Human Resources Interview

Steven Cesare, Ph.D.


A business owner from Washington called me the other day to discuss conducting employment interviews for a vacant Human Resources Manager position at his company. Given our partnership, timing, and autonomy, I consented to his request.

Off the record, it’s amazing how many human resources resumes are saturated with trendy buzzwords, banal cliches, and hollow rhetoric; with very little business application, company impact, or meaningful value. Too bad. By the way, the trend line is getting worse all the time.

Take it from someone who knows…

So, back to Washington with me screening resumes and conducting selection interviews. One particular candidate looked appealing on paper: fruitful experience, concise resume format, and an engaging style that implied future contributions instead of historical accomplishments. Worth a shot, right?

By way of pretext, as a capitalist, several of my interview questions for many positions center on goals. No different for this Human Resources Manager applicant. That said, one of my initial questions to her was “What will be your primary human resources’ goal in this position that will add measurable value to the company?”

Confidently, without even a minor pause, she replied that her primary human resources’ goal was to “secure at least 8 weeks of annual vacation time for every company employee.”

Paging Bernie Sanders! Paging Bernie Sanders! Pick up the phone, Senator!

More than a little surprised, I replied “This is not Germany. That is not going to happen here.” She immediately became adversarial stating that employees work hard, are unappreciated, and deserve that amount of paid time off since the company can obviously afford it. Entitlement, ignorance, and attitude can end an interview quickly.

As the Human Resources Manager exited the room, I sensed she could not spell P&L.

And I would gladly spot her the P&.

As a Human Resources professional, with a real Ph.D., and many years of actual experience that contradict my uncanny boyish, yet distinguished, good looks, I am perpetually appalled at how disconnected human resources consultants, applicants, and employees are from the actual business world. Rather than spouting pre-recorded hypnotic platitudes about company culture, emotional intelligence, or employee engagement, I would much prefer an element of substance regarding how they managed cross-functional work teams that achieved a valued business goal like gross margin, profit, or productivity.

Instead of thinking like academic navel-gazers, wouldn’t it be nice if the human resources candidates asked business-related questions like the company’s historical three-year growth curve, the burden rate percentage relative to the crew Hourly Average Wage, or the proportion of enhancements sales to a landscape maintenance contract? Don’t those areas have a human resources’ related aspect to them (e.g., compensation, organizational structure, revenue per employee, performance management)?

Business owners: Expect more!

To do my part, I was going to send this posting to the Human Resources Manager candidate mentioned above.

But then, I realized, she was probably on an extended vacation, with Bernie Sanders.

If you have any questions or comments about this topic or anything else related to human resources, Sign Up for Steve’s HR Helpdesk!

Check Out Harvester Steve Cesare’s


Harvest Group Partners




Click the icon below to download the Harvest Group Mobile app!

What do you want to learn more about?

The Harvesters want to know what topics you would like to see us discuss. Click below to submit your ideas!


Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.