Talent acquisition specialist interview questions and answers

By Robert Half on 11 April 2022
Estimated Read Time: 4 minutes

Talent Acquisition Specialists are responsible for the sourcing, attracting, hiring and onboarding of new employees and talent in an organisation. They play an important role in any company, often sitting alongside hiring managers in order to plan and strategise recruitment opportunities in line with long-term goals of teams and the company as a whole. This is a fast-growing role within Australia as companies recognise the importance of people for long-term success.

With such great responsibility, it’s essential that organisations hiring the hirer attract the right person for the job. In order to tease out qualities and values that fit the culture, as well as assessing qualifications and experience, a well-researched and well-planned set of Talent Acquisition Specialist interview questions is key.

What are the duties of a Talent Acquisition Specialist?

As they’re involved in every step of the hiring process, Talent Acquisition Specialists enjoy varied duties. Many companies choose to niche their Specialists, allowing them to focus on either internal or external recruitment. However, in general, these HR specialists are required to:

  • Identity talent gaps within the existing workforce
  • Work with hiring managers to determine recruitment needs
  • Work with HR staff to write or update job descriptions
  • Source potential candidates via internal or external talent pools
  • Manage the hiring process, including interviewing candidates
  • Organising new employee onboarding and inductions.

At the heart of their role is, of course, people. That’s why the best Talent Acquisition Specialists are often building relationships with potential candidates—as well as past applicants—and departments within the organisation to create long-term hiring plans and talent acquisition strategies rather instead of relying simply on reactively hiring for open positions.

For that reason, strong Talent Acquisition Specialists have a background in HR, and have excellent people skills. Being able to build strong relationships is a key responsibility, so communication skills are essential, as is experience with hiring and recruitment; in particular, they should know where and how to source talent as well as post-hire activities. Finally, if hiring for a niche industry, they should be familiar with hiring trends within it.

5 Talent Acquisition Specialist interview questions and answers

Just like for any interview, there is often no one correct way to answer the following interview questions. Instead, adjust them to fit your own personal professional experience and achievements, and practice prior.

1. Tell us about yourself.

This question is designed to do a few things: it gets the conversation started, gives the recruiter a summary of your career thus far, and it can also give a hint as to your values by noting what you chose to include (and what you didn’t).

There’s a lot riding on this question, which is why it’s advisable to prepare. Keep it professional, brief and tailored to each company and job interview.

Structure it in a way that makes sense. One easy way in which to do this is with simple past-present-future format: - Past: What is your professional background? How did you get to where you are today? - Present: Your current role: What are your main responsibilities? What are your major achievements? - Future: What do you want to do next? Why this job?

A sample answer could look something like:

For the past 3 years, I’ve been working as a Recruitment Specialist for Company A. Prior to that, I was a HR Officer for Company B.

In the years I’ve been with Company A, I’ve found that I’m most fulfilled when I’m building long-term hiring strategies so employees can grow within their organisations. This also leads to successful outcomes for the company as they can hire quicker, cheaper and keep knowledge in-house.

For example, I built an internal pipeline of talent that allowed the wider HR team as well as any relevant hiring managers to see the potential we had within the company. This led to an increase in internal hires by 40%.

Moving forward, I’m looking for a role that will let me expand upon this strategy, particularly within the healthcare space, which is why I’m interested in your company…

2. How do you prepare for candidate interviews?

Arguably one of the most important parts of the hiring process is the interview, so employers want to make sure the person they’re recruiting can conduct them efficiently and professionally. Companies are also increasingly aware of the fact that candidates are interviewing them at the same time, so they want to know that you can make the interview and the company look as attractive as possible.

Example response:

I think the key to running successful interviews is all in the preparation. I start by working with the hiring manager to ensure the questions I will ask are relevant and cover all the major qualifications in candidates. I also make sure the office where I conduct the interview is inviting: I have drinks on hand, I make sure it’s clean and tidy, that the chairs and temperature are comfortable.

Prior to the interview, I run through the candidate’s CV, making any notes about areas I’d like to expand upon within the interview, and I’ll read it through once more while I’m waiting for them to make sure it’s fresh in my mind.

3. Has there been a time when you missed out on a great candidate? If so, what would you have done differently?

This is a niche version of the question: tell me about a time you made a mistake at work, and what lessons you’ve learned from it? In this case, it’s because companies want to see if you can learn from your mistakes, and whether you’re humble enough to admit you’ve made them.

Be honest but try to frame it in a positive light with what you’ve learned from the experience.

Example response:

During a particularly busy time of the year, we were recruiting a marketing executive. I found a great candidate on LinkedIn, and she was interested in the position, so I organised an initial phone interview. After a positive first conversation, I told her I would get back to her in a week to arrange a face-to-face meeting, but I was so busy with other roles that it took me an additional two weeks to respond. In that time, she had received another job offer. This taught me to organise my time better, and to prioritise what jobs I focus on or candidates I reach out to. I also stay in touch throughout the process, keeping candidates informed of the hiring timeline.

4. How do you stay connected with applicants?

A key component of the hiring process is remaining connected with candidates throughout the recruitment. As in the above example, without transparency and clear communication of timelines, applicants are liable to move on, and while there could be many reasons for this, one major consideration is whether they feel they are being kept in the loop. That’s why employers want to know how you stay in touch.

Example response:

My preferred method is primarily a phone call for major updates. This way, clients feel they are being kept apprised of the situation as well as feel connected with a person rather than an inbox. If I can’t reach them, I leave them a voice message, and regardless of whether we talk or not, I also send a follow up email so we are both clear on the message. It also gives them the opportunity to ask me any questions in a format that may be easier than the initial face-to-face conversation.

5. How do you conduct phone interviews?

In the post-pandemic era, phone interviews have become the standard initial point-of-contact, so employers want to know that you can handle them. In your response, make it clear that phone interviews are a brief initial conversation to get to know the applicant a little bit better and to assess how well they would fit the role via their confident, enthusiasm, and their background.

Example response:

I keep my phone interviews as a brief first conversation. I keep them fairly short, around 15-20 minutes, and during this time, I try to dig a little deeper about their professional experiences and their interest in the role with questions like “Why do you think you are well suited to this job?” and “What key skills would make you a good match for this position?”

Related: Preparing for a job interview? Here are 7 tips to ensure success in your next interview

Remember, just as with any interview, preparation is key. You don’t want to memorise each response word-for-word; rather, keep in mind the key points you want to convey to avoid sounding like you’re reading from a script and prevent tripping up if the question isn’t phrased exactly as you were expecting. Good luck!


Ready to kickstart your human resources and talent acquisition career? Or are you already on the hunt for your next career opportunity? Contact us today and one of our specialised business support consultants will work with you to find the right role for your career.

More From the Blog...