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The stakes are higher when you're interviewing for a human-resources manager role. You're likely to be interviewing with your professional peers, who are very familiar with precisely what it takes to be a successful HR manager. Naturally, you'll be expected to discuss your functional expertise or work experience that qualifies you for the position. But, you also must demonstrate that you're the candidate best qualified to champion the organization's goals for a productive and engaged workforce.
During the early stages of any hiring process, you prove that you have the functional expertise to perform the job functions. It's no different with an interview for an HR manager. Showcase your knowledge as an HR practitioner during your preliminary phone interview and your first face-to-face interview. Talk about tactical HR processes with which you're familiar -- workplace investigations, application of labor and employment laws, negotiating group benefits rates, surveying employee opinions and overseeing workplace safety inspections. If you have HR certification, such as Senior Professional Human Resources, or SPHR, mention it during your interview.
Bring your A-game to demonstrate your leadership skills, because as the HR manager, you aren't just managing recruiters and department specialists in employee relations and benefits. An HR manager influences others throughout the organization, from staff to company directors. In many organizations, one of the primary roles of an HR manager is empowering departmental leaders to become first-responders in employee-relations matters. Talk about your ability to provide advice and counsel to other leaders in the organization, as well as your management style and techniques for professional development of HR department employees.
Since its days as personnel administration, HR has gotten a bad rap. In many organizations, employees and company leadership have two different perspectives about HR, which will be up to you to change should you get the job. Employees who are summoned to your department may feel as if they're reporting to the school principal's office and, therefore, have a poor opinion of HR's real purpose in the organization. Likewise, top management may believe that HR is only good for administrative duties and shouldn't be involved in developing the strategic direction of the business or its workforce. Weave these aspects of the HR image into your interview to acknowledge the challenges of running the department, yet outline ways that you can improve the image of HR. Or, sustain the current HR department's image if you're interviewing with a company that already has a progressive view about HR's role.
During your interview, explain how you can equally advocate the interests of employees and the employer. Piggyback on your understanding of HR's image and the department's role in creating an engaged workforce in a profitable organization. Give examples of times when you've been challenged to divide loyalties among employees and employers and explain the outcome of workplace issues you've handled that required you to reconcile the distance between leadership and staff.
Turn the Tables
The challenge about interviewing for an HR management role is that you're interviewing with other HR practitioners who know the ins and outs of recruitment, job skills assessment, and hiring for a cultural fit. Turn the tables during your interview -- when it's appropriate or when the interviewers invite your questions -- and ask what the company foresees as the HR manager's role in the organization. Also, clarify the level of autonomy and authority you have in resolving workplace issues, such as hiring and firing decisions. Never pass up the opportunity to ask questions, no matter what kind of job you're pursuing, especially an HR position.
- Monster: HR People: 10 Steps to Becoming an HR Professional
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Human Resources Managers: How to Become a Human Resources Manager
- Forbes: Don't Know What to Ask Human Resources Professionals? -- 5 Killer Questions to Ace Screen Interview
- Personnel Today: Getting to HR Director Level
Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.