Unemployment numbers are on their way down but the pool of job seekers in the market is still filled with well-trained and well-qualified professionals. Because of that you can expect to see a fair amount of competition while pursuing a new position or promotion.
And if you’re considering pursuing a career in human resources, it’s important for you to prepare yourself by understanding what job skills hiring managers are searching for in candidates.
“It’s critical for human resources professionals to develop relevant skills which will make them marketable as candidates for jobs,” says Scott Vedder, best-selling author and Fortune 100 recruiter.
To help you prepare, we analyzed more than 200,000 human resources job openings* over the past year to find the 10 skills in greatest demand. And while it’s important to know that 73 percent of openings preferred or required candidates to have a Bachelor’s degree** this post is focused on the specific skills employers want to see.
As you consider your own proficiency in each of the skills listed, take a minute to ask yourself the questions we provided. The questions were written to help you frame each skill in a way that will make sense to hiring managers in job interviews.
The importance of these 10 skills is listed in reverse order.
It’s important for human resource professionals to be able to create worksheets, enter data and work with basic formulas within Excel. Staying organized is critical and spreadsheets are great for keeping track of data such as contact information, employment applications and performance reviews.
How can you highlight this in a job interview: Ask yourself what experience you have using spreadsheets? Be honest. Do you know what a pivot table is? Do you know the most common Excel formulas? Perhaps you created a budget or contact list in a previous job or internship?
Having an understanding of the basic accounting principles is imperative to becoming a well-rounded business professional. From budgeting to creating proposals to performance measurement, HR professionals need accounting skills to best help support an organization become successful.
How can you highlight this in a job interview: Ask yourself have you ever been responsible for tracking finances? Maybe in a previous position you assisted with logging expenses or even rigorously tracked a budget while planning a wedding or a big trip overseas.
The HR department has a great responsibility to help attract, train, develop and retain top employees. Those who are best able to communicate, influence and identify how to perform those functions in unique business situations will be extremely valuable to their potential employer.
How can you highlight this in a job interview: Ask yourself what have you done to positively impact a company’s workforce? Have you ever helped out with new employee training activities or participate in promoting promising employees? Start thinking about how you can relate those activities to assisting with organization development.
The ability to focus on team success over individual achievement while maintaining transparency and candor is an incredibly valuable asset for HR professionals. When communicating with individuals or groups it’s important to be able to interact and advise communication exchanges between two parties.
How can you highlight this in a job interview: Ask yourself what experience do I have in assisting with finding a positive solution to workplace conflict? Maybe you helped two co-workers solve a disagreement or were involved in creating a strong company culture. Be sure to highlight how your interpersonal communication skills benefited you in these activities.
As a HR professional being knowledgeable in business fundamentals, operations and principles provides you with a much greater understanding of how what you do is impacting the organization. Being able to communicate with others to help team members feel valued and increase productivity is something that every business needs.
How can you highlight this in a job interview: Ask yourself what previous work experiences can help you exhibit a strong understanding of the world of business? Did you sell lemonade from a stand as a kid? Maybe you had a paper route or a stand at a farmer’s market? Providing examples of your ability to manage day-to-day operations is exactly what employers are looking for.
Depending on the size of the organization, many positions within HR require you to provide assistance to a countless number of different tasks such as recording data, administering assessment or staffing activities. The flexibility to shift priorities, make arrangements on behalf of a team or perform duties that go above and beyond your job description, speaks directly to the support role required by many HR professionals.
How can you highlight this in a job interview: Ask yourself if you have ever gone beyond the duties of your job description by helping out with meetings, preparing presentations or working late to meet a deadline? Being able to speak to your abilities to support others and your interest in assisting in the success of a whole instead of just an individual will help you stand out.
Employers want HR candidates with scheduling skills because many positions often require juggling many different tasks and prioritizing tasks on a team or company calendar. It’s important to be able to look at the time available and be able to create a plan that allows everyone to achieve their goals.
How can you highlight this in a job interview: Ask yourself if you have experience planning a multistep project and how you had to strategically organize and prioritize time to complete each task along the way? This could have been for a wedding, graduation party or even a vacation overseas.
While the skills for human resource management can often encompass many different sub skills such as critical thinking, leadership, communications and general management. It’s important to know that employers want to see that you have direct experience or are able to put them all together in order to be ready for a management position.
How can you highlight this in a job interview: In addition to considering any first-hand experience or formal education you may need in this area, ask yourself if you have ever managed a project or people and how your management abilities may positively impact the workplace. Consider examples of when you may have coached little league or led a troop of Girl Scouts and apply it to how that examples has better prepared you for a position in HR.
Searching for and recruiting new talent is a major focus of the job for many HR professionals. If you are able to easily connect with others, uncover information, communicate clearly and be persuasive in negotiating contracts, you may be well-prepared to handle the very important task of recruiting.
How can you highlight this in a job interview: Ask yourself if you have ever interviewed or evaluated a job candidate? Have you ever scouted an opposing sports team? Have you ever helped your boss with a job search or looked over a handful of resumes for a new nanny? These are skills that could come in very handy if you’re serious about getting into HR.
Having employees that are able to strengthen the employer-employee relationship is very important to helping your business become successful. By being able to identify and resolve employee concerns as they develop helps to create a more satisfying work environment for both employ and employer.
How can you highlight this in a job interview: Ask yourself if there was a time when you were involved in a discrepancy between employees and the employer or parent and child? How did you work together to resolve their differences in a respectful, empathetic and efficient way? Be specific. Which soft skills were important to use? How did you address concerns and determine an outcome? By being able to highlight these experiences you can better show your abilities in this type of problems solving.
In addition to developing these skills in preparation for pursuing a job in HR, it’s important to also know how you can highlight these skills in an interview. “Anyone who has worked for any time in the field might be able to say they have these skills, but to stand out from your competition, you must highlight the results you’ve achieved,” according to Vedder.
By ensuring that you have knowledge and the experience utilizing the skills that employers are looking for, you can have the confidence that you are better prepared to advance your HR career.
If you are interested in learn more about how you can further develop these skills while meeting the education requirements for pursuing a position in HR make sure to check out our bachelor’s degree in human resources page.
*Source: BurningGlass.com (Analysis of skills in greatest demand for HR occupations, 7/13/12 – 7/12/13)
**Source: BurningGlass.com (Analysis of requested educational qualifications for HR occupations, 7/16/12 – 7/12/15)