HR Interview Questions - Quick Guide
HR Interview Questions
An interview can be broadly seen as a formal meeting arranged to evaluate a prospective employee by obtaining his/her career-oriented details, like qualification and work-experience. An interview presents the applicants an opportunity to elaborate on certain components of their resumes and talk about their areas of expertise. It also tests their ability to think critically and independently.
Depending on the position and the company you are getting hired for, you might need to appear in various types of interviews. We going to discuss here the following six types of interviews and also see what makes them so unique −
- Behavioral Questions
- Traditional Questions
- Case Questions
- Role-play questions
- Industry-specific questions
It is estimated that 80% of the interview is made up of behavioral questions. This type of interviewing is based on the philosophy that a detailed analysis of the way you acted in certain circumstances in your previous job will give a reliable indication of the way you will act in your new job too.
Behavioral questions will be experience-based and you need a lot of practice to be able to answer them in a satisfactory manner.
To answer Behavioral Questions, employ the STAR technique −
S = Situation − (recall an incident in your life that suits the situation)
T = Task − (recall an incident in your life that suits the task)
A = Action − (mention the course of action you opted to address the situation or task)
R = Result − (mention the result of your action and the outcome)
S − My friends and I were to give a presentation on "Artificial Intelligence", however one of them unfortunately slipped and fell down the stairs the night before.
T − As we had already picked up specific sub-topics to talk on individually, this sudden addition of content did put a lot of pressure on us, especially because it had taken us months of research to come up with our material.
A − In order to not let this accident affect our team's performance, I took the responsibility of filling in for his topic too. The issue was that I had only one night to make myself familiar with his notes.
R − Thanks to my friends' assistance and my efforts, our team managed to complete the presentation successfully and we also got compliments from the Review Panel.
Remember that these are only sample interview answers meant to give a general idea on the approach to Behavioral Interviews. You need to formulate your own answers to suit the context and scenario asked in the question.
Sample Behavioral Interview Questions
Never bad-mouth previous colleagues and ex-employees. Instead of focusing on the details of the incident, put more emphasis on the part where you managed to make him see your point-of-view.
For example − “They were thinking from a different point of view, but in the end, they managed to understand my concerns as well.”
Applying STAR to this situation, recall an incident in your life that suits the question, mention what task you set to address the issue, the actions you took, and the results you got.
For example − “We had once designed a template for a group presentation, however one member wasn’t too happy with him being asked to conclude. I suggested he should give it a trial run. At the end, he realized that he was as good at concluding as he was at opening a presentation.
This is a standard question in Customer Service, Sales & Marketing, IT and education sectors. Provide specific, job-related examples.
For example − “Yes, I designed a presentation that explained all the points in a clear manner. I also created a document describing the concept in simple words and handed it to the audience.”
Asking about incidents where you had to change your style of working is very common in Behavioral Interviews. Recruiters want to check your adaptability skills, as someone with a firm notion won’t be flexible to adjust to a process.
For example − “The management had decided to move on to Macintosh for all their company devices which took a bit of getting used to, however I spent a lot of time on it and this practice helped me a lot.”
Companies prefer candidates who have made mistakes in the past and have learnt from them, as opposed to those who follow rules only because someone has told them to. They need people who know the reason behind a decision.
Mention the mistake and be honest about it, but always make sure that you follow it up with what you learnt from that episode and the improvements it has brought to your efficiency.
For example − “In the first week of my appointment, I had miscalculated the estimated time needed to complete a project assigned to me, which resulted in a chain of miscommunications. It taught me that deadlines are to be respected.”
Questions about managing teams are not asked only in managerial jobs. Employers want to see managerial skills in their employees. They want people in their team who can motivate others and accomplish a task in a given time-frame. The best way to answer such questions will be to base your answer on capability, experience, task force, etc.
For example − “Based on their individual strengths, I delegated the complex algorithm-writing tasks to Tarun, as he has more experienced than the others. I asked Rohan to handle data check, as he was very accurate in his testing skills. I handled QA, as I had maximum experience in Quality Analysis.”
These types of questions are designed to check your personality and skills at handling stressful situations. The standard rules of interviewing answers apply here too − no bad-mouthing ex-employees or supervisors.
For example − “Once I was blamed for not taking a sufficiently-detailed survey in a locality, which affected our sales figures for that month. Although I was not in the Marketing Analysis team, I took a note of the issue and, without passing blame, politely passed it to the concerned department.
When questions like these are asked, give an answer that portrays your ability to identify, analyze, and solve problems.
For example − "We were getting a lot of complaints about the customers not getting the deliveries on time. I met the Manager of Delivery Department and he told me that the problem was acute during peak traffic hours. We both charted alternative routes with lesser traffic congestion during peak hours, i.e., 5:00PM till 8:00PM. Due to our efforts, our complaint call volume was reduced by 30%."
The ability of being a self-starter who likes to explore suitable alternatives of arriving at a solution and coming up with practical ideas are very important at any workplace.
For example − "Our Company had launched a new product and the Sales Team were getting trained on it. We, being from the Orders Department, were not privy to the training. I requested the Management to include us in the training team too, as that would help us understand the orders and provide better solutions to customers.”
By asking this question, the interviewer is checking your ability to implement logical decisions. You need to express your logical method of thinking out each step, calculating the implementation with team-mates, weighing in alternatives, and choosing the best action route.
For example − "I was assigned the task of purchasing office equipment. We used to follow a "purchase-per-month" mode of purchase and payment. I thought of opting for a bulk purchase of six months, as I could hardly see the difference in payment in the per-month structure. Also, by ordering in bulk, we could get discounts and freebies. We opted for a bulk purchase in January, which proved to be a wise decision, as the prices of electronic goods increased by 15% with the new budget."
General Interview Questions
Compared to Behavioral Questions that deal with your situation-handling in a past scenario, Traditional or General Interview Questions tend to be more hypothetical. They can be asked in any interview and they don’t specifically cater to any particular job responsibility.
It is always advisable to memorize a few keywords on the company’s needs, problems, or goals. Make sure you visit the company’s website before the interview to uncover the needs of this specific job profile, instead of the generalized needs of the industry.
Sample General Interview Questions
Unlike 80% of the candidates who ramble about their life story and personal matters, start with the present and explain how your qualifications match to what the interviewer is looking for, and how you are an ideal candidate for the job. This approach will help you stand out instantly from the rest of the aspirants and will help you build a rapport very early.
For example − "I have a number of accomplishments I'd like to tell you about, but I would like to talk more about the most important priorities of this position. I know from (company’s website, newspaper ad, from references, etc.) that these are the requisites for this job profile. Is there anything else you see as essential for this position?”
Most aspirants sound either too arrogant or humble while answering these questions, neither of which helps. The key skill here is to mention work-elated strengths along with their most recent and impressive examples respectively.
For example − The qualities employers generally seek in employees are −
|Proven Performance Record||Intelligence|
|Familiarity with Corporate Culture||Honesty|
|Ease of Approachability||Dedication|
First of all, there’s nothing “great” about a weakness, so that’s a trick question; it should be “What are your biggest weaknesses?”
Second, being honest about your weaknesses might earn you brownie points on sincerity, however a candidate with weaknesses isn’t a charming prospect for any company. Many tackle this question by trying to present their excessive implementation of a positive quality as a negative feature.
For example − “I strive to achieve perfection, so I tend to work too hard.”
However, these tactics have been used for so long now that every HR will see through it. The best way to answer this question is to first get a detailed knowledge of the job’s requirements, and then describe what you like doing the most, which should match up with the most important qualification in the position. Also, mention what you like the least, which should match with a qualification not at all needed for the job.
For example − If you are applying for a job that needs knowledge on Website Designing, say −
"Nobody's perfect, but if my background is anything to go by, I have the qualifications, skills and focus to achieve results in this position. If given a choice, I like to spend the majority of my employed time in designing the websites, as opposed to Data Warehousing. Of course, I know the importance of Data Warehousing, but my real interest lies in website designing." (The HR’s heart would be singing in delight on hearing those words.)
Although it’s one of those extremely personal questions that the interviewer has no business asking, it’s extremely effective in inducing guilt and repentance from an unprepared candidate, which could lead to disaster.
Never treat a mistake you made as something shameful, as that means you have difficulty in moving on, instead of learning from the mistake and avoiding that in your present life. Never regret or apologize for a mistake.
For example − “I have always found the best way to manage a shameful act is to not do it in the first place. I always cross-check my references and prepare the task-chart for the next day well in advance, so that I am rarely caught on the wrong foot.”
As a rule of thumb, never badmouth your previous company, boss, staff, or employees, under any circumstance. If you are already in a job, state honestly and clearly what you expect in your new job. The best keywords could be – better career opportunities, growth, exposure to a different working culture, new process, etc.
For example − Never lie if you have been laid-off the job, as it’s very easy to find out. Instead of taking the question personally, try to divert the reasons for your getting fired as − “company takeover, merger, and division wide layoff."
Instead of being bitter about the experience, try to describe the incident practically from the company's point-of-view, indicating that you might have done the same thing yourself, had you been in their position. This will increase your value in the eyes of the interviewer(s) as excellent top-management material.
A favorite of the HRs who put candidates in Stress situations, this technique involves the interviewer remaining completely silent and just keep on staring back after an aspirant has answered the question. This uncomfortable and prolonged silence has an unnerving effect on even the most seasoned job-seekers.
Most unprepared candidates think they might have said something extremely wrong which they have to cover now. But as they don’t know what was wrong in the first place, they break under the stress and rush to fill in the silence by rambling about unnecessary details, which might be extremely dangerous to your chances.
For example − If your interviewer remains silent for an uncomfortable duration after listening to your answer, keep quiet for some time and then, say very politely − "Is there anything else I need to mention on that point?"
Before answering any such question, do a thorough study of the position’s requirements and what skill-sets the job might need. This knowledge will help you immensely in matching your qualifications and experience with the job requirements, which in turn, enhances your image in the eyes of the HR and sets you apart from the competition.
For example − "As per my knowledge, you are looking for a Sales and Marketing Manager for your book-publishing department. I would like to mention that I have a strong background in trade book sales, 18 years of experience to be exact. I know the right contacts, methods, and management techniques that are needed for success in our industry.”
The reason interviewers ask this question is to check your level of commitment to the job and company. They want to know if you are just filling in till a better opportunity comes along, or are you looking for a long-term association with the organization.
For example − "This position is exactly what I'm looking forward to working in on a long term, and I'm confident that if I do my work with sincerity and the desired level of proficiency, opportunities will inevitably open up for me."
The deeper your research is on the company’s annual reports, the corporate newsletters, business contacts, partners, suppliers, advertisements and articles about the company in the trade press, the better chance you have at answering this question satisfactorily.
This is one of the trickiest questions in the world of interviewing, as it pits two morals against each other − loyalty vs. honesty.
For example − In these cases, try to give an answer that’s as diplomatic as possible, like − “I will never do anything that could cast a shadow on the company’s image and reputation. I will always consult with my seniors before taking a decision, so that they can guide me with their expertise and level of experience.”
Your interviewer may press you for this information for two reasons. First, to research the competition on their strategies, financial condition, etc. Second, to test your integrity to see if you can easily reveal confidential data. Never reveal anything truly confidential about a present or former employer, but politely explain the reason too.
For example − "I certainly like to be as clear as possible, however I would also like to honor the trust my previous employer had on me, when they shared sensitive information, as I am sure you would also want your employers to do.”
Case Study Interview Questions
Case study based interview questions are unique because answering them requires identifying the root causes and developing an action plan based on a logical analysis.
In Case Interviews, interviewers tend to not mention important figures and details. They want to see if you have a clear idea on the industry and on what assumption you will solve the problem. In these situations, it’s okay to consider assumed data, but they need to be based on facts and logic.
Answering Case Interview Questions
Answering case interview questions can be tricky, especially when you don’t get the facts right. Do use the following tips to tackle such questions −
Listen carefully − Paraphrasing helps in understanding the question completely before answering.
Take time to think − Because of the sheer number of parameters needed to tackle the issue, candidates are expected to take some time to ponder on the scenario, however anything more than five minutes would be excessive.
Ask questions − Interviewers deliberately give incomplete questions to check the candidates’ understanding of relevant parameters, so they expect a lot of questions from you which makes the entire interview quite interactive.
Use a logical framework − Apply the principles you learned in business colleges as a framework. Examples include Porter's Five Forces and the SWOT analysis.
Prioritize objectives − Start addressing the most important objectives and concerns and gradually move towards relatively non-priority topics.
Try and think outside the box − Many interviewers are on the lookout for employees who can bring in creativity to their problem-solving process.
Exhibit enthusiasm − Behaving as though you feel it's fun to tackle this kind of problem is integral to showing how well you'd fit in as a consultant or whatever position you're interviewing for.
Standard Case Interview Questions
Market-Sizing Case Interview Questions
Market-Sizing Case Interview Questions need the candidates to guess the market size for a specific product. To answer these questions, you need to have a close idea on the population of the country, the male-female ratio, different demographics, among many other parameters. A few popular examples are −
Q. How many light bulbs are there in Delhi?
Q. How many people read gossip magazines in Mumbai?
Q. How many photocopies are taken in Odisha each year?
Q. How much beer is consumed in the city of Chandigarh?
Business Case Interview Questions
These questions need knowledge on the internal working of a company. Visit their website and collect as much information as possible on their way of operations.
Q. You are working directly with <company’s name> management team. It is organizing a project designed to increase the revenue significantly. If you were provided with data and asked to supervise the project, what steps would you take to ensure its success?
Q. The firm has assigned you to consult <company’s name> intending to drop a product or expand into new markets in order to increase revenue. What steps would you take to help this company achieve its objective?
Q. You have been assigned to consult <shoe retailer’s name> with stores throughout the nation. Since its revenue is dropping, the company has proposed to sell food at its stores. How would you advise this client?
Questions involving logic problems require you to be able to perform numeracy quickly. The following are a few logic problems.
If you thought the answer was zero degrees, you'd be incorrect. At 3:15, the clock's minute hand will be pointing at 15 minutes, exactly 90 degrees clockwise from vertical. At 3:15, the clock's hour hand will be exactly one quarter of the distance between 3 O'clock and 4 O'clock. Each of the 12 hours on the clock represents 30 degrees (360 degrees divided by the 12 hours on the clock). Consequently, one quarter of an hour is exactly 7.5 degrees − so at 3:15, the minute hand will be at 97.5 degrees. So there is a difference of 7.5 degrees between the hour hand and the minute hand at 3:15.
Driving his fire engine 5 miles at 8 miles per hour takes 37.5 minutes. Driving his fire engine 7 miles at 9 miles per hour takes about 47 minutes. Driving his fire engine 8 miles at 12 miles per hour takes 40 minutes. So he should choose to drive his fire engine over the hill.
Answering this problem just requires some simple algebra. If we assume the cost of celery = x, then the cost of onions = 2x, and the cost of the carrots is 4x, such that the total cost of all vegetables = x + 2x + 4x = 7x = 21 dollars. Consequently, x = 3 dollars. Hence, the onions cost 6 dollars.
Role-plays are considered opportunities to prove that you possess all the key interpersonal skills you have mentioned in your resume. They help employers to assess how you'll react in certain situations. During a role-play, the interviewer assumes the role of a customer/client and asks you to sell him an idea or a product.
Questions like "why should I go with your company?" "What advantages can you offer me?" or "Why are your products so highly-priced when <rival company’s name> delivers the same products at such an inexpensive price?” are commonly asked.
In role-play questions, it’s always advisable to have a detailed knowledge of the company beforehand. Collect as much information on the company’s policies, recent achievements, their closest competitors’ best-selling products, etc.
In some cases, the role-play may feature a group role-playing exercise. In these situations, try your best to be an efficient team-leader but don’t try to dominate. Try to get a balance between listening and speaking.
Be calm and composed under every situation. Don’t laugh or embarrass people who couldn’t satisfactorily participate in the role-play activity.
Sample Role-play Interview Questions
Think about the most important parameters like quality, grip, ease of access, durability, and price. Assume the body language of a salesperson. Confidence is the key.
For example − Find out their specific needs and sell the solution to their problems − "Do you prefer black or blue ink? Black, is it? Well, I am confident that this pen will fit all your needs. It's a fancy, fine point, Black ink pen which you can use to sign all your important business documents. It'll look great in the board room but you can still use it for everyday tasks.
Name your chosen gadget/item and then offer brief points as your (the gadget's) main purpose, strengths, characteristics, etc., which should be a representation of yourself in workplace.
For example − Hello, everyone. I am the blender. I blend different vegetables and fruits together very quickly and also retain their fiber content, unlike juicers. I help your body process fat easier.
Use random bits and pieces such as keys, combs, phones, tissues, etc., and think creatively and incisively about how an organization is structured and operating, including the crucial relationships between the working parts.
The interviewers might have a conversation on what they would like to drink − (tea, coffee, with or without milk, with how many sugars or without). Take it in turns to listen carefully to what everyone's drink requests are, including who wants what, rather than just a list of the choices.
- Pairs of scissors
- Nuts and bolts
- Small children's toys
Normally used as an introductions icebreaker, it limits the purpose of an introduction to a simple outline of each person's self. The activity expands naturally to greater duration if more thinking and discussion/review time is encouraged by the facilitator.
Industry-Specific Interview Questions
Industry-specific questions are specific to the industry you are seeking employment in. These questions evaluate your educational skill sets, professional qualification, and employment experience, so prepare your answers after reviewing your performances, current assignments, and the achievements in projects that showcase your talent in the best possible way.
We have listed five industries with the most common questions asked in their industry-specific interview −
Briefly describe your background and the related responsibilities, your greatest achievements as a manager and the efficiency in which you performed various tasks required for the position. Demonstrate the fact that you are detail oriented and confident in providing high quality output for your company.
Convey an approachable and friendly attitude along with presenting the image of a knowledgeable person. Stress on the importance of speaking politely, accurately, and professionally.
“s” bit is called “set user id” (SUID) bit. “s” bit on a file causes the process to have the privileges of the owner of the file during the instance of the program. For example, executing “passwd” command to change the current password causes the user to writes its new password to shadow file even though it has “root” as its owner.
Mention the nobility and profitability of the profession by speaking on the obvious lucrative aspects of the job, and also as the real reason being your genuine love for the profession and the pleasure you get in assisting families to safeguard their interests by offering them the best investment plans.
Besides being good with numbers, one must be patient while handling the accounts, creditors, and investors of a company. Mention your strong analytical and interpersonal skills as the qualities that make you an ideal candidate for an accountant.
Brainteaser Interview Questions
A brainteaser is a form of puzzle that requires thinking in unconventional ways with given constraints in mind; sometimes it also involves lateral thinking. On a general scale, the most obvious answers are almost always the incorrect ones.
Sample Brainteaser Interview Questions
Call the switches 1, 2, and 3. Leave Switch 1 off. Turn Switch 2 on for five minutes and then turn it off. Turn Switch 3 on and leave it on. Enter the room. The bulb that is on is controlled by Switch 3 (the one you left on). Feel the light bulbs that are off for heat. The bulb that is off and warm is controlled by Switch 2 (the one you turned on, then off). The bulb that is off and cold is controlled by Switch 1 (the one that you didn't turn on).
Instead of describing what it looks like, try to identify what it does and how it can assist operations in the company by just going through and talking about its functionality, e.g., "this can be used to store contact details, make phone calls, send emails, take photos or videos, etc." You could also relate it to the job or the workplace and talk about how the mobile phone would be used.
If you charge 20 cents per vowel, the two-vowel word "apple" would cost 40 cents, three-vowel "banana" 60 cents, and four-vowel "grapefruit" 80 cents. Therefore a pear would cost 40 cents.
Try to answer this question with a lot of creativity and humor, like − “I would ask him if he remembers any movie where people used to look into a crystal ball and tell what was happening miles away. I would say Internet is that magic crystal ball of the present time.”
Don't think exponential growth and the kind of bacteria that's in the dish. If the bacteria doubles every minute, and it's full at 1 pm, it must have been half-full a minute earlier, at 12:59.
This question is designed in such a way that you can clearly identify a right and wrong option. However, this question will be correctly answered if you study the signals that the interviewer sends via gestures and body language. As a general rule, managers prefer “good and on time”, as they don’t appreciate work to stay pending because of the employees’ need for perfection.
These questions test what the candidate values and aspirations by asking them to think of a real person they know, and then describe what makes that person smart. Notable qualities are a person’s ability to think ahead several steps and execute those ideas, decision-making skills, and their ability to connect with others.
Let’s start drawing socks. There will be three scenarios −
If the first sock is red. If the second is red, you have a matching pair. But what if it is isn’t red?
If the second sock is yellow. If the third is either yellow or red, then you have a pair. If it is blue, then you draw again.
If the third sock is blue. Now you have one of each. Since your next sock must be either red, yellow, or blue, you are bound to have a pair.
Once you have four socks, you are guaranteed to have a pair.
Manhole covers are round so that they won’t fall into the manholes, as square covers could be dropped into the manholes if held diagonally.
Let’s say there are 50 coins and we separate 10 of them. Now we have a group of 10 and a group of 40.
Let’s assume there are 3 heads in the group of 10. Then there will be 7 heads in the group of 40.
Now we turn over all the coins in the group of 10.
That’s it! 7 heads in each group!