Meeting the HR manager vs the line manager

HR professionals their way to work

When interviewing for a job, you'll likely meet with a number of different people, including representatives from the HR department and the line manager – but how do you best prepare for each of these different types of interview?

Research from Robert Walters shows that an HR representative is involved in two thirds of interviews, and they are often the early gatekeepers in the interview process, so you need to ensure you are prepared for each interview in different ways.

“While many job seekers focus on preparing for an interview with their prospective new line manager, who is usually a professional in their field, your interview with an HR manager will be very different,” says Ben Stevenson, Associate Director, Robert Walters.

“The HR manager and the line manager will likely be looking for different qualities and assessing you on different criteria, so you need to be prepared for both.”

The HR manager

While your interview with the line manager is usually your ‘make or break’ interview, you will often have to first pass interviews with internal recruiters and the HR Manager.

HR professionals will typically delve deeper into the human elements of the role, your ability to satisfy these and where you will fit within the structure of the team. They will focus on your motivations and cultural fit, however they will also look at your fit within the team, including;

  1. Your leadership potential
  2. Your capacity to engage in team work
  3. How you might communicate and engage with people across the business
  4. Your ability to learn and mentor others

HR interviews will also gauge your commitment to joining the business. For them, you will need to demonstrate a strong understanding of the company and its operations, where it currently fits within the market as well as what you consider may affect the business over the coming years.

Likewise, you should be prepared to discuss how you feel about your career progression to date, including where you feel your strengths lie and where you would like to continue your development.

The line manager

Line managers will expect you to be prepared for curve ball questions, as well as to demonstrate your technical capabilities and where you can bring real commercial value to the role. These interviews will likely cover all bases including:

  1. Technical questions
  2. The knowledge and technical skills you can bring from outside of the organisation
  3. A considered and unbiased summary of your strengths and limitations
  4. Your personal qualities, why you want the role and your fit within the organisation

Have you been asked to meet a senior stakeholder?

The HR manager and the line manager will likely be looking for different qualities and assessing you on different criteria, so you need to be prepared for both.

If you’re meeting a very senior interviewer who is outside of your direct team, you'll need to consider why they are there. What do they want to be assured of before you enter the business? Is it your capacity to lead? Your cultural fit? Your ability to partner with other areas of the business? This will be different for every position so make sure to think about this critically, trying to tick all of the final boxes.

These final opinions matter and they may just form the first impressions which will guide your onward progression.

Questions you may want to ask them include:

  • What is their experience of the department?
  • How might you improve the synergy within the team?
  • How does the organisation’s greater goals affect your future within the position?

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