Giving an interview can be extremely stressful, irrespective of whether you’re a fresher, or someone who has been in the industry for years. In this blog, I will provide a wide range of potential HR job interview questions as a reference for anyone who is applying for the role of the HR head for a start-up. I have also added a few points and tips you could use while preparing to answer these questions.
For any start-up, structured HR functions can prevent a toxic work environment. The HR head of any start-up helps onboard, retain and develop employees efficiently, without harming the pre-existing work culture.
I have covered the following types of interview questions.
- Questions on HR software
- Interview questions based on Talent acquisition
- Questions on engagement and retention
- Learning and Development interview questions
- Interview questions based on payroll, compensation and benefits
- HR policy based interview questions
- Interview questions based on management/leadership
- Culture fit interview questions
Questions on HR Software
In this age of digitization and autoamtion, having an HRMS is critical. It eliminates inefficiency and increases productivity within their organization. Hence, these are extremely important HR job interview questions in today’s day and age. So make sure you read up on the various ways AI is paving the way for a better future.
Have you ever used an HRMS? How would an HRMS help the employees in your organization?
The full form of HRMS is ‘Human Resources Management System’. HRMS can be extremely useful in automating some of the major HR functions and hence giving you and your team time to focus on more innovative, strategy-based work.
What is your opinion on the integration of AI in HR?
Be sure to include points like- I think with the rise of AI in HR, we can now move from administrative tasks to cognitive decision-based ones. Talk about how some of the functions within HR will always need a human touch, many tasks such as payroll management, onboarding etc have become more efficient because of HR software. To know about AI in HR visit the article ‘20+ ways AI in HR is positively transforming the way work is done‘
How good are you at adapting to new technology?
Over time, there has been a great increase in the use of HR tech in companies. As an HR head, you need to be aware of the use of HR software. If you have used any HR tech in the past, mention that in your answer. If you haven’t, read up about the use of AI in HR, mention to the interviewer that you are a fast learner and you will be able to learn on the go. Read this to get a better understanding of cloud-based HR software.
What is payroll software?
Payroll software is used to automate payroll processes from beginning to end. It streamlines the entire process and helps get rid of payroll errors and increases efficiency. To answer this question well, read about the components of running a payroll, steps involved in doing so etc.
How familiar are you with an HRIS system?
The full form of HRIS is ‘Human Resource Information system’. In short, an HRIS can help in data and information management, tracking and managing resources as well as payroll and accounting.
What do you know about project management tools?
Many organizations work on multiple projects simultaneously. In your answer, talk about how keeping track of them while making sure employees work to the best of their ability can be difficult. A project management software can ease planning, manage tasks efficiently, allow sharing of documents, calendars etc. and also track projects effortlessly.
Do you have any experience working with an ATS?
ATS stands for ‘Application tracking software’. An ATS can be extremely helpful in tracking recruitment processes and other hiring needs. It even includes job postings and applications.
Interview questions based on talent acquisition
Talent Acquisition includes sourcing viable candidates and making sure they are a good fit for the company. They oversee the hiring and selection of new talent for the organization.
Do you have any online recruiting experience?
If you do have experience with online recruiting you could elaborate on those details. However, if you don’t have online recruiting experience, you could include in your answer- I know that online recruiting is taking over, especially because of the covid-19 pandemic and with work from home on the rise. While I do not have 1st hand experience, I am a quick learner, and adapt well will new technology.
What are your resources to find qualified candidates?
You could begin your answer with a few resources that you used in your previous place of work. Maybe a list of colleges that your previous company would go to. Apart from that, you could add that even Linkedin, employee referrals and online job search engines as good sources of quality candidates.
How would you help build our employer brand/reputation?
In the talent acquisition field, this is one of the most commonly asked HR job interview questions. Be sure to read up well about it. For a detailed understanding of how you could answer this question, visit our blog- “11 HR Responsibilities That Boost Employer Reputation”
What strategies could you implement to attract more talent?
A few ways to attract more talent is to use quality sources for hiring, visiting top colleges and scanning through LinkedIn for applicants. Even writing a quality job description would increase the number of applicants in any role. These are some points you could include in your answer.
How would you determine if an employee from one sub-department is a good fit for a role in another sub-department?
In your answer, you can include- If I noticed a particular candidate who I thought would be a better fit for another role, I would first approach them and ask them what they felt about their current role. I would also speak to them about the role I think is better for them. I would try to convince them to sit through an interview. This interview would be my way of knowing for sure which role they would be better suited for. As a result, I would be able to make a well-informed decision.”
What do you do if a candidate is late for an interview?
What do you do if a candidate doesn’t show up for an interview?
HR job interview questions like this one really show an interviewer your ability to showcase patience. This is a very important characteristic of any HR.
While answering this question, be sure to convey the fact that while no show interview candidates can be annoying, you would do your absolute best in finding out why the candidate didn’t show up/is late. If it was a genuine reason and the candidates’ application is good, you would reschedule the interview. This is because, at the end of the day, you wouldn’t want to lose a star candidate just because they fell sick on the morning of the interview.
How do you build a talent pipeline?
First, begin with what a pipeline is, and then explain the following…
- Identify your companies short term and long term goals
- To fill your pipeline, develop a candidate sourcing strategy
- Establish contact with potential candidates
- Assess your talent pool
- Nurture the candidates in your pipeline
- Prioritize ongoing training and development processes
If you had to recruit double the number of candidates over last year, how would you maintain the quality of candidates?
In your answer, include how you could shift to an HR software that would enable you to manage a higher number of candidates. Then, use Online job search engines, platforms like LinkedIn etc., to ensure have a high volume of applicants. The quality of these candidates could be maintained by increasing the engagement time, maybe with slightly longer interviews. Irrespective of the need for more employees, one cannot compromise on quality.
How do you decide between two candidates with similar qualifications?
If both candidates were equally qualified, you could try to get an understanding of who is more enthusiastic, responsible, hardworking and keen about the job. You could also get peer reviews to see if your decisions are right.
What are the steps you follow to prepare a job description for any role?
- Define the company goals and job objectives
- Evaluate the role/position
- Conduct market research
- Define compensations and benefits
- Define the company, its place in the industry, work culture etc.
- With all this information, write a good job description
How do you ensure a smooth onboarding process for new employees?
Onboarding refers to the process of familiarizing new employees with the company’s culture, decorum. role’s expectations etc. The use of AI in onboarding can smoothen the entire process while making sure that the new employees feel welcome.
Interview questions on Engagement and Retention
Engagement and retention are probably the most important for any company. HR job interview questions of this type would usually focus on past experience.
What in your opinion is the main reason for employees to feel unsatisfied in their jobs?
The main reason why employees feel unsatisfied in their jobs I think, is a lack of encouragement, stagnation in terms of growth, lack of recognition, or even when they feel overworked.
Talk about a retention strategy you could implement to retain quality employees?
The answer could include how every company should revisit their retention strategy once a year, to ensure it remains relevant. Apart from that, factors like good work-life balance, recognition and award systems, quality teamwork etc play a huge role in improving work satisfaction. Hence, a satisfied employee is likely to stay on as a member of your company rather than leave and time soon.
What kind of activities could you organize to improve employee engagement and motivation?
How do you keep employees motivated while working from home?
Employee motivation links largely with job satisfaction and hence in turn with retention. Read this article to understand the different ways you could boost your employees’ motivation while working from home.
What according to you are some of the best ways to engage new employees?
For any new employee, the most important thing is to know their place in the company. I could help them feel important by making them realise that their opinions in the company matter. Streamlining the onboarding process would ensure that the new employees know exactly what their jobs asked of them.
Learning and development based interview questions
Learning and development is that sub-department of HR that focuses on the improvement, growth and development of employees within the organization. When employees feel like they are learning on the job, through various methods provided by the organization, they will be less likely to look somewhere else for this training. Hence, improved employee engagement, higher job satisfaction and better retention.
What are the possible different methods for training employees?
Below I have mentioned the different methods of training,
- Instructor-led training
- Simulations for employees
- Job rotation (allows employees to broaden their scope of work)
- Seminars and conferences
- Case study discussions
- Role-play techniques
- Corporate universities etc.
How do you evaluate third-party training providers to ensure content is a match for your company’s needs?
- Try to get in touch with people who have worked with this trainer before and asked them how the sessions were conducted.
- Find out how easy/ not easy the person was to work with.
- Speak to the trainer to get an idea of their way of working, and fees (compare the fees with what other trainers charge).
These are some of the points you could include in your answer.
What is the main difference between training and development?
The main difference is, training focuses on job-related hard skills, while development focuses largely on the individual’s growth in terms of their own career-oriented goals etc.
What would you consider as a key factor for a training session to be effective?
The answer could include ‘Employees take away’. This is by far the most important factor to consider while checking how effective a training session is. At the end of the day, a training session is organized for employees to train themselves and better themselves.
Which methods according to you is the most efficient way to keep track of or monitor training sessions?
The use of an LMS aka Learning Management System or a TMS aka Training Management System according to me is the most efficient way to keep track of the training and development of all the employees of a company. However, excel or google sheets can be a cheaper alternative to the same.
With the increase of AI in the industry, such HR job interview questions show the interviewer how you keep up with industry norms. So even if you have never used an LMS, speak about how automation has helped learning and development immensely. Especially with the use of chatbots and other software that can offer unlimited resources, personalized learning experiences all integrated with the regular workflow schedule of an employee. Add to the answer by mentioning your ability to adapt and start using a learning software.
Interview questions involving payroll, compensations and benefits
HR job interview questions based on payroll management can be extremely technical, and it is important to prepare well for them if payroll management is an integral part of your job description.
What are the functions that are included in payroll?
Some of the payroll functions to include in your answer-
- Tax components (Professional tax or Income tax)
- Detailed employee records
- Retirement benefits
- Health and life insurance etc.
What is the major difference between payroll and compensation?
Payroll includes salary and wages, which are ideally fixed. While compensation includes bonuses, benefits and perks.
How do you avoid payroll errors?
Some of the things that you could include to avoid payroll errors are the creation of a detailed checklist, maintain a complete and all-inclusive database of all records and dealing with any errors that arise immediately. The most important one by far is the automation of your payroll system.” Read our article ‘What is Payroll Software? Everything You Need to Know
How do you deal with payroll complaints?
If an employee asks for a questionable reimbursement, what do you do?
Your answer for both the above questions could include the following-
- Gather facts about the issue
- Meet with the employee who issued the complaint/ asked for the reimbursement
- Meet with their supervisor
- Promise that you will follow up with the issue
- Formulate a plan to resolve the problem
What do you know about timesheet management?
Read our blog to know the details of how you can create a timesheet for your employees.
What do you know about EPF (Employee provident fund scheme)?
Visit our blog ‘12 provident fund lessons I learnt‘ to know more about EPF.
What can you tell me about ESI (Employee state insurance)?
ESI is short for employee state insurance and is a very important part of payroll compliance in India. Read our blog on Employee State Insurance (ESI) to know more.
HR policy-based questions
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of knowing current policies in the HR industry. Hence, HR job interview questions that revolve around policies show the interview how well versed you are with current changes in the industry.
What do you know about relocation policies?
To educate yourself in this area, read our blog ‘All you need to know about relocation policy‘
What is your take on cybersecurity policies?
The answer could include- A good cybersecurity policy is extremely important. Very often people assume that cybersecurity is the sole responsibility of the IT department. However, the HR department also needs to be involved. These policies can range from social media restrictions to email encryption.
You could either have an issue related policy, system-specific policy or a master policy. But having a robust cybersecurity policy is crucial.
What do you know about maternity leave policies/laws in India?
Don’t really know much? Read our blog on maternity leave policies to get a thorough understanding of the topic!
How would you formulate an efficient WFH policy if we hired you?
Covid-19 brought about a huge change in the way business is carried out. One of those biggest changes is work from home. So, how do you formulate a work from home policy that not only keeps productivity up but also ensures employee collaboration through integrated online platforms? Read our blog to know more.
What do you know about creating a hiring policy for a company?
Read our blog ‘How to design a hiring policy‘ to understand how to answer this question.
Interview questions on HR management/leadership
An HR manager oversees the entire HR department. Hence, this person should be a good leader, who inspires the team to do better. If you are applying for the job of an HR leader, you should be able to answer the following HR job interview questions.
What are the functions in HR? Which one do you like the least and why?
HR as a function can be broadly divided into
- Human Resource planning
- Recruitment/ Talent acquisition
- Employee engagement and retention
- Learning and development
- Career planning
- Administrative responsibilities
- Health and safety
After stating the above sub-functions, you should choose one and explain why you don’t like it.
What kind of HR reports or analytics do you usually look at while making important decisions?
The normal HR reports inlude-
- Recruiting reports
- Attendance reports
- Leave reports
- Leave requests
- Employee history
- Compensation reports etc.
For different types of decisions, different reports need to be looked at. To know more, visit our blog on HR reports.
How would you define your ideal workplace?
You could begin your answer maybe by talking about how you prefer working in a company where people are free to express their ideas. You could also talk about the importance of work-life balance and how it is something every employee should have.
What is your take on job eliminations?
Very often HR needs to make tough calls like firing people or laying off employees. You will also need to give reasons for this. But, how equipped are you to actually fire someone? Talk about your personal experiences with firing people(if you have done so in the past)
If you could describe the CHRO of a company in 3 words, what would they be?
Be mindful while answering questions like this. Needless to say- DO NOT use any remotely negative words while answering this question. Some words that you could use are Leader, Agile, Analytical, Dynamic etc.
Do you have a 30 60 90 day plan in place?
This is a common question asked in management interviews. This question focuses on your ability to plan well in advance taking all factors into consideration. When coming up with a plan as an HR head, you need to look at different things- like company culture, if the company uses an HRMS, the pre-existing teams and departments etc. Read our blog on the 30 60 90 day plan for an HR head to prepare well for this particular question.
What trends according to you will help shape the future of HR?
Changes in HR over time will have a huge effect on how work is done in general. Especially in a post covid world, HR functions will have been changed drastically. My understanding is that AI will help automate some of the repetitive tasks of HR, as we are already beginning to see now. Right from the use of chatbots to a gig economy, we are already seeing the future of HR.
How do you ensure that members of a team cooperate and work with as one unit?
For any team to work, communication is key! Highlight this in your answer to this question. Also, talk about how every person’s idea matters, and as a manager, you plan on giving an opportunity to these voices. Leveraging the strengths of each teamwork and together overcoming their weaknesses will help the entire team work together as one.
If you ever have an employee deviate from the ethical norms, how would you handle the situation?
It is important to know the law and make sure your employees do too. Your answer could include how you could ensure that employees are trained from the very beginning to carry out all work within ethical limitations. Set consequences from the get-go so that any employee going against company policy or the law knows what they’re in for.
How would you rate yourself from 0 to 10 as a leader? Why?
If you get asked a question like this, make sure you don’t give a very high number. If you are someone with a lot of leadership experience give yourself 7, saying that there is always scope for improvement. Modesty is very important at any point in your career, especially in front of potential employers.
What would be on your list of priorities as a part of the HR job, if we hire you.
This answer could differ based on the organization. But one thing that ideally should remain consistent is the need to get to know your employees well. So, that should be the topmost item on your list of priorities.
Culture fit interview questions
Very often this can be the scariest part of the interview. Because, when you’ve worked in the HR industry for a few years, you get comfortable with the relevant jargon and concepts. You even have experience under your belt. But it can get tricky when you randomly get asked questions about yourself that even you haven’t really thought about in years. Your biggest fear? Your motivation? Tell me something about yourself!! and so on
To prepare well for culture fit personality-based questions, you need to know ‘YOU’ well. Spend a good amount of time introspecting. Ask your friends and family if you need help.
Do you like taking interviews while hiring? Ask yourself why. Have a specific HR software you’ve used before? Know its pros and cons
In short, form the biggest circle of information that you can about yourself. Include even the smallest more redundant bit of information.
Tell me something about yourself
This is by far one of the most common HR job interview questions you could be asked at an interview. It is also the place where you’re most likely to mess up! While answering this question remember not to repeat points that are already on your CV (unless specifically asked to do so). The interview will almost definitely have a copy of your CV in front of them during the interview.
Instead, speak about things that motivate you. Elaborate on your biggest achievements or awards from your previous job. If you are a fresher, talk about academic achievements. Most importantly, relate all of this to the job you are applying for.
Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses as an HR professional
When you talk about your strengths, tie them to the job requirements. Why these strengths are needed for the job and how they will help you once you have secured the job.
A lot of times people tend to hide their true weakness by trying to twist it as a potential strength. What I mean when I say this- “I am such a workaholic, and everything I do has to be perfect.” The interviewer will see right through you. When you talk about your weaknesses, be truthful. When an interviewer asks you about your weaknesses, they really want to see is your self-awareness. The first step to improving anything is acknowledging the problem/weakness. The interviewer wants to know what you are doing to overcome these weaknesses.
Why do you think you would be an asset as our organization’s HR in-charge?
Similar to the question talk about your strengths, here, talk about your achievements and why they are relevant to the job. What sets you apart from the crowd. Maybe you have a knack for problem-solving, coupled with a strong set of leadership experiences.
Keep in mind that most candidates tend to say generic qualities like hard-working, dedicated and responsible. While having all these qualities is of utmost importance, they don’t really set you apart from the group. Hence, think about your experiences, past responsibilities etc., and then come up with an answer that will help you stand out.
Why do you want to be our company’s HR head?
A common mistake people make here is they end up talking only about the company and glorifying it. The interviewer already knows about the company. Instead, after speaking a little about the company, move on to why you want this role. Focus your answer on how choosing this company/role will help you reach your long term career goals.
Read up about the company/role and maybe mention a few specific things about the company that excites you. Visit the ‘about us’ page on their website or their social media pages to get a better understanding of their company and work culture.
What have you done to upskill yourself as an HR manager over the past year?
Every company wants employees who are able to keep up with trends and upskill themselves when needed. Hence, this is one of the more important HR job interview questions. The past year has been tough on all of us. A lot of have changes have taken place in the way work is carried out. As an HR manager have you been able to adapt to those changes? Have you done any courses, maybe from Coursera, or training programs to help yourself keep up with the times?
What do you think about our company’s work culture?
To answer this question well, read about the company from their websites and social media pages. Go to their about us page as well. This will give you an idea about the company’s culture
Being an HR, what’s the most challenging aspect of working with you?
While answering a question like this one, you could talk about your weaknesses. Figure out how they affect your team members or how you could improve on them in the time to come?
An HR must have good relations with the company’s employees. Are you a team player?
One of the more common HR job interview questions. In the interview, talk about your experiences in working in teams. Give examples of times where your ability to be a team player has helped your team complete a project quicker.
You could even add- “I appreciate the fact that every member in a team brings in different perspectives and each of those ideas play their own important role.”
What projects in the HR function do you see yourself doing in the next 5 or 10 years?
In this question, look at your own career trajectory this far, and then think about what kind of projects you wish to do, or any specific experiences you wish you had. Talk about them in detail.
Describe your ability to work under pressure. Give an example of a time you made a decision on your feet
When you answer a question like this one, try to highlight experiences that have had positive outcomes. Having said that, don’t fabricate a positive outcome for the sake of it. But talk about a real experience, a time when you had to make a quick decision. Maybe a time when someone from your team fell sick and you had to replace or fill in their shoes at the last minute.
You may even go on to say that, you work better under pressure than under normal circumstances (only say it if it is true!)
Talk about a conflict you faced at your previous job, maybe with someone from the HR department of your previous company
A mistake a lot of people tend to make here is they say- “I have never faced any conflict before!” When you say something like this, you come across as someone who has never worked in a team before. It doesn’t have to be a huge argument. It could be a simple incident when your point of view differed from someone else’s. The idea behind this question is to know how you resolved the conflict.
Something to keep in mind while answering this question is- never, NEVER ever speak negatively about your previous job/employer. No company will hire someone who would speak ill about them the minute they change jobs.
Now that your interview is over if there is any question you hoped I’d ask, now your chance to talk about it.
This may not seem like one of the many important HR job interview questions. But interviewers sometimes do ask this.
Very often we go into an interview hoping that the interview will ask us a particular question. Maybe it’s a part of our CV that we are most proud of or maybe it’s an incident that motivated you to do better.
Either way, if you’re lucky enough and the interviewer asks you a question like this one, it’s your chance to shine!
Now that you have gone through all these HR job interview questions and answers, I think you have all that you need to ace your interview.
But, if you find yourself not able to immediately think of an answer, don’t fret. Simply ask the interviewer for a minute to think about the question. If you still can’t think of the answer, it’s okay to tell the interviewer that you don’t know. Just remember to never lie in an interview or bluff your way through. Because getting caught lying is much worse than not knowing a particular answer.
I know interviews can really stress people out. But all you need to remember is that any interview is like a conversation. A very formal one no doubt, but a conversation. The interviewer will ask you questions about YOU, your life experiences and all that you have done in the past. So there’s no need to stress. Just take a deep breath and go for it!
Happy interviewing 🙂
While there is no set fixed list of HR job interview questions, you could definitely expect questions based on your work experience, academic background (if you have 0-3 years of experience) and even about your working style. You may also get asked questions related to the job description and job requirements
1. Know why you want the job or role
2. Update your LinkedIn profile and CV
3. Be prepared to answer any question regarding past experience and academic background.