As you’re considering potential career paths, it’s easy to wonder about a career in human resources (HR). For one thing, these professionals are seemingly everywhere, working as important members of nearly every company and organization. Given how common HR professionals are in organizations, it stands to reason that they are a vital component of the business world. But knowing that they must be important is just a start—you want to know more about what these business professionals do and how to get started in the field.
“The human resources department is the backbone of a strong company,” says Smita Dass, human resources manager at Reliance Foundry. “We’re the hidden structure that keeps everything moving forward.”
Of course, the behind-the-scenes nature of HR can also make it tricky to get a grasp on what working in human resources is like for those observing from a distance. “I think employees assume the only time they will see HR is when they are hired, when they’re fired or included in a workplace investigation,” says Eric Mochnacz, consultant at Red Clover HR.
But Mochnacz emphasizes that an effective HR professional is so much more than that. “I enjoy putting the human into human resources. We are the support system for every individual in the organization.”
If that piques your interest, read on! We asked HR pros for details on what human resources does as an industry—and what your job could look like if you’re interested in working in human resources yourself.
What does human resources do?
As a field—human resources handles the complicated and vast realm of employer and employee relations. “We’re the people who manage the people,” Mochnacz says. “We are responsible for the life cycle of the employee, from hiring to their eventual departure from the company and everything in between.”
“The overarching goal is to make an employee’s work as comfortable and efficient as possible,” says Darya Zhih, a senior HR manager at Belitsoft. “But the exact activities might differ from company to company.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that HR specialists handle employee relations, payroll, benefits and training. They also recruit, screen, interview and place workers.1 But Mochnacz says the role goes far beyond the “steps” of employment. “If an employee has an issue with their manager, we’re here to help. If someone needs to better understand their health coverage, that’s where we come in.”
On the whole, human resources is exactly what it sounds like, says Jennifer Muszczynski, a talent management specialist at Combined Insurance. “A resource for employees at all levels in a variety of areas. Think of HR as the heart of the organization; without us, there is no pulse.”
What is working in human resources like?
Think of a hiring scenario. If you break down the necessary steps it takes for a company to hire a new employee, you’ll have a good idea of the tasks an HR specialist handles.
That means identifying employment needs, conducting interviews, educating employees about compensation, benefits, workplace practices and more, according to the BLS.1 “At my current workplace, I mostly handle recruitment, adaptation and exit interviews,” Zhih says. “But my previous job included creating education plans and managing self-improvement activities for our employees.”
“We must understand people and the vision of the company, while working as organizers, mediators, and planners,” Dass says. “It’s a fascinating, tricky, and very rewarding field.” Dass emphasizes that human resources is a field of continuous learning and of watching people develop each year. “It’s incredibly fulfilling, like planting seeds and watching a garden grow. As our employees flourish, so does our company.”
Another one of the most enjoyable parts of working in HR is the variety of tasks you handle, according to Zhih. “With HR it is easy to weave your hobby into a job—if you like writing, you can create original descriptions for open positions. If you like parties, you can handle organizing team building events and so on.” You can gravitate toward what you like—or even specialize as your career develops.
What skills and qualifications do you need to work in HR?
We used real-time job analysis software from Burning-Glass.com to examine over 200,000 HR job postings over the past 12 months.2 The data helped us identify the top 10 HR skills in highest demand:
- Employee relations
- HRIS (human resource information systems)
- Customer service
- Performance management
- Administrative support
- New-hire orientation
- Data entry
- Project management
These skills represent a baseline of soft skills many employers are looking for in HR positions—but a Human Resources and Organizational Leadership degree program will teach you a much deeper skill set to prepare you for the career. And the odds are strong you’ll need it—according to our job posting analysis, 60% of employers prefer HR candidates to have a bachelor’s degree or higher.2
Is HR a good field to go into?
When you are choosing a career direction, you have so many choices on the table. How do you know whether the industry you are choosing is a good pick?
Okay, “knowing” is a strong word for this, but you can definitely make an educated guess based on the career outlook and hiring opportunity.
So how does the HR field stack up? The BLS reports that employment of HR specialists is projected to increase by 7% through 2026.1 The career outlook is brightest for those working in the employment services industry, placement agencies, temporary help services and professional employer organizations. This opportunity exists because companies are increasingly outsourcing their HR functions.
“The beauty of HR is that it is a lucrative field that will give you an opportunity to go down endless career paths,” Muszczynski says. “Additionally, the HR community is quite large and there is an enormous level of support that they can provide, especially if you’re in the early stages of your career.”
Making a good career choice also includes a look at the earning potential. You’ll want to make sure that any investment you make in education will pay off for you, your loved ones and the lifestyle you want. Compensation can vary depending a variety of factors, but for a standard role like HR specialist, the BLS reported a 2018 median annual salary of $60,880—substantially above the $36,220 average median annual wage for all workers.1
Is working in human resources a good fit for you?
Have you ever thought, “Why don’t companies change their rules about XYZ policy?” Or, “why is it so hard to find employers who offer this benefit?” People who thrive in human resources don’t only see what is—but what could be. They look at how the workforce is changing and think about how their companies can adapt, embrace and capitalize on those changes.
“Workers are looking for flexible work hours, casual dress codes, and non-traditional work environments these days,” Mochnacz says. “An effective HR professional is ahead of the trends in the industry and is already planning to meet these changes.”
If working in human resources sounds interesting to you after gathering this information, it’s time to evaluate your aptitude for the work HR professionals do. Check out our article “9 Top Human Resources Job Skills Employers Are Seeking“ to dig further into what HR pros need to succeed and decide whether you are suited for this career.
1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [information accessed April, 2019) www.bls.gov/ooh Information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
2Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 213,399 human resources job postings, Mar. 01, 2018 and Feb. 28, 2019).
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in 2015. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2019.
What are the basics of Human Resource Management? Recruitment & selection, performance management, learning & development, succession planning, compensation and benefits, Human Resources Information Systems, and HR data and analytics are considered cornerstones of effective HRM.What do you like most about working in human resources answer? ›
As an HR professional, I enjoy being able to help people fulfill their potential by hiring the right people and then helping them thrive in their jobs. HR allows me to express my personality every day. I love the day-to-day tasks we engage in and helping to solve the problems that may arise.What are the 5 most important human resources? ›
Human Resources manages 5 main duties: talent management, compensation and employee benefits, training and development, compliance, and workplace safety.What are the 3 main responsibilities of human resources? ›
What are the three major roles of human resources management? Running payroll, writing job descriptions, creating workplace policies and procuring benefits packages are typical of HR administration.What are the 3 most important HR laws? ›
The three most important HR laws are Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Discrimination, and Labor Laws pertaining to minimum wage and working conditions. These laws are laws that help human resource professionals create organizational human resource rules.What are the 7 major HR activities? ›
- Recruitment and Hiring.
- Training and Development.
- Employer-Employee Relations.
- Maintain Company Culture.
- Manage Employee Benefits.
- Create a Safe Work Environment.
- Handle Disciplinary Actions.
Show that you have skills and experience to do the job and deliver great results. You never know what other candidates offer to the company. But you know you: emphasize your key skills, strengths, talents, work experience, and professional achievements that are fundamental to getting great things done on this position.How would you describe your HR experience? ›
For example emphasize your background in recruiting, employee relations or professional development. This will demonstrate your value as someone whose skills reach beyond common HR practices and functions. Outline significant professional accomplishments, focusing on achievements in the most recent part of your career.Why should we hire you for HR position answer? ›
“I'm just looking for a good opportunity to prove my talent and skills. I can bring success to your company. In addition, I am hard working, an amazing team player and loyal. This is why I think I make a good choice for this role.”What are the 4 types of HR? ›
- Recruitment and Selection. Human resource management jobs include professional recruiters who filll vacancies within an organization. ...
- Compensation and Benefits. ...
- Health and Safety. ...
- Labor and Employee Relations. ...
- Training and Development. ...
- Risk Management. ...
- Managers and Directors.
Human resource management has four basic functions: staffing, training and development, motivation, and maintenance. Staffing is the recruitment and selection of potential employees done through interviewing, applications, networking, etc.What is the most important role of HR? ›
One of HR's primary roles is managing payment and benefits for an organization's staff. Proper management of compensation, time off, and insurance is what keeps employee satisfaction high. As a human resource manager, you'll be in charge of distributing, communicating, and improving compensation and benefits packages.What is HR in simple words? ›
Human resources (HR) is the department within a business that is responsible for all things worker-related. That includes recruiting, vetting, selecting, hiring, onboarding, training, promoting, paying, and firing employees and independent contractors.How do I start an HR job with no experience? ›
- Earn a degree. The first step to getting a job in human resources is earning a degree. ...
- Look for internships. ...
- Get certified. ...
- Build a network. ...
- Work on your resume. ...
- Take on other roles. ...
- Volunteer your time. ...
- Look for temporary opportunities.
In addition to employment verification and a background check, HR might even do a salary verification to ensure that the candidate's salary history is consistent with information he provided during the interview process or to help your company determine any difference between the candidate's previous earnings and the ...What can HR not do? ›
- Do not be the Party Planner, the Birthday Coordinator, Office Decorator, etc. ...
- Never act as the Fashion Police or as an Elementary School Principal. ...
- Don't plant yourself firmly as the obstacle managers and employees must constantly climb over to get their jobs done.
Paying all employees at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. If a state has a higher minimum wage, employers must pay the higher amount. Nonexempt employees must receive overtime pay for hours worked over 40 hours per week at 1.5 times their regular hourly rate.What are HR laws? ›
What Are Human Resources Laws? Human resources laws refer to state and federal laws in the United States that govern human resource management and employment issues. Compensation, recruitment, development, and placement are all considered aspects of human resource management.What are three types of human resources? ›
The three major roles in human resources are; administrative, change management, and people management. Administrative tasks include hiring and monitoring of employees, managing payroll and benefits, and development of policies and guidelines.What does HR do on a daily basis? ›
Human resources is in charge of arranging interviews, coordinating hiring efforts, and onboarding new employees. They're also in charge of making sure all paperwork involved with hiring someone is filled out and making sure that everything from the first day to each subsequent day is navigated successfully.
In short, human resource activities fall under the following five core functions: staffing, development, compensation, safety and health, and employee and labor relations. In this article we will discuss the elements of Human Resource Management.How do you handle stress and pressure? ›
- Decide what you can do. Pinpoint which parts of the situation you have the power to change or influence for the better. ...
- Get support. Find someone to talk to about your situation. ...
- Care for yourself. Take especially good care of yourself when stress in your life is high.
For starters, I have all the skills and experience listed in the job description, and I'm confident that I can make an immediate impact on your company. It's not just my background in leading successful projects for Fortune 500 companies, but also my passion for the industry that drives me to succeed.What is your weakness best answer? ›
Answer “what is your greatest weakness” by choosing a skill that is not essential to the job you're applying to and by stressing exactly how you're practically addressing your weakness. Some skills that you can use as weaknesses include impatience, multitasking, self-criticism, and procrastination.What to say in Tell me about yourself? ›
A simple formula for answering “Tell me about yourself”
Present: Talk a little bit about what your current role is, the scope of it, and perhaps a big recent accomplishment. Past: Tell the interviewer how you got there and/or mention previous experience that's relevant to the job and company you're applying for.
- Make a Good 1st Impression. First impressions are extremely important. ...
- Eliminate “Risky Business” ...
- Practice Your Interview Skills (Seriously) ...
- Offer SOLID References. ...
- Be a Solution.
- Leadership. Even in entry-level positions, most employers look for evidence of leadership qualities. ...
- Teamwork. ...
- Communication and Interpersonal Skills. ...
- Analytical Skills. ...
- Dependability and a Strong Work Ethic. ...
- Maturity and a Professional Attitude. ...
- Adaptability and Flexibility. ...
- Good Personality.
How to (and how not to) answer the interview question 'What can you bring to the company? ' The simple answer to this question is you: you bring all of your skills, qualities, values, interests, academic knowledge, internships and life experience to the company.What skills do you need in HR? ›
- Communication skills. ...
- Decision-making skills. ...
- Training and developmental skills. ...
- Empathic skills. ...
- Finance skills. ...
- Organizational skills. ...
- Business management skills. ...
- Leadership skills.
Highlight Your Transferable Skills
If you don't have any professional HR experience, highlight transferable skills that you've gained and sharpened at previous jobs. HR is a people-focused profession, so showcase skills like collaboration, leadership skills and the ability to work well in diverse groups of people.
Working in HR can sometimes be hard – but it can also be immensely rewarding. Day in, day out, you can be juggling a whole range of spinning plates, constantly trying to make sure one doesn't drop. While at the same time, doing your best to support your company's biggest asset – your people.Is HR a high paying job? ›
This role requires leadership, time management and communication skills, along with good analytical skills. In India, the average salary of HR managers is INR 7,00,000 per annum, depending upon company to company.What is the most important skill for HR? ›
The most frequently mentioned skill in HR job openings is communication. Communication skills are essential in Human Resource Management, as the HR professional is the link between the business and the employee. On the one hand, you are an activist for employees, and on the other hand, you represent the employer.What are your top 3 skills? ›
- Communication skills. Communication skills are needed in virtually any job. ...
- Leadership skills. ...
- Teamwork skills. ...
- Interpersonal skills. ...
- Learning/adaptability skills. ...
- Self-management skills. ...
- Organizational skills. ...
- Computer skills.
For starters, I have all the skills and experience listed in the job description, and I'm confident that I can make an immediate impact on your company. It's not just my background in leading successful projects for Fortune 500 companies, but also my passion for the industry that drives me to succeed.Is HR a stressful job? ›
According to a Perkbox survey of over 16,000 people across 50 cities, a whopping 79% of Human Resource employees reported unhealthy levels of job stress, making them the most stressed out profession. If you're involved in the field, this may not surprise you.Is HR easy? ›
Human resource management is one of the toughest jobs because it required immense responsibility and dedication towards the company.How do I get my foot in the door for HR? ›
Pursue a four-year or advanced degree in human resources, business management or a related field. Attend human resources networking events in your area as well as conferences and trade shows. Reach out to friends and acquaintances who have experience in the HR field.Is HR good for introverts? ›
While it's difficult to nail down any career path as “ideal” for introverts, Human Resources certainly comes close. In this position you can finally get the recognition you desire without sacrificing any of your natural born tendencies.Is HR fun job? ›
Yes, if you are into the different areas of human resources, such as staffing, training, strategic management and development, etc., then going to that career path would be a fulfilling and fun experience for you. I know a company that offers a great internship program for HR students, Consumerchoice.
Ability to handle multiple tasks simultaneously:
An HR manager needs to handle the administration, evaluate the performance of a company's staff and also make sure that their salaries are paid on time. This is something which women are good at as compared to men.
Industries Believes that if others can perform HR Activities that why they need to hire Specialized people this leads to HR people to work in less paid job. Now a day it becomes trend of hiring HR in less paid salary as it is function which can be performed by anyone. So why pay high if the same available at very low.What part of HR pays the most? ›
- Manpower planning.
- Job analysis.
- Employee Sourcing and Recruitment.
- Onboarding and Training.
- Performance Management.
- Compensation and Benefits.
- Building Industrial relations.
- Safety and health.
Human Resources Specialists
The median human resources salary for HR specialists is nearly $62,000 per year, with the top 10% earning over six figures, according to the BLS. With experience or a graduate degree, human resources specialists can move into supervisory and managerial positions.