Don’t Know What to Ask Human Resources Professionals?

5 Killer Questions to Ace Screening Interviews

Oh, the awful, painful, repulsive HR screening interview.

Root canals are more fun than screening interviews with human resources professionals. As a career coach, I have conducted thousands of mock interviews for anxious job candidates who are about to step into a room with human resources managers.

The waiting room is usually cold and sterile, enlivened by just a few company trinkets to divert your focus from your impending 30-minute inquisition. So, you sit and wait.  Your mind drifting between the company ISO 9001 award on the wall and your hopes that no surprise interview questions are asked.

Screening interviews are necessary evils. They are meant to filter candidates and save the ultimate decision-maker’s time. They are a key ingredient in successful recruitment strategies so you’ll encounter them multiple times during your career.


HR professionals serve as gatekeepers during screening interviews. You can’t just dismiss them. You must always be respectful, delightful, and thoughtful.

Treat HR professionals as you would treat hiring managers. Prepare HR-appropriate questions to ease the painful conversation.


To best guide you, I’ve listed real questions that my clients originally intended to ask HR professionals and that I finessed to help each of them successfully move beyond that initial recruitment phase.

The 5 Most Commonly Asked Questions to HR Professionals (and my tweaks)

Original: Tell me about your company culture?

My Tweak: My understanding is that evaluating cultural fit is extremely important especially in smaller firms where cultural differences are harder to absorb, tell me about the firm’s founders? What are their personalities like? How does this impact your search for assessing the right cultural fit?

Note: Useful tweak when applying for jobs in smaller firms. FYI, this insight came from my interview with an HR leader creating the HR function for Pinterest.


Original: What are you looking for in a candidate?

My Tweak: I bring sharp analytical thinking, the kind that’s essential when trying to evaluate whether to buy or sell a firm’s assets. Tell me about your best hires. What skills have they brought with them?

Note: Customize tweak with your top and relevant strength.


Original: What does career progression look like within the business unit for which you are hiring?

My Tweak: In my last firm, I had the opportunity to ascend from Assistant Brand Manager to Brand Manager and the next logical opportunity would have been to Senior Brand Manager. What does career progression look like within the business unit for which you are hiring?

Note: This tweak keeps selling the candidate by subtly leading with her history of promotions.


Original: Do you have any concerns regarding my candidacy that I can address?

Tweak:  Is there anything else on your mind that I can address?

Note: Don’t throw yourself under the bus. Stay positive.


Original:  What has been your experience working for Company X?

Tweak: What drew me to your firm is its entrepreneurial spirit. I saw that come to life in your founder’s New York Times interview where he spoke about how his corporate development team leader took complete ownership over a mission critical assignment. How have you seen entrepreneurship come to life while working here?

Note: This is your chance to mention why you want to specifically work for Company X.

In summary, your questions to HR must accomplish one of four things. They must:

  1. Continue to sell you to HR professionals
  2. Initiate positive conversations
  3. Showcase the homework you’ve done on the company, and
  4. Reinforce that you respect an HR professional’s critical role in the firm’s employee recruitment strategy.

Ready to hack your HR interview? Get the insights you need to win

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If you have a screening interview coming up then you are doing something right when it comes to your marketing materials so don't miss your chance with HR. You only get one chance to make a strong first impression.


The challenge now is delivering your strongest job interview performance so that you move beyond round one to get to the hiring manager.

The “How to BOOST Your HR Interview Hacking” toolkit is my most valued resource for any career conversation, not just my HR interviews.

- Robert HoSang, Media Executive

This tool kit allows you to see the interview process from the HR professional’s perspective which gives the interviewee a competitive advantage.

- Donald Davis, U.S. Coast Guard Officer

Your job interview is only one piece of the puzzle especially if you are looking for a six-figure opportunity. My most successful clients who now earn their true worth all went through my proven package-position-pitch process. Here’s a sneak peek below…

Sellable Skills Process

Ready to kick your job search into gear and discuss how you too can achieve your professional and earning potential goals with Melissa, the CEO and Founder of Career Outcomes Matter?


Melissa Llarena

Melissa helps movers and shakers up to those in the corner office rediscover what makes them unique so that they can land their dream job in a forward-thinking company where their ideas are listened to, valued, and supported.

She brings insights from having worked in 16-business units (including Human Resources) in NY, Paris, and London. Additionally, in her former corporate career, she worked on billion-dollar brands for P&G and on IBM for Ogilvy & Mather. Later, as the founder and CEO of Career Outcomes Matter, Melissa created a 3-step “sellable strengths” process which has been the centerpiece of her clients' results.

Melissa applies this method consistently to support mid-level professionals up to the c-suite to get into Fortune Global 500 organizations and agencies. She studied Psychology at NYU and earned her MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.