HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGEMENT
KEY STUDENT QUESTIONS
Most students are very interested in Human Resources Management (HRM) because they have personal
experience with HR policies or practices that they feel are unfair.
Downsizing, performance management,
and legal issues are especially likely to create conversation.
Questions you might hear include:
“How do companies decide who to lay off during a downsizing?
“Is (insert a human resource practice here) legal?”
“What should I do if I’m asked an illegal question during an interview?”
How you answer these questions depends on whether your class needs more specific examples to
understand concepts, or if you want to move away from the individual situation, and get the class to
consider a broader, more strategic approach to Human Resources.
To get more specific examples, ask the student asking the question if they will be willing
to tell the class a little more about why they are asking the question.
Have them elaborate on
the situation and background, and then ask the class what they think.
When answering the
question, be careful to explain to the student that you are not a lawyer, and if you don’t have
an answer for the question, be open about that, as well.
If you believe a student has a
legitimate complaint with an employer, direct the student to the National Labor Relations
Board or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission office in your area.
You can find your
local offices by going to the following websites:
When trying to get students to look at the bigger question from the perspective of either
corporate strategy or general laws, ask them to take a step back and consider the question
they are asking from another perspective.
For example, students who ask the question “How
do companies decide who to lay off during a downsizing?” are likely to have been laid off
You can redirect these students from their own concerns by asking them to
describe: 1) what kinds of situations cause managers to think about downsizing; 2) the
various downsizing options available to managers; and 3) the pros and cons of different
approaches, based on the situation. By helping the students to view the situation from a
broader perspective, they develop a better understanding of HRM principles.
The third question (“What should I do if I’m asked an illegal question during an interview?”) deserves
One response to this question is, “Answer the question, proceed with the interview,
hope they offer you the job, then turn them down, and tell them why.”
A company which asks illegal
questions during the interview process is probably not a company for which students want to work, and it
is only when companies start losing good candidates (and know why) that they will stop asking these
kinds of questions. Students may or may not feel that this is a practical answer, but they will see it as an