How to Land a Human Resources Job

Follow This Path to a Job in HR

three people talking with each other sitting around a desk
You Can Prepare for a Career in HR. Copyright Michael DeLeon

Interested in a job in human resources?  These tips will help you learn about the industry, develop your skills, and search for (and ultimately land) a job.

How to Gain Skills and Knowledge

Certain skills are essential for an HR employee. No matter what type of HR position you seek, you will want to hone your communication skills.  HR professionals need to possess strong presenting, interviewing, negotiating, mediating, training and critical listening skills.

They need to have finesse with people and relate effectively to a broad range of individuals across the strata of their organization.  HR staff must be able to convey difficult messages to employees about layoffs, firings, and demotions.  They must interact calmly with irate staff who might feel that they have been mistreated by their organization.

HR staff also need strong writing skills for memos, policy handbooks, training materials and other communications.  HR professionals specializing in benefits and compensation need strong quantitative and analytic skills to manage those areas.

Undergraduate and graduate programs that help students develop these skills are located worldwide and online. Most professionals in HR have at least a bachelor's degree with common majors including human resources, business, and psychology.

Many HR managers go on for a master’s degree in human resources or an MBA with a concentration in human resources as they advance their career.

How to Gain Experience for a Career in HR

If you are currently in school, you can begin networking and learning about the HR industry. Conduct informational interviews with friends, family, alumni and staff from your college who work in the HR department to learn about the field and make contacts.

When you meet an interesting and friendly person, ask if you can job shadow them during a school break or arrange an internship.

Ask the HR department at your school if they hire student workers.

Take an HR course at your college and choose projects for other courses that relate to HR. Seek leadership positions on your campus that involve recruiting, interviewing, training and orienting other students.

How to Find Your First Job in Human Resources

Common entry-level positions include human resources assistant, interviewer, and recruiter. Search indeed.com or simplyhired.com by keywords like HR or human resources assistant, benefits assistant, interviewer, recruiter and human resources representative to generate a list of openings and apply to as many as possible. Here are job search tips to help you find an HR job - fast.

If you have a family, alumni or LinkedIn contact at any of those organizations, let them know that you have applied and share with them a copy of your application materials. Your contacts might be willing to put in a good word on your behalf.

Networking is a great way to find potential job opportunities.

  • Reach out to all of your family, friends, Facebook and LinkedIn contacts and ask them to introduce you to an HR professional at their firm for an informational consultation.
  • Contact the career and/or alumni offices at your college and ask for a list of alumni in HR for informational interviews. These meetings could lead to interviews if you make a favorable impression.
     
  • Expand your network by joining professional organizations like the Society for Human Resource Management. Volunteer to help organize and staff meetings, workshops, and conferences. Tap the membership directory to identify additional networking contacts.
  • Join LinkedIn groups for your college and the HR profession and participate actively in discussions. Reach out to group members for advice.
  • Consider applying to jobs working for employment agencies as a way to gain experience in the recruiting/employment aspects of HR.
  • You can also use temp agencies to land temporary assignments in human resources with client firms.

    If you don't have any related experience and are experiencing difficulty landing a first job, you might want to focus on a post-graduate internship to get your foot in the door.

    Interviewing for Human Resources Jobs

    Carefully review your resume and be prepared to reference your accomplishments and the challenges you have met in each role.  You will be interviewed by HR professionals who will most likely employ behavioral interviewing techniques.  You will be asked to provide examples of how you have applied key skills and personal qualities to your work, co-curricular, volunteer and academic roles.

    To answer these questions, first, assess the skills critical to carrying out the job that you are targeting. Then prepare mini stories detailing the situations, actions taken, and results generated utilizing each of those skills.

    HR staff will be particularly attentive to how well you follow accepted interviewing protocol, so make sure you are dressed appropriately. Also, remember to send an effective thank you letter after the interview.

    In addition to expressing your gratitude for the opportunity to meet with them, your letter should assert your continued or enhanced interest in the job and briefly explain why you believe it is an excellent fit for you.

    If you really want to make a favorable impression, write slightly different letters to each interviewer noting something of interest that they shared with you or addressing a concern that they may have voiced.

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