How do you imagine a typical day in work?

Staffing, employment processing, welfare benefits, records management, succession planing, employee retention, EEO compliance. Even if the companies wanted, they could hardly advertise the job of an HR Generalist in a worse way. In a less realistic one. In reality you will simply work with people, and in most cases you will respond 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.


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 an interview. 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?

In terms of staff performance, data-driven judgment always beats intuition and observation. Tell the interviewers that you consider it extremely important, and will devote portion of your time to this activity. 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.

Special Tip: To know how to answer a question, and to come up with an excellent answer on a big day, when facing a panel of interviewers, are two different things. Very different things. If you want to stand out in your interview and say exactly what the hiring managers want to hear from you, have a look at an eBook I wrote for you, the HR Interview Made Easy. Multiple brilliant answers to 25 most common HR Generalist interview questions (including the dreaded scenario-based questions) will help you stand out and ace this interview with flying colors. Check the samples on the product page and see for yourself…

HR manager is smiling, having a good impression from a job applicant. The picture illustrates a good scene from an interview.

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 (sometimes they actually “fight” for any people), it is an art to write a job offer that will stand out, and attract 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 your 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 doing 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 a good friend?

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 to the job).

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 HR Generalist job 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, answers to all questions

HR Generalist is a great job, but you will have to pass a tough interview to get it. What is more, you will typically compete with many other people for the job, since it is one of most popular entry level positions in each big corporation. Many candidates, one position. Will you be the one who succeeds, and gets the job?

If you are not sure how to answer the questions, or experience anxiety, have a look at an eBook I wrote for you, the HR Interview Made Easy. Multiple great answers to each difficult interview question for HR Generalist will make your life much easier. What’s more, you will find some great sample answers directly on the eBook page, so it makes sense to check it out even if you do not plan to purchase anything… Thank you, I wish you good luck in your interview!

Matthew Chulaw, Your Personal Interview Coach

* You can also download the list of all questions in a simple, one page long PDF, and practice your interview answers anytime later (even when offline):

interview questions for HR Generalist, PDF

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