There’s a certain irony in applying for a position in human resources (HR). You sit on one side of the desk as an applicant but if you land the job, you might just vault right over that desk into the hiring seat.
Pursuing an HR career is not for the faint of heart. Being responsible for making hiring and firing decisions, keeping watch over employee welfare and handling a company’s most sensitive information isn’t for everyone. You feel like you’re up for the challenge, but want to know what exactly will be expected of you.
We’re here to help! We used real-time job analysis software to examine more than 310,000 human resources job postings from the past year.1 The data helped us identify the top eight skills employers are seeking in HR candidates.
So without further ado, familiarize yourself with the eight human resources job skills in highest demand.
8 In-demand human resources skills
As you consider your proficiency in each of the skills listed below, think about how you could represent them in an interview. This can help you frame each skills in a way that will impress hiring managers.
Searching for and attracting 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 to highlight this in a job interview: Ask yourself if you’ve 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 experiences could all come in handy if you’re serious about getting into HR.
“Screening is the process of reviewing a person to go to the next step,” says Devay Campbell, founder and CEO of Career 2 Cents. When you screen applicants, for instance, you might look through a pile of applications to sort out the likeliest candidates for the job. In order for a candidate to advance in the hiring process, they must go through you.
How to highlight this in a job interview: “You may work or volunteer at organizations that allow you to serve as an intake person before sending someone to the next step,” Campbell says. She uses an example of a school newspaper where you might screen sources to see if they are right for the article. “The ability to analyze data and determine its relevance and validity could be demonstrated in school assignments or big projects.”
3. Employee relations
Successful businesses thrive on secure employee-employer relationships and the professionals who support those connections. Being able to identify and resolve employee concerns as they develop creates a more satisfying work environment for employees and employers alike.
How to highlight this in a job interview: Ask yourself if there was a time when you were involved in a discrepancy between two individuals in a professional setting. How did you work 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?
Employee turnover is expensive. Onboarding refers to the process that allows new hires to become adjusted to the social and performance aspects of their new job quickly and smoothly. Companies are looking to hire HR professionals who can bring new recruits ‘onboard’ to increase the chance that they will settle happily and successfully into their new jobs for the long run.
HR and recruiting revolve around relationship-building, according to Tiffany Brown, talent acquisition and development manager at FreightCenter, Inc. “HR team members are expected to not only build relationships with potential applicants, but also employees in every department throughout an organization.”
How to highlight this in a job interview: Brown looks for applicants with strong communication skills who can collaborate in a team environment and handle sensitive situations with tact. Think of onboarding as playing host to new employees. Share occasions where you helped someone feel at home or make a transition. Specific examples of taking initiative to prevent hard feelings and promote open communication between co-workers will speak well of your ability to thrive in an HR position.
Employers want HR candidates with scheduling skills because many positions require juggling and prioritizing tasks on a team or company calendar. It’s important to be able to create a plan that allows everyone to achieve their goals.
How to 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.
6. Human Resources Information Software (HRIS)
HR Payroll Systems defines HRIS (also known as HRMS) as “an intersection of human resources and information technology through HR software.” This allows HR activities and processes to occur electronically, making the workload lighter and more efficient for HR professionals.
How to highlight this in a job interview: Obviously if you are certified in HRIS or have taken any training, you’ll want to highlight that. If you lack experience in HRIS, showcasing other technological proficiency could go a long way. Draw attention to the fact that you’re eager to learn and can do so quickly.
7. Social media
This skill is popping up in more and more job listings nowadays. But it makes a lot of sense in HR. “Being on and participating in social media platforms shows that you are connected and visible,” Campbell says. She adds that if you work in a recruiting position, you’ll likely be using social platforms to seek out or screen potential job candidates as well.
How to highlight this in a job interview: Think about how you communicate on social media, or consider opening an account if you don’t engage with social media already. Do you understand the vibe of a given platform? If you had to cold call someone you wanted to recruit, would you know where to begin?
“Having an established presence on social media sites will give you a head start,” Campbell says, adding that candidates and new hires can make use of social media to get abreast of industry best practices.
8. Performance management
Performance management is how a company involves its employees in improving effectiveness towards the accomplishment of company goals, according to The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The OPM lists performance management tasks, such as setting expectations for employees, monitoring performance, developing their capacity to perform, and rating performance. This skill relies heavily on strong communication and interpersonal abilities.
How to highlight this in a job interview: Campbell looks for applicants who demonstrate interaction with a diverse group of people. “Seek out culturally diverse groups to be a part of,” she says. She recommends seeking out volunteer opportunities to interact with people of all walks of life. Highlight this experience on your resume and be prepared to discuss them in a way that shows you’re open, tolerant and versatile.
The bottom line
Now you know which human resources job skills are valued most by employers. Don’t be intimidated if you haven’t mastered every proficiency highlighted above. This is precisely the knowledge and experience you’ll acquire in an HR degree program.
And our job analysis suggests this formal education will also impress employers. In fact, 67 percent of the HR jobs posted required candidates with a bachelor’s degree.
Learn more about how you can develop these top HR skills by checking out our human resources degree page!
*Source: BurningGlass.com (Analysis of 310,204 human resources job postings, Feb. 01, 2015 – Jan. 31, 2016.)
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in July 2013. It has since been updated to reflect information relevant to 2016.