When recently asking a job candidate why they wanted to work with edtech platform Novakid, the company’s chief people officer was disappointed to hear the applicant say they were just interested in the role because of the company’s remote work policy.
“Normally, in the startup world, you really look for people that have a passion for making an impact,” said Lorena Perez, chief people officer at Novakid, which teaches English as a Second Language to children ages 4-12.
While the company is certainly proud of its flexible workplace offerings, Perez wanted to hear more about why the candidate was interested in Novakid’s work specifically. What makes this company a place they want to work more than any other? Making a good impression during an HR interview is the key to advancing in the job consideration process.
10 Most Common HR Interview Questions
- Can you tell me a little about yourself?
- Why are you interested in this role?
- Why are you leaving your current job?
- How have your past experiences prepared you for this position?
- What technical skills can you bring to the role?
- What are your greatest strengths?
- What are the achievements you’re most proud of in your professional career?
- Can you describe a time when you failed or made a mistake?
- Can you tell me about a time when you experienced conflict or a problem and how you dealt with it?
- Do you have any questions for me?
We’ve compiled 10 of the most common HR interview questions — and how to respond to them — so you can be prepared to nail your next job interview.
Common Questions in an HR Interview
Can you tell me a little about yourself?
So many HR interviews start with this question. Make sure your answer is not just a reading through your resume –– your interviewer will have already seen it.
“You should give a general overview without going into too much detail, and the interviewer can always probe in for more detail as they see is necessary,” said Eric Sydell, executive vice president of innovation at Modern Hire, an intelligent hiring platform.
Work on crafting a succinct and genuine summary of your career experiences and interests that are most relevant to the role you’re discussing and explain why you are dedicated to your given industry or field of study.
“I always look for a passion in candidates for this startup tech world,” Perez said. “I really like to find [out] if the candidate had a dream when they were a kid, or they had a passion before they found their way in their studies, in their career.”
Why are you interested in this role?
The HR representative conducting the interview will want to understand if you are actually interested in the company and the work you’d be doing in the role. HR interviewers want to weed out people who are just mass applying to jobs or not fully invested in going through the interview process at the company.
“Interviewers are trying to gauge if the candidate is a good fit for the job and the organization’s culture,” said Deb LaMere, chief human resources officer at SAAS company, Datasite, via email. “Interviewers are looking for interest, engagement and enthusiasm for the role and the company.”
A closely related question might be “Why do you want to work at this company?” Do your research to understand the scope of the role and the company’s mission. Unlike the candidate at Novakid who was just interested in remote work, make sure to be able to articulate the values and culture at the company, so you can explain why you want to be a part of the team.
“I’m looking for answers that represent more the impact people really want to have in their next opportunity,” Perez said.
Why are you leaving your current job?
Common reasons someone might be looking for a new job are career growth, more challenging work, better work-life balance or an industry switch. Whatever the reason, it’s important to be honest with this question –– even if you’re looking for a job because of an involuntary separation.
“In the past everyone was trying to hide they were terminated,” Perez said. “Now I find more honesty, that is what I appreciate.”
How have your past experiences prepared you for this position?
Essentially, this question is asking how you would succeed in this role. Try to come up with a brief example or two of a past professional or academic accomplishment that demonstrates how you would contribute to the new job.
“Experience is the best predictor of future behavior and success,” LaMere said.
If you have past experience that’s directly related to the new job, definitely share that, but if not, think about skills you’ve learned in problem solving or collaboration that might apply to the new company.
Share examples that add depth to what’s already on your resume. “You ask Michelle how you as Michelle can really contribute to this role at Novakid in this stage,” Perez said.
What technical skills can you bring to the role?
If you’re applying for a technical role as a developer, you will want to share the different softwares and technical capabilities you can bring to the team. Be aware that there might be an exercise where you’re asked to write code or solve a problem.
“When a technical person is applying for a job, they have to be prepared to answer technical questions, but I also think that they need to be prepared to say, ‘I don’t know, but I could find out in about five seconds. This is what I would do to find out and to solve that problem,’” Sydell said.
Even if you’re not familiar with the company’s exact software, or you struggle to answer the exercise in the moment, you can use the question as an opportunity to showcase your problem solving skills and willingness to learn. Feel free to share skills or software knowledge that’s at least similar to the needs of the role — even if it’s not an exact match — because you can explain how your knowledge of one software can help you learn a new one.
What are your greatest strengths?
You will want to answer this question with some skills and attributes that the employer is seeking, but answer honestly, not just what you think the interviewer wants to hear. Some good answers might revolve around how you collaborate well with others, how you are productive or how you are able to exceed your goals.
Be prepared for the flip side of this question too, even though the question “what are your weaknesses?” has become less popular. Oftentimes people feel the need to come up with a weakness that isn’t really perceived as a weakness like “I’m a perfectionist” or “I work too hard.”
“I think it’s a common question that people should know how to respond to and, hopefully, when you’re describing your weaknesses, they’re not something that’s absolutely critical for that job,” Sydell said.
What are the achievements you’re most proud of in your professional career?
Prepare some examples of projects or experiences you’ve enjoyed working on or felt great satisfaction with how they turned out, and be prepared to explain why. Try to make a connection to how this achievement could be applied to the new employer.
“I always love to hear from candidates what they feel most proud of in order to recognize their main values, their focus points,” Perez said.
Can you describe a time when you failed or made a mistake?
In the startup world, it’s accepted that companies fail. There’s no need to hide mistakes. What’s important is what you learned from the experience.
“A mistake means that you are able to experiment, that you are able to innovate, that you are able to come up with new ideas to put into practice,” Perez said. “Of course, a new idea or a new experiment can bring failure because not all ideas or all innovations bring in their success, but recognizing failure, recognizing mistakes and also the learnings from it for the future is one I like the most.”
Can you tell me about a time when you experienced conflict or a problem and how you dealt with it?
HR interviewers will want to get a good sense of your interpersonal skills like communication, leadership, emotional intelligence and conflict management skills, LaMere said.
“A good answer for those questions is going to be specific and clear, and it’s not going to sound made up,” Sydell said. “Showcasing how you handled it, how you faced that challenge, how you got it done with detail, I think that’s the most important thing.”
Another version of this question might be along the lines of tell me about a time you came up with a workaround to a difficult problem, Sydell said.
“Especially in a coding, engineering capacity, a lot of the questions are going to be geared towards solving problems, maybe demonstrating creativity, innovative solutions,” Sydell said.
Do you have any questions for me?
Never answer this question with a “no.” Always prepare a few questions ahead of time to ask your interviewer to show you’re excited about the position and interested in learning more.
Some good questions include:
- How does the company invest in training and development?
- What is the biggest challenge facing this team right now?
- What is an example of something that we haven’t discussed on my resume or in this job description, but you would be really excited to learn that I actually have as a skill?