In the early days of any business, it's the norm for one person to wear many hats and take care of everything, including HR. For a limited time, this is do-able.

But, as your business expands and you take on more and more people, you'll eventually need someone specialised to look after and manage your staff while you focus more of your time on the running of your business. 

Whatever you choose to name the role - your Head of People, your Chief Happiness Officer or even your Head of Culture (there are some really wacky job titles out there nowadays) - you'll need to know what kinds of HR-specific questions to ask your candidates to ensure you get the right person through the door. And this goes far beyond the usual personality and strengths/weaknesses-related questions that often pop up.

Here are 4 key questions that you should be asking your candidates to determine whether they're right for your company - or not. 

4 key interview questions for an HR manager

"In which areas of HR do you have experience?"

An HR role can be extremely broad, so you'll need to gauge in which areas the candidate has the most experience to determine whether they're a good match.

You'll most likely have specific needs for the business, such as recruitment and performance management. If the candidate doesn't have much experience in these areas then perhaps they're not the right fit for your business. This might be because they've previously worked in an entirely different industry, and therefore focussed on different areas.

Some other areas you may want to consider include:

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"How do you keep up with employment law?"

It’s vital that your business complies with the law and ultimately you'll need to rely on your HR manager to ensure that it does.

So, you want someone who is knowledgeable about HR law. That doesn’t mean you need a lawyer, but you do want someone who knows their stuff.

Some things to look out for include:

"How can the HR role contribute to our business success?"

This interview question assesses general management ability. It tells you whether your HR manager candidate can become an asset to your business and a great part of your company culture or whether they are someone who just manages their daily tasks.

A candidate that has an appreciation and understanding of how HR can contribute to achieving business goals is one that can have a huge positive impact on the business.

You'll want to find a candidate that knows the expectations of their role and who can establish their business priorities within it. You'll also want them to be capable of making a case for the people-related initiatives they want to pursue and, ultimately, you'll want them to know exactly how their day-to-day work contributes to the overall goals of the business. 

How would you deal with…?

One of the best ways of checking if the candidate sitting in front of you is right for your company is to ask them a question directly related to it. 

Think of the trickiest, most involved or most damaging HR issue that you have dealt with in your company. Perhaps an employee raised a grievance or maybe you dealt with a particularly tricky dismissal. 

Whatever it may be, explain the problem to the candidate and ask how they'd deal with it. 

Their answer will tell you how they approach issues, what they know about the law and business implications, and, ultimately, whether they're what you're looking for. 

Other questions you may want to ask

As well as the 4 key questions outlined above, you may also want to consider some of the following topics:

  • How would you ensure a new employee is best inducted into the business?
  • Which employee benefits do you find drive the highest employee motivation/satisfaction/retention/engagement?
  • What do you consider to be the most successful recruitment strategies?
  • Which personal development strategies do you find the most successful?
  • How would you go about resolving a conflict between an employee and their manager?
  • What can you do when an employee doesn’t want to develop in their role?
  • What processes or methods would you follow to deliver bad news to staff?
  • How can you make negative staff more positive?
  • How would you influence employee retention?
  • Which HR software packages do you have experience with?
  • How can you best align performance management with business strategy?
  • Which aspects of HR do you enjoy the most/least?
  • What has been your most significant contribution in an HR role?
  • How can you best measure the success of HR? What KPIs have you found useful?
  • How would you determine the priorities of your role?
  • What process would you follow in addressing an employee grievance?

HR managers are usually the ones doing the interviewing, so they have the skills to know what might be asked of them and how best to answer.

But if you ask the right questions, you can gain a great insight into the candidate, their level of experience, their fit for the role and ultimately how well-suited they are to your company.

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