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6 Key Questions for HR & People Candidates to Ask During the Interview

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

To really learn about a company, it's not enough to ask "what is it like to work here?" anymore. The answer will always be some form of "awesome!".

Especially for candidates applying for roles in HR, People Ops, or People & Culture, you need to dig a little deeper.

Why ask tough questions?

  1. Know where you're starting. You'll understand where the company is in terms of processes, policies, guidelines, and documentation. Know how much of the wheel you're going to need to invent from scratch.

  2. See how fast are they moving now. You're jumping onto a moving rocket ship: what is the cadence for both new hires and average retention? Do they want to speed up or slow down?

  3. Learn what you're getting into. When you ask specific questions, you'll get much more than a yes or no answer. You might learn why retention has been an issue, or how much weight they place on winning awards.

  4. Get a sense of how the wind is blowing. How important is workplace culture to them, genuinely? Are you going to be working uphill, or will you have the wind at your back with supportive and collaborative leadership?

6 Questions to ask as a People and Culture candidate

Here are five examples of tough questions you can ask in your next interview:

  1. Can you describe a situation where the company faced a significant ethical challenge and how it was addressed by the team?

  2. How does the company address diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace, and what steps have been taken to create a more inclusive culture?

  3. How does the company handle performance management and address underperformance or employee misconduct?

  4. Can you provide examples of how the company has handled a difficult situation in the past and what the team's role was in resolving them?

  5. How does the company handle employee grievances or complaints, and what is the process for reporting and addressing issues in the workplace?

  6. What is your current rate of recruiting, and where are you mostly adding roles right now? Are you looking to speed up or slow down?

Asking tough questions during an interview helps you understand the company's values, culture, and approach to creating a human-centered workplace, which shows your eagerness for the role.

It can reveal a red flag you didn't know you had, and reveal the green flags that make you want to say "yes". Either way, take your chance to ask questions if you can, so you can learn as much as you can.

Interpreting the answers

Not every question has a right and wrong answer. Many depend on the context of what works for you: Are you willing to work with a company where you might have to do more foundation work, internal education, and relationship building? Or do you want to hop onto a fast-moving ship?

Wherever you are on your HR journey, the Want to Work There newsletter can help. Sign up on this page and get more tips like this directly to your inbox.

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