions you've made.

If you are an HR specialist, you are probably more used to asking questions than answering them, especially if you are a recruiting specialist. But when it comes to interviews, you must respond to questions like anyone else -- and, hopefully, bowl the interviewer over with some great answers. Expect questions that test your analytical and communication skills, attention to detail, level of control and decision-making abilities.

Supervisor Preference

HR or hiring managers might ask what style of supervision you prefer during an interview, such as autocratic, participative or delegative. Autocratic supervisors manage you closely and make all the decisions, while you collaborate more on decisions in a participative environment. Delegative supervisors provide you with more leeway in making decisions. Be honest when answering this question because you want a style that best suits your personality and skills. If the guy's a micro-manager and you're used to making most decisions, the job probably isn't for you. But do ask what style the supervisor prefers -- after you respond -- so you at least know where you stand.


HR specialists are sometimes asked what mistakes they've made in past jobs. This is usually a two-part question: What mistakes you made and what you did to resolve them. One rule of thumb is to not mention any large mistakes that might have cost a previous employer money. HR specialists work with important documents, such as I-9 and W-4 forms, which determine employees' legal work status and how much to deduct from their paychecks, respectively, according to the IRS. Therefore, if you mention a big snafu, you probably won't get the job. But if you failed to get a signature on an employee's application and corrected it the day she was hired, that's understandable.

Project Management

It isn't uncommon for employers to ask HR specialists about their project management abilities. A hiring manager might ask you to, "Describe procedures you use to track all your projects." Because HR specialists are at the forefront of either hiring employees, selecting medical benefits or mediating disputes, you probably have a project log to keep track of outstanding tasks and project completions. Describe the contents of that project log and how you meet with co-workers weekly to update statuses on projects.

Toughest Decision

When employers ask you to describe a tough decision you've made, they are usually seeking a detailed answer. The best way to respond is to use a SAR story, an acronym that stands for situation, action and result, according to Quintessential Careers. Briefly explain the situation, such as someone you had to fire. List actions you took to derive your decision, including both verbal and written warnings -- and even an action plan that an employee had to complete. The end result was that you fired the employee but only after you followed all the legal procedures. You will make many tough decisions working as an HR specialist. Let your next employer know you can handle them.

2016 Salary Information for Human Resources Specialists

Human resources specialists earned a median annual salary of $59,180 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, human resources specialists earned a 25th percentile salary of $44,620, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $78,460, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 547,800 people were employed in the U.S. as human resources specialists.

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