Every time you apply for a job, there is someone on the other side of the negotiation who is trying to find the right person to meet their company’s needs. These human resource (HR) professionals have to identify people who not only have the right technical skills and motivation to do the job but who will also fit into the culture of the company.
Typical job duties include the following.
- Review resumes, conduct interviews, and make hiring decisions
- Process employment records related to hiring, termination, transfers, leaves, and promotions
- Orient new employees to company policies and procedures
- Evaluate, explain, and enforce company policies and procedures to ensure that all legal requirements are met
- Investigate and mediate allegations of harassment and other job-related complaints
- Oversee corporate training and development of employee talent
- Develop recruiting strategies to meet the company’s long-term hiring needs
Technical companies often look for HR professionals with a scientific background, who can speak the technical language of job candidates. HR specialists can be found recruiting, interviewing, and placing workers, and they may also handle other areas such as employee relations, payroll and benefits, and training. HR managers can be found overseeing the human capital needs of a specific organization, in staffing agencies that provide short-term contract workers, or working for a recruiting agency that provides candidates for permanent positions.
A bachelor’s degree in human resources (HR) or business administration is an ideal background for a position in HR, but a degree in chemistry can be valuable if you are planning on working for a scientific company, since you will be familiar with the vocabulary and skills of the people with whom you will be working. If a degree in HR is not available, courses in labor or industrial relations, organizational development, or industrial psychology can be valuable. Upper-level positions may require a master’s degree in human resources, labor relations, or business administration.
Part-time work or an internship (even if in other fields) adds to your potential as a job candidate, as do leadership roles in clubs, volunteer experiences, and club or college sports.
While not required, certification demonstrates advanced expertise and commitment to the profession, and can enhance advancement opportunities. Many employers prefer to hire certified professionals, and some positions may require certification. The Human Resources Certification Institution (http://www.hrci.org) is one place that offers such certification.
Human resources (HR) professionals generally work in offices, and the majority of them work full-time. Some HR professionals travel to attend job fairs and other recruiting events, and some—especially those who work for placement agencies—usually travel locally to visit clients and candidates. After-hours professional networking to meet new candidates may sometimes extend working hours beyond traditional office hours. HR professionals may work for a single company, where they are responsible for both hiring and professional growth of the company’s employees; however, an increasing number of HR professionals work for placement agencies, where they help a number of client companies by identifying candidates for either short-term or permanent placements.
- Interpersonal skills to quickly develop good working relationships with others, resolve disputes, and understand the abilities and ambitions of other people
- Decision-making skills, including who to hire, promote, or terminate
- Oral and written communication skills to convey policies and decisions unambiguously
- Integrity, self-control, and discretion for handling sensitive personnel matters
- Ability to work as part of a team and be comfortable with people who have diverse backgrounds
Human resources specialist is a typical entry-level position for someone with a bachelor’s degree. This position would deal with routine hiring procedures, orientation of new employees, and explanation of corporate policies. Over time, shifting to a human resources manager position would involve dealing with more complex personnel issues and possibly developing long-term hiring strategies to match the company’s predicted growth areas. At a recruiting agency, most human resource professionals start out recruiting candidates to fill specific positions and may later move to working with client companies to identify and define the positions to be filled.
- American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration
- American Society for Training & Development (ASTD)
- American Staffing Association
- Employment Policy Research Network (EPRN)
- Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI)
- Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA)
- National Association of Personnel Services
- National Human Resources Association (NHRA)
- Society for Human Resource Management
Future Employment Trends
Over the next decade, the number of human resource (HR) specialists is expected to increase faster than average for all occupations, especially in the employment services industry because of companies continuing to outsource portions of their HR functions to other firms. Organizations will need HR managers to ensure they adhere to constantly changing and complex employment regulations that cover equal employment opportunity, occupational health and safety, healthcare, wages, retirement, and more. However, this need will be mitigated by advances in technology that allow HR professionals to more efficiently screen more potential employees.
Is This Career a Good Fit for You?
If you have excellent interpersonal skills, enjoy working with other people, and derive satisfaction from helping others achieve their career goals, this may be the career for you. Overall, only 9% of all human resources professionals work in professional, scientific, and technical services, but those who do contribute by building the expertise of their company.
Human resource professionals overall will grow about as fast as other fields, with more growth in scientific and technical consulting areas as these companies continue to contract out their human resources functions.
- A bachelor’s degree in human resources is ideal, or at least some classes in human resources subjects.
- A degree in a scientific field can be helpful when seeking employment at scientific companies.
- Median annual wage: 55,800 per year for human resource specialist (2012)
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