Training and Preparing for a Human Resources Job

Follow This Recommended Path to a Future Job in HR

You can land a job in Human Resources with the proper training and preparation.
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Are you interested in pursuing a job in the field of Human Resources? With the right training, planning, experiences, and a careful job search, you can obtain a Human Resources job. These tips will help you learn about the industry, develop your skills, and search for (and ultimately land) a job in HR.

How to Gain Skills, Knowledge, and Training to Land an HR Job

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 can pursue training in all of these skill sets, but potential HR staff people generally have talents that lead them in the direction of this particular skill set.

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. You can certainly work in the field of HR without a degree, but, increasingly your competition for the available jobs has a degree.

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 careers. Increasingly, with the rising amount of litigation especially in the US, many HR practitioners now have law degrees.

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 or university 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 to receive additional training in HR. Ask the HR department at your school if they hire student workers, or allow student volunteers who wish to gain experience.

Take an HR course at your college and choose projects for other courses that relate to HR to pursue additional skills and training. 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 sites such as 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 contacts at any of those organizations, let them know that you have applied and then, share with them a copy of your application materials. Your contacts might be willing to put in a good word on your behalf.

Network to Find Your First HR Job

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 job interviews if you make a favorable impression.
  • Expand your network by joining professional organizations like the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Volunteer to help organize and staff meetings, workshops, and conferences for your local SHRM chapter and other related professional organizations. 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 and to learn about potential job openings.
  • 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 the 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 have dressed appropriately. (The fallback position is business formal unless the person scheduling the interview suggests a recommended style of dress.) Also, remember to send an effective thank you letter after the interview.

HR staff will be particularly attentive to how well you follow accepted interviewing protocol, so make sure you have dressed appropriately. (The fallback position is business formal unless the person scheduling the interview suggests a recommended style of dress.) 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.

The Bottom Line

You can prepare, plan, obtain the right experiences, develop the appropriate skills, and invest in proper training to land a job in HR. If you properly handle the preparation needed and follow-up with a careful job search, you can obtain a Human Resources job—and ultimately, an HR career.

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