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HR Job Interview Questions
HR Interview Questions
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HR Interview Questions



“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.

How do you define success…and how do you measure up to your own definition?

Give a well-accepted definition of success that leads right into your own stellar collection of achievements.

Example: “The best definition I’ve come across is that success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal.”

“As to how I would measure up to that definition, I would consider myself both successful and fortunate…”(Then summarize your career goals and how your achievements have indeed represented a progressive path toward realization of your goals.)

“The Opinion Question” – What do you think about …Abortion…The President…The Death Penalty…(or any other controversial subject)?
In all of these instances, just remember the tale about student and the wise old rabbi. The scene is a seminary, where an overly serious student is pressing the rabbi to answer the ultimate questions of suffering, life and death. But no matter how hard he presses, the wise old rabbi will only answer each difficult question with a question of his own.

In exasperation, the seminary student demands, “Why, rabbi, do you always answer a question with another question?” To which the rabbi responds, “And why not?”

If you are ever uncomfortable with any question, asking a question in return is the greatest escape hatch ever invented. It throws the onus back on the other person, sidetracks the discussion from going into an area of risk to you, and gives you time to think of your answer or, even better, your next question!

In response to any of the “opinion” questions cited above, merely responding, “Why do you ask?” will usually be enough to dissipate any pressure to give your opinion. But if your interviewer again presses you for an opinion, you can ask another question.

Or you could assert a generality that almost everyone would agree with. For example, if your interviewer is complaining about politicians then suddenly turns to you and asks if you’re a Republican or Democrat, you could respond by saying, “Actually, I’m finding it hard to find any politicians I like these days.”

(Of course, your best question of all may be whether you want to work for someone opinionated.)

If you won $10 million lottery, would you still work?
This type of question is aimed at getting at your bedrock attitude about work and how you feel about what you do. Your best answer will focus on your positive feelings.

Example: “After I floated down from cloud nine, I think I would still hold my basic belief that achievement and purposeful work are essential to a happy, productive life. After all, if money alone bought happiness, then all rich people would be all happy, and that’s not true.

“I love the work I do, and I think I’d always want to be involved in my career in some fashion. Winning the lottery would make it more fun because it would mean having more flexibility, more options...who knows?”

“Of course, since I can’t count on winning, I’d just as soon create my own destiny by sticking with what’s worked for me, meaning good old reliable hard work and a desire to achieve. I think those qualities have built many more fortunes that all the lotteries put together.”

Looking back on your last position, have you done your best work?
To cover both possible paths this question can take, your answer should state that you always try to do your best, and the best of your career is right now. Like an athlete at the top of his game, you are just hitting your career stride thanks to several factors. Then, recap those factors, highlighting your strongest qualifications.

Why should I hire you from the outside when I could promote someone from within?

Help him see the qualifications that only you can offer.

Example: “In general, I think it’s a good policy to hire from within – to look outside probably means you’re not completely comfortable choosing someone from inside.

“Naturally, you want this department to be as strong as it possibly can be, so you want the strongest candidate. I feel that I can fill that bill because…(then recap your strongest qualifications that match up with his greatest needs).”

Tell me something negative you’ve heard about our company…
Just remember the rule – never be negative – and you’ll handle this one just fine.

On a scale of one to ten, rate me as an interviewer.
Once again, never be negative. The interviewer will only resent criticism coming from you. This is the time to show your positivism.

However, don’t give a numerical rating. Simply praise whatever interview style he’s been using.

If he’s been tough, say “You have been thorough and tough-minded, the very qualities needed to conduct a good interview.”

If he’s been methodical, say, “You have been very methodical and analytical, and I’m sure that approach results in excellent hires for your firm.”

In other words, pay him a sincere compliment that he can believe because it’s anchored in the behavior you’ve just seen.

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