As you prepare to find a new Human Resources opportunity, you should be doing a lot of research on those organizations which interest you as targets.
Here are some of the questions you may want to consider which directly influence both the organization’s HR approach and your interest level. Obviously, some depend on the level or type of position.

You will want to research most, ask about some while networking, and ask a number of each interviewer once you get to that stage. But I find that comparatively few HR people, including those who are competing for very senior positions, ask many such questions during their interviews to really help assess the opportunity and how it matches their goals and needs. I hope this ‘cheat sheet’ helps you think about the questions you need answers to, so that you can make a good choice!

A. The organization

What is the strategy?
Is there a strategic plan?
Who is involved in strategic planning?
How is it used?
What is the HR role in the planning – and use?
What is the vision? Mission?
How is the vision manifested in the organization?
What is the culture currently?
Is the culture seen as positive? Actively maintained?
Are there culture change issues or plans?
Who are the major competitors?
What is this organization’s market share in comparison?
Are trends increasing competition or not?
What are the critical business issues facing the organization?

B. Executive View of Human Resources and HR function

What is the HR role within the organization?
What are current critical HR issues?
What are longer-term critical HR issues?
How do these relate to the business issues?
Whose primary responsibility is human resource management?
Managers or HR?

Does HR have a ‘police’ role?

What executive position does the top HR role report to?
Is the top HR person a member of the executive staff?
What role, if any, does the top HR person have with the BOD?
What does each executive interviewed see as the role of the HR function?
Does s/he think other executives see the same or different role?
What experience does the person have with HR?
What are the ‘critical few’ objectives for the next 6 months? 12?

C. Immediate Supervisor views

What is the HR role within the organization?
Is it seen as effective as is?
Are there plans which will change the role in next year?
How is the HR function currently organized?
Is it effective?
How are current staff members seen within the organization?
Who are peers to this position? Subordinates?
What HR functions are currently outsourced?
Why those functions?
How effective is current outsourcing?
Are there any plans to outsource other areas?
What are the ‘critical few’ objectives for this position in next 6 months? Year?
What are the key projects related to:
critical business issues
strategic plan
operations/business plan
internal HR initiatives
What results are expected in the first year?
What resources are available?
What is budget?
How will performance be measured?
What is the current level of turnover in the company? In HR?
Causes? How known?
Why is the position open?
How long?
Internal candidates?
Previous incumbent’s successes?

This is by no means an exhaustive list! But it should give you a good start on creating your own.

ADD those things which are important to you so as to match your goals and values. Consider needs versus wants – specific HR programs or professional growth or travel or ability to mentor others or short commute or whatever.

SUBTRACT those which are not important for your level or goals.

And be sure to compare the answers you get in interviews to those you get from your network to those you find in your research of the organization’s public information. Too often the ‘talk’ is not the ‘walk’.

Don’t forget the basics of any interview, including those on timing and follow-up. Good hunting!