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What to Expect on an Initial Interview With HR

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After applying to what may have been dozens of jobs, you’ve finally heard back from the HR department of one of these prospective companies, and they want an interview with you. Maybe the interview will be held over the phone, online or in person, but in any case, you need to prepare as much as possible.

If a company requests an interview, there’s a good chance they are already interested in you as a candidate. The interview is your chance to show them why you are the best person for the job. To do this, it helps to know what to expect in an initial interview with an HR department.

What to Expect in an Initial Interview With HR

Before landing a serious full-time job with a company, you may be required to go through a series of different interviews. One of the first interviews you’ll do will likely be with HR, or Human Resources. Unlike an interview with a hiring manager, which will include questions more aligned to the specific role you’re applying for, the initial interview with HR is to see if you’ll fit into that company’s culture and reflect their values as an employee.

The interview with HR is usually the first hurdle you’ll need to overcome in the job interview process. But, if you’ve made it this far already, i.e., your resume was strong enough to help you even be considered for an interview, then you should feel confident and proud. That said, you’ll have to stay focused, as your performance during this interview will determine whether you’ll be given a job offer or referred to the next round of interviews.

Common HR Interview Questions

Human Resources personnel can ask so many different types of questions in an interview that it’s not possible to prepare for them all. But, if you have an idea of what you’ll be asked and what HR is looking to discover about you through this initial interview, then you’ll be in much better shape. Some common HR interview questions are:

  • “Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?”
  • “How did you find us?”
  • “What inspired you to apply for this position?”
  • “What do you know about our company, and why do you think you’d be a good fit for us?”
  • “What kind of working environment do you thrive in?”
  • “Why are you leaving/why did you leave your current job?”
  • “Tell me about a time you had a conflict at work, and how did you resolve it?”
  • “What would your current manager like me to know about you?”
  • “What are some of your strengths and weaknesses?”
  • “Do you have any questions about the company?”

How to Prepare for the Initial Interview

In addition to coming up with answers to some of the potential questions you’ll be asked in your initial interview with HR, there are other aspects of the interview you’ll want to prepare for. A lot of these things tie together. For instance, to prepare for the question “What do you know about our company?” you’ll want to do a lot of research about the company. Take a look at their mission statement, their vision, how they got started, what they do, the products and services they offer, etc.

Another good idea is to practice an interview with a friend or even in front of your mirror! Try to recognize how you’re sitting, your facial expressions and how you’re delivering your answers. Recording yourself can also be really helpful in preparing for your interview, because you’ll be able to play it back and see what you’re doing well and where you can improve.

What to Wear to an Interview

It’s not just what you say in an interview – it’s how you present yourself. Though no company can discriminate against you on things like your race, your hairstyle, your religion, etc., they can make some judgments based on how you dress, your gestures, your facial expressions, etc. First impressions are a big deal, and you can make a good first impression by dressing appropriately.

Even if you are interviewing for a company that prides itself on having a casual type of work culture, you’ll still want to dress nicely for the interview. Business casual is a good way to go. Women can wear slacks, a pencil skirt or a dress, and men can wear dress pants or khakis with a nice shirt and tie, though a tie may not be necessary. Wear nice shoes, but nothing that you would be uncomfortable in. Check yourself in the mirror before you walk in, just to make sure you don’t have anything on your face or something stuck in your teeth!

How to Ace the Initial Assessment Round

So, you have your outfit picked out, you’ve done your research about the company, you’ve looked over your resume, and you have a good idea of the types of questions you’ll likely be asked. But, surely, there are other candidates just like you who also know what to expect and have prepared accordingly. How do you ace the initial assessment round while making sure you stand out? Some secret tips can help you make a lasting impression and, hopefully, be on your way to an official job offer:

  • Know the name and a little background of the person who will be interviewing you.
  • If you’re doing an online interview, make sure you log in a few minutes before the interview begins, and check that your username is professional.
  • Never talk badly about your former employer, even when you have to answer the question about why you left your last job.
  • Make sure everything you say in your interview is consistent with what’s on your resume. Chances are the interviewer will have your resume in front of them.
  • Put away all distractions. Whether it’s a phone interview, an online interview or an in-person interview, make sure the dog won’t bark and your ringer won’t go off.
  • Practice your smile and your handshake.
  • See if you can find something interesting or unique about the company that you can bring up in the interview if the situation calls for it. This will demonstrate that you’ve done your research.

Good Questions to Ask in an Initial Interview

In any interview, it’s really important that you have questions to ask. Even if you don’t technically have any questions, your interviewer will be looking out for that. In general, it’s bad interview etiquette to not have some questions prepared. Therefore, if you’re having trouble coming up with question ideas, consider having some examples readily available. However, be sure that the interviewer hasn’t already answered those questions during the interview and avoid asking anything about salary and time off. Questions to ask include:

  • “What is the culture of the company?”
  • “What does a day-to-day work schedule look like?”
  • “Will I have an opportunity to take the lead on projects?”
  • “How many people would be on my team?”
  • “What can I do if I run into a conflict at work that I would need help solving?”
  • “What are some goals for the company’s CEO over the next few years?”

Other Tips for an Initial Interview

There are also other small things you can do to prepare, which will make a big difference on the day of your interview. If your interview will be in person, check the address and even practice going there, so you’ll know how long it takes. That way, you can plan to leave your house with enough time to account for the traffic or any unforeseen problems.

Another tip is to send a “thank you” to the interviewer after the interview. Though you can write your appreciation in a email, it’s still considered very polite to send a personal thank you letter by mail. If you haven’t heard back by the time they said they’d get back to you, follow up a few days or weeks after the interview.

There are so many things to navigate during an interview, but the most important thing to do is to just be yourself!


Hana LaRock has been a content writer for more than five years. As part of her work as a contributor to numerous websites, Hana enjoys helping people find a new path in their lives, whether it involves editing a resume or providing information on finding work abroad.

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