Two months ago, I was called in for an interview with a local real estate firm for a Human Resource position. However, the interviewers wanted to know what I would do to increase the company’s sales. As if I was interviewing for a Sales position. Should I have said that I was uncomfortable with the questions?
I once had a CEO who kept telling us: “You are either selling directly, or helping the commercial team do it. Otherwise you have no business being part of the organisation”. Most of my colleagues could not understand why they were being asked to be part of the commercial team where there was so much pressure to deliver on targets. However, he was right because an organisation that assists its Sales team sell the product will often succeed.
HR departments are there to facilitate the realisation of a company’s targets. The main objective is to provide an enabling and supportive environment for the employees to perform to their full potential. Therefore, HR must involve themselves in the commercial aspects of the business, so that they can come up with policies that provide more meaningful support and offer practical solutions to all employees.
Gone are the days when HR was a department to just hire, discipline and fire workers. Your prospective employer understands this, which is why they are interested in your business acumen. They are testing you on whether your mindset has shifted from the now outdated HR role. How can you assist a Sales person to improve his or her performance if you do not understand the challenges they face in their interactions with clients? You should be proud that your prospective employer values your role as a HR Officer. In some organisations, HR partners even share workspace with the teams they support. All this to enable them come up with strategic objectives, and to understand the clash in priorities between management and employees.
HR is also expected to provide training on leadership, and this can only happen if they truly understand what is happening in the various departments. In an interview setting, you don’t have the luxury of choosing which questions to answer and which ones to decline, unless they are offensive. If they are, you can politely decline to respond. Next time when preparing for an interview, find out the business targets of your prospective employer, and their main revenue stream. What challenge are they facing in the industry? Understand how they make their money. This way, you will be better prepared for the interview, because you will focus on the technical aspects of your role, and the contribution expected of you.
Jane Muiruri – Senior HR Manager, Nation Media Group