Our first encounter with the word HR happens at campus interview time. Sometimes earlier if you went for an interview at internship time. It really was difficult for me to figure out 'how does an HR person look like, what an HR person would like to look at? What will he/she ask me and how should I answer that?
They are normal human beings, they look, feel, believe and think as any other human being. They also interview for jobs, they also meet HR people at interview.
Now normal? Good.
One more thing, HR people, who are those in HR function/role. They may be HR people by qualification. What does that mean? That means, they have a degree or a diploma or a certificate course in HR. They may have read some HRM books, lots of articles, some HR concepts and therefore, they become qualified by learning HR books, theory, concepts, case-studies, research papers, would have participated in many projects in HR and would have learnt ropes of the HR business and how an HR evangelist, specialist, Catalyst for change/change agent, talent spotter, talent manager thinks, acts and behaves. Though there may be many people in HR, without such degree, background. Remember Mohandas Pai, who headed HR at Infosys when he was a Chartered Account and a CFO of Infosys, before he took mantle of HR. Even Shalini Pillai, a CA and earlier Business Partner at KPMG, heads KPMG, India HR. Santrupt Misra, who heads Aditya Birla Groups, HR and OD was a plant manager.
So not to fear, you will meet people who , let's assume currently manage HR function and you are interviewing with her/him. You do not need to know their background. That won't help much, unless you are interviewing for an HR position.
HR interview is a sanitizing interview. It reiterates the position, role, description of role and responsibilities to a candidate. It fist ensures that candidate has sufficient information about the role/position, expectations, other factors related to job like, location, type of job, terms and conditions associated, basic eligibility and ongoing needs on the job. Once they have ensured candidate knows this, they start conversation where they expect candidate to give them an overview of who they are and what education, skills and experiences they have that they talk about in context of the job. What behavioral attributes they have that would make them become successful on the job. They try to gaze candidates interest in the role, company. They also try to check if candidate has certain constraints and aspirations that may come in the way of his or company's decision making on him/her for the role.
What aspects of the job candidate understands well and how does he want to apply his experience and skills in the new role? What support he needs on the job to be able to meet expectations from him.
HR interviewer wants to know how and why the candidate has taken key decisions in life , studies and career and what is his thinking and decision making skill like. What are his motivators/drives and what personal attributes does he think are his strengths and weaknesses. How does he consider role and contribution of his manager, seniors, team members, juniors, others in his work environment. What are his natural and preferred work-style, leadership style, how strong are his problem solving and decision making skills, how good he is in his communication, in terms of articulation, structure , focus, assertiveness and balance.
How does he handle conflicts and differences of opinion, How he works in a structured and organised workplace. HR people watch you as much as they listen to you, but in any case, you need to be yourself and do not assume anything. Listen carefully, sound taking interest, allow them to complete their questions, sometimes they may mix two or more questions in one question. Take time, segregate questions and tell them which question you are answering first.
They will ask about your short-term, long-term goals. Tell them how you see yourself learning and growing in the organisation, how do you think you will add skills. Do not give fancy goals. They just want to know if you are thinking in the direction of being more useful to the organisation by adding skills and taking up higher responsibilities. Do not sound too ambitious by telling that you would like to be a VP or CEO if they are on very long-term horizon, they sound amusing but carry no value. If you say, how you would like to lead a group and function that takes care of say digital marketing, product development, anything that is relevant and adds liner value to the company or if it is an inventive company and pays high regards for research and development, them express your interest in working in that direction in your role and grab an opportunity to work, support new product line, etc,
Though companies believe in diversity but they certainly look for certain character in each candidate they interview to hire. HR looks for those few characteristics and they can be as simple as, Honesty. accept what you do not know, accept what you did not notice, read or understood, tell the truth! Confidence and maturity, here they look for abilities to work independently, unguided, unassisted. Can they manage communication with business with people they have met for first time and with those, who are placed higher in position in the organisation, with ease. Humility; This is important and shows in body language, smile, appearances, demeanor.
Enjoy, it is fun!
Pic courtesy: Glasbergen!