Common Interview Questions for HR Generalist

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated November 4, 2022

Published July 26, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A human resources (HR) generalist works in a fast-paced environment that requires a wide range of organizational, communication, and leadership skills. Employers looking to hire a HR generalist are looking for candidates who can showcase these skills in well-thought-out answers during their interview. Practising interview questions can give you an advantage when you're applying for a job. In this article, we discuss what HR generalist interview questions are, three types of questions you may answer, and give sample answers for common interview questions.

What are HR generalist interview questions?

An interview question for an HR generalist is one that can be asked by a prospective employer to determine whether the candidate is qualified to work at their company. A human resources generalist is someone who manages the recruitment of new employees, interviews them, and handles their onboarding into the company. They also support the rest of the HR department by helping to ensure compliance with local regulations and working with employees so they understand and have access to their benefits.

To stand out as an exceptional candidate during an interview, it can be helpful to highlight the following skills:

  • Leadership skills

  • Analytical skills

  • Public speaking skills

  • Coaching skills

  • Administrative skills

  • People skills


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Types of questions

Here are three types of questions that are likely to be asked during an interview for HR generalists. To prepare for an interview, think of tactful answers to some of the following questions:

1. General interview questions

Interviewers may want to ease into the interview process by learning about you. These questions can be about your personality, your skill set, and your life outside of work. These questions are asked to determine if your personality would be a good fit for their company, so try to answer honestly while remaining professional and positive. Here are some questions they may ask:

  • Tell me about yourself.

  • How did you hear about this position?

  • What do you like to do outside of work?

  • What is the last book you read?

  • What is your greatest strength?

  • What is your greatest weakness?

  • What made you want to work in HR?

  • How would your previous employer describe you?

  • Are you willing to move?

  • What do you want us to know about you?

  • Do you have questions about the position?

2. Questions about experience and background

Interviewers may want to know more about your experience in HR to determine if you have the technical knowledge for the position. This is an opportunity to expand upon your previous experiences and how they have prepared you for this role. Focus your answers on your professional accomplishments. Here are some examples of questions they may ask:

  • Where did you go to school?

  • How long have you been working in HR?

  • What was your last job and what responsibilities did you have?

  • What additional training have you completed?

  • Do you have any certifications?

  • How do you stay up to date on best practices in the industry?

  • Can you process payroll?

  • Are you familiar with any HR or accounting software?

  • Do you have experience managing a team?

  • Have you mentored another employee?

  • What three skills do you think have helped you the most in your career as an HR professional?

Related: A Guide to Structured Interview Questions and Answers

3. In-depth questions

Once you have addressed the basic questions, an interviewer may ask you more in-depth questions. They may ask you to provide anecdotes about how you handled obstacles in the past to see how you manage problems. They may also present you with scenario questions, where they learn how you would react in a specific situation. These questions are used to gauge your working style and your analytical skills. Take some time to consider your answer. Here are some questions they may ask:

  • What are your strategies for managing difficult employees?

  • How would you roll out updates to stay compliant with new labour laws and regulations?

  • How do you approach creating benefits packages, and what do you prioritize?

  • Tell me about the last time you recruited and hired an employee. What worked and what didn't?

  • Tell me about a time you implemented a change to HR policy and what led to the change.

  • What was a situation in which you had to deliver bad news?

  • What are your strategies for time management?

  • If you had to resolve a conflict between employees, what methods would you use?

  • Tell me about a time you suggested a fresh approach or technology that benefitted your company?


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4 common HR generalist interview questions with sample answers

Here are some common interview questions for HR generalists that hiring managers often ask during the hiring process, with some sample answers:

1. What methods do you use to recruit employees?

This question helps employers determine what you look for in new employees, to see if your priorities align with the company's. They want to know how you collect and evaluate candidate materials, analyze their skills, and choose the right person for the job. Your answer should explain your tactics and the reasoning behind your selections. You can also inspire confidence by including anecdotes about past successes.

Example: "I have successfully hired over 40 employees, including recruitment, interviewing, and onboarding. I usually start with major job search sites, which I have used before. I prefer to do some preliminary searching before I advertise the position to eliminate irrelevant applications. I also post on industry-specific websites and job boards to reach more informed potential recruits.

"Then, I use a keyword scanner to find résumés that align with the position's top required skills. From there, I read the cover letters to find out more about each candidate, looking for specific skills and qualifications that align with the job's needs. I select five top choices to present to management for consideration. Over half of the employees that I hired received promotions within the company."

2. When have you had to reconcile differences with others?

This question assesses your conflict-resolution skills. As an HR professional, you may need to mediate between coworkers or ease tension in the workplace. Think of a time you worked with different parties to come up with a workable solution. Your example can be from work or from your personal life, as long as it is professional and showcases your problem-solving skills.

Example: "At my previous company, there was a dispute between two parties concerning their separation of roles within the same department. One party believed the other was overstepping, and the other party believed they were doing their job. I spoke with each of them directly to get an understanding of the disagreement. I also asked their supervisor to write up a list of responsibilities for each role.

"I scheduled mediation with the two of them, so we could discuss the supervisor's list of responsibilities and how each of them perceived their roles in relation to each other. We cleared up the misunderstanding and identified some responsibilities in the department that the supervisor had yet to assign and split them up. We have resolved tension on the team, and it is now functioning at 12% more productivity."

3. When have you worked successfully with a team?

This question addresses your ability to work in a team. As an HR generalist, you may also need to assist other members of the HR team with benefits, payroll, or other administrative duties. When answering this question, consider a time that you enjoyed being on a team and found it to be helpful and productive. Make a note of any leadership roles you held.

Example: "Last year I was in charge of planning the holiday party for my company, along with a team of other people in the office. We worked on planning after hours and created a beautiful event that came in way under budget. Management gave us a short period of time to organize it, so I needed to delegate many tasks to be completed at the same time. It was only through dedication and teamwork that we could plan such a fun event as a reward for the hard work the team had done that year."

4. What is your approach to new employee training?

Interviewers ask this question to get an idea of your organizational skills and to find out how you execute a large project. In your answer, include any improvements you have made to a training or onboarding process, and highlight your communication skills.

Example: "I believe it is important to make new employees feel welcome from the start. I always want to ensure they have plenty of time and opportunity to review the training and onboarding materials. In my last position, I implemented a survey system where we checked in with new employees for their first 30 days, which improved their satisfaction rating by 15%.

"I use a three-phase approach to training a new employee. First, I introduce them to their direct supervisor and the rest of their team, so they can get to know their coworkers. Then, I move into company policies and procedures, going over them with the new employee so that I can answer questions they may have. Last, I pair them with a member of their department to go over specific role-related training."

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