Human Resources Director
Interview Questions

When hiring a Human Resources Director, look for a candidate capable of setting the tone for how your organization will manage its workforce. This key role is responsible for ensuring that your company complies with all applicable employment laws and regulations, and does so in a manner consistent with established business goals and company values. 

A qualified candidate will take a broad view of the organization, recognizing the unique characteristics of each department and the company as a whole. This role demands a high level of judgment and the ability to develop and implement strategies. The Human Resources Director should have outstanding leadership skills and extensive experience preparing and delivering presentations to management and the Board of Directors. As the role is privy to personal and sensitive information about company employees, the highest level of discretion and confidentiality is required.  

General interview questions (such as “Can you tell me about yourself?” and “Why are you looking for another job?”) are a great way to get to know your candidate’s personal history, interests and goals. However, be sure to add inquiries specific to the role they’re interviewing for, so you can gain valuable insights into their likelihood of success in that position. 

Below are Human Resources Director interview questions to help you get started: 

How do you believe a company’s business goals and overall HR strategy are related?  

What you want to hear: An experienced Human Resources Director understands that no HR strategy is effective unless it supports the company’s business goals. Listen for a candidate who will explain the need to first study the company’s mission and values, its products and services, the current talent at the executive and staff levels, and its projected sales growth in the near and long term. Only with such information in hand can the HR Director begin to anticipate changes to the organizational structure, formulate an appropriate recruitment strategy, refine company policies and procedures, ensure compliance with applicable employment laws and regulations, implement effective programs for grievance resolution, and the like.       

Red Flag IconRed flag: A candidate who fails to understand that HR must support a company’s business goals, and not operate in a vacuum when it comes to developing and implementing strategies, is ill-prepared for the role regardless of experience with individual disciplines like recruiting, compensation, benefits, or applicable laws.     

How do you approach developing a recruitment strategy? 

What you want to hear: A qualified Human Resources Director knows that good recruiting takes more than posting a job and interviewing a lobby full of candidates. It takes a “recruitment strategy” — a well thought out plan of action for each stage of the process of attracting, screening, interviewing, and selecting candidates. Listen for a candidate who can offer details about how they’ve built recruitment strategies in the past and the outcomes of those strategies. 

Red Flag IconRed flag: A candidate who is unfamiliar with the concept of a recruitment strategy is not prepared to lead your company’s talent acquisition efforts. Conducting a hiring process without a recruitment strategy is a high risk for failing to source the best talent available, wasting interview time with hiring managers, extending the time to hire, and harming your company’s reputation among top talent in the industry.  

What do you view as the top HR risks for an organization? How would you minimize those risks? 

What you want to hear: Employees are a company’s most valuable asset. It is the Human Resources Director’s responsibility to help retain your employees and minimize your HR risks. Listen for a candidate who can speak to risks such as succession planning, corporate culture, regulatory compliance, pay and performance alignment, and employee development and training. How do they view those risks as applicable to your organization? What types of plans have they implemented in the past when attempting to minimize those risks? For example, the candidate should discuss measuring turnover costs, conducting a salary survey, offering competitive pay, skills testing, incentive programs, and harassment and other behavioral training programs.  

Red Flag IconRed flag: If your candidate cannot readily discuss HR risks and map out ideas for minimizing those risks they are a high risk for limiting your company’s opportunities for growth and increasing exposure to legal liability.

Tell me about a successful initiative you devised and implemented.    

What you want to hear: This question will help you assess the type and scope of projects the candidate has been involved with. The candidate should explain the problem they felt needed addressing, how they evaluated alternative solutions, their approach to getting organizational buy in, and the outcome. Was the initiative large in scope with a significant impact on overall company operations, or more limited in scope with an impact on a specific department or team?    

Red Flag IconRed flag: Match your candidate’s experience with your company’s needs. If there is a significant gap between the size of programs they have devised and implemented and the size of programs you anticipate needing for your company that may be a red flag that the candidate is not prepared for the role. 

Describe a time when you failed in a professional setting? What did you learn from it?    

What you want to hear: Experienced executives recognize that failure is not something to run from or be embarrassed about, but instead is an opportunity to learn and grow. Look for a candidate who is prepared to openly discuss the details of a situation, their role in what happened, why it was a failure, what they learned from the experience, and what they would do in the future to avoid a similar outcome.    

Red Flag Icon Red flag: A candidate who lacks the candor to discuss a past failure may not be forthcoming about problems they encounter in their role with your organization. 

What style of leadership do you use with your HR team? 

What you want to hear: A qualified Human Resources Director will have stellar leadership skills. By learning about how they lead their HR team you will gain insight into how they will provide leadership for the entire organization as well.  Listen for techniques such as fostering open communication, defining clear goals, offering constructive feedback, praising in public, addressing dissatisfaction issues, providing proper training, granting authority over tasks and duties, and implementing incentive programs.      

Red Flag IconRed flag: A candidate who does not have a command of techniques to maximize employee motivation and productivity is not well-suited for the Human Resources Director position.

Every interview question can help get you closer to the right fit for your Human Resources Director position.

Be sure to keep an eye out for candidates who:

  • Understand how business goals and HR strategies are related  
  • Know how to identify and minimize HR risks
  • Are effective leaders