Last updated on February 4th, 2019 at 06:19 pm

job interview in a small company. A man tries to convince the panel of three interviewers of his HR skillsStaffing, employment processing, welfare benefits, records management, succession planing, employee retention, EEO compliance–you will find all of them, and more, on a typical advertisement for HR Generalist job opening.

Even if the companies wanted, they could hardly advertise the job in a worse way.

In reality you will simply work with people, and in most cases you will be responsible for only two or three things from the job description.

You will either help with hiring new staff, conducting interviews, or training new people. Or you may be responsible for keeping records, and leading exit interviews.

Several people will work in the HR team (unless you apply for a job in a very small company), and each of you will take care of some HR duties.


Expect a tough interview

A woman in white shirt and black coat struggles to answer some questions of the interviewer. Employees always want to earn more, and do less. People won’t tolerate your mistakes, and many of them won’t be aware of their own imperfections.

Bearing it in mind, a good HR employee needs a variety of skills and personal traits. They need to be ready for the challenges that this position presents.

This variety is reflected in a typical interview process for this job. You will have to deal with many behavioral and job-specific questions.

On the top of that, you can expect to get a personality test.

It is the only way how we can assess your readiness for the job, and decide whether you have the skills that are required for the position. Let’s have a look at the common questions.


Questions we will ask you in an HR Generalist interview

Why do you want to work as an HR Generalist?

Talk more about things you want to offer them (excellent communication and administrative skills, value you plan to bring to their HR department) than about things you want to take from them (good salary, excellent learning opportunities, position that offers career growth options, etc).

Try to talk with enthusiasm right from the start. They should feel that you are happy to be in the room, interviewing for a job that you really want to have.


Have you ever interviewed anyone for a job? What questions did you use in the interview?

This is a behavioral question—they ask about a situation from the past. If you apply for your first job, however, you should not simply say that you do not have an experience with the situation. Say instead what you would do in such a situation.

I suggest you to pick a position (manager, operator, engineer, sales, if they do not set the position directly in the question), and talk how you’d lead the interview for that particular job.

You do not need to come up with a perfect answer at this point (or with a detailed analysis of an interview process). They understand this is an entry level job, and simply try to find out whether you have an idea, whether you’re capable of leading an interview. Show some courage and present three or four questions you will use…


How important do you consider collecting data and creating reports on staff performance?

This will be one of your main duties as an HR Generalist. In terms of staff performance, data-driven judgment always beats intuition and observation. Tell the interviewers that you consider it extremely important.

You can elaborate on it with your ways of collecting data, or reporting on them, or (if you have no experience with it) you can say that you look forward to learn how to do this effectively in a corporate environment.


If you were advertising a job offer, what would you emphasize on the offer?

Advertising new offers, and writing the job advertisements, belong to common duties of an HR Generalists.

It is easy to attract young talent once we are in economic recession, and people battle for jobs. But when we experience economic expansion, job boards are full of ads, and companies “fight” for quality people (or sometimes they “fight” for any people), it is a true art to write a job offer that stands out, and attracts the right kind of applicants.

Try to show some methodology in your way of thinking. You can say that you would spy on your competition, checking their job ads, and trying to find out how the company stands out. You would emphasize these things on the job offer.

It can be the structure of benefits (or particular benefit), it can be the working culture, career growth option—it can be many things…


How important is paperwork for you?

We live in bureaucratic times. Regardless of your job in the company, you won’t avoid some paperwork.

Tell the interviewers that you understand the importance of paperwork (though most of it isn’t really important, at least in my view), and will approach it responsibly.

At the same time, though, you may say that the actual work with the employees (hiring, training, orientation, motivation) will always remain your main priority, since you don’t want to spend all your time doing paperwork.


How would you feel about dismissing someone you had good relationship with?

A tough question, but you should try to ensure the interviewers that you will decide rationally, and not emotionally (in reality this is hard to do, but in an interview we should always try to show the right attitude).

You should be ready to dismiss anyone who breaks the rules repeatedly, or doesn’t handle their job on an ongoing basis.

Company comes first, personal relationships second.


Other questions you may get in your interview

  • What factors do you consider before drafting any new HR policy?
  • How would you motivate an employee to work harder?
  • An employee asks you for a raise, but you do not think they deserve one. What would you do?
  • Here are two resumes of applicants for managerial position. Please, have a look at them and tell us which one would you prioritize, and why.
  • How would you recruit the best talent?
  • Have a look at this working contract. What would you improve on it, trying to make it better from the perspective of the employer?
  • Do you have any experience with payroll?
  • An employee submits a sexual harassment complaint. What steps would you take to look into it?
  • Describe a situation when you had a conflict with one of your colleagues.
  • How do you handle criticism?
  • Describe a situation when you struggled to communicate something to your colleague. How did you manage to get your message over?
  • Why should we hire you, and not one of the other applicants?
  • ….


Conclusion, great answers to all questions

HR manager is smiling, having a good impression from a job applicant. The picture illustrates a good scene from an interview.HR Generalist is a great job, but you will have to do a lot of things well to get it.

What is more, you will typically compete with more than ten other people for the position in your interview.

Ten candidates, one job. Will you be the one who gets it?

Have a look at a new eBook I wrote, HR Interview Made Easy. In the book you will find multiple great answers to each single difficult interview question for HR Generalist. It can help you immensely in your interview.

Thank you for checking it out, and good luck in your interview! – Your best job interview coach since 2011.

May also interest you:

  • Body language in an interview – What do your gestures and movements say about you? Can we control our non-verbal communication?
  • How to nail an interview – Ten tips that should help you to nail your job interview (guest post).
  • Job interview etiquette – Regardless of your approach to the interviews, and your strategy in the meetings with the employers, certain borders should not be crossed.
Matthew Chulaw

Matthew Chulaw

Matthew has been working in international recruitment since 2008. He helps job seekers from all walks of life to pursue their career goals, and to prepare for their interviews. He is the founder of website.
Matthew Chulaw

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