10 Keys to Acing Your Interview with Human Resources

Most companies will expect you to meet with their Human Resources department at an early stage in the interview process. The traits HR professionals are looking for can be far different from the hiring manager; however, don’t underestimate the power of the HR staff to influence the hiring decision. The hiring manager will be more interested in your skill set as it relates to their specific position, but winning the approval of HR is critical.

Here are 10 key tips for a successful interview with the HR professionals:

* Never throw anything or anyone under the bus (no matter how much they may deserve it). This applies to your former employer, coworkers, or Osama bin Laden. HR is seeking to screen out whiners and troublemakers. Be kind and positive about everything and everyone.
* Make sure your appearance is in order. Fair or not, you are judged based on how you look. Clothes must be pressed and on the conservative side. Give your shoes a fresh polish. Don’t wear cologne or perfume. Leave your bling at home.
* Don’t smoke before the interview. There is an unconscious bias against smokers, even from other smokers. Smokers are also more expensive to insure.
* Avoid being cocky and telling them how incredible you are. You got the interview didn’t you? Let your results sell you. A little humility will go a long way with Human Resources professionals. This is near the top of complaint list from HR managers.
* Don’t share your life story. Although HR team members tend to be very friendly and excellent listeners, don’t confuse Human Resources with your mother or your best friend. Confine your answers to business topics.
* Don’t expect HR to have a timeline for the hiring process. Ideally, they want to fill the opening tomorrow so they can move on to filling other roles. However, the process has many uncontrollable variables. Realistically, it will probably take a few months.
* Be prepared to talk about your strengths and weaknesses. Avoid standard answers like: you struggle to delegate or you care too much. An interview is a conversation, not a bad Match.com profile. Show some self-awareness and ability to improve weaknesses.
* When you walk through your resume, don’t gloss over any career mistakes. It is positive to share a slightly negative experience that taught you something. It shows character. Tell them how you learned something from the experience.
* Connect with them. They may represent a multi-billion dollar company, but, they are human beings, too. Scan their offices (or LinkedIn profile if it’s a phone interview) and look for awards, photos, or something noteworthy. Make a connection. This is what salespeople do, and it works. They will remember you for it.
Make it easy for them to hire you. Site examples and tell stories during the interview process, frame those examples and stories in a way that relates to the job description, the issues in the industry, or the company’s mission. Be relevant and you will be remembered.

It doesn’t take a box of donuts or a cheesy line (chances are they have heard them before) to capture the memory of an HR professional. Be honest, tell your story, and try to relax. There’s no magic formula to acing your interview, but there are plenty of ways to put your foot in your mouth and sabotage your chances for success.

Good luck!
David Lammert

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