The term ‘human resources’ is deceptively simple. Human resources jobs cover every aspect of business that involves people, which arguably could mean every aspect of the business itself. From personnel management duties like hiring and benefits to the wellbeing of employees, such as wellness initiatives and conflict resolution. Any or all of these things could fall on HR’s shoulders depending on the organization.
It takes a range of human resources skills to not only impress prospective employers as a candidate, but to succeed in the field once you’ve landed the job. Here, we’re breaking down nine of the most essential skills for HR jobs that employers are looking for right now. First, though, let’s take a brief look at the market outlook for human resources jobs.
HR Jobs Outlook
The job outlook is strong for both HR specialists and HR managers, the two primary human resource occupations tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
For HR specialists, employment is projected to grow by 7% by 2029, adding about 47,000 new jobs. This is much faster than the growth rate for all industries. HR specialists earn a median pay of $62,000 a year.
The BLS predicts strong job growth for HR managers, as well. The role is expected to add 10,400 jobs by 2029, a healthy growth rate of 6%. The median HR manager earns a lucrative $117,000 a year.
Top 9 Human Resources Skills Employers Are Looking For
Do you have what employers are looking for in an HR candidate? Before you make your way to the other side of the desk and start hiring, you’ll need to win your own role with the company first. Here are nine of the most in-demand skills employers are looking for when hiring for human resources jobs.
First and foremost, an HR professional must be a strong communicator. One of your biggest job functions is to serve as a primary communication channel for employees, acting as a mouthpiece to represent them in front of the company and an outlet for them to express grievances and concerns.
Employees will turn to you for answers to their technical questions and guidance on navigating workplace issues, so being able to provide clear and accurate responses is key. Communication doesn’t stop there; it will be your responsibility to take any necessary next steps to escalate issues up the chain of command where appropriate. Being a strong communicator, both verbally and in writing, will serve you well in any HR role.
The HR department plays a critical role in shaping and upholding the ethics, or moral principles, of an organization. They hire candidates they think are aligned with the company’s values, provide guidance for how ethical standards should be interpreted in the workplace, and work to resolve ethical conflicts when they arise.
Human resources personnel routinely deal with sensitive employee information that must be handled with discretion. They also work to help company leaders stay on the right side of ethical responsibility while in the pursuit of profits. All of this calls for a strong ethical compass and knowledge of contemporary ethical practices.
3. Employment Law
Whereas ethics skills deal in what’s morally right and wrong, legal skills deal in what’s acceptable and unacceptable in the eyes of the law—two areas are of equal importance for HR pros.
A strong candidate for human resources jobs should have a firm grasp on common employment law principles. This includes fair labor standards, compensation laws, discrimination laws and workplace safety mandates, just to name a few.
Simply knowing the laws is the first step. The next is helping the company apply them in a real-world context to keep operations running smoothly while minimizing the company’s legal risk. Further, HR deals with any legal issues that arise involving employees, like harassment or safety complaints.
HR professionals handle many of the organization’s administrative duties. They’re responsible for organizing and administering the company’s benefits package, overseeing payroll, and maintaining important documents like personnel records. Depending on the size of the organization, they may also have a role in scheduling.
To juggle these multiple administrative duties effectively, strong organizational skills are a must. Companies are seeking HR candidates who are in the know about emerging technologies, like apps, that can be used to automate manual administrative tasks to save time and money.
Recruiting is of HR’s major functions in many companies. Human resources personnel may handle hiring in its entirety or may work hand in hand with an external partner like a staffing agency to attract and onboard new hires.
To succeed in this duty, you’ll need to effectively package and market the company as a great place to work, so this is another area where strong communication skills will come in handy. Hiring managers will also be looking for HR candidates with strong people skills, since they’ll often be the first point of contact candidates have with the organization.
Employers are always seeking out ways to hire stronger talent at a lower cost, so HR candidates should showcase their knowledge of tools that make the screening process faster and more effective, like applicant tracking systems, candidate assessment tools and virtual onboarding platforms.
6. Conflict Management
Conflict management was the number one most in-demand soft skill among businesses hiring in 2019. Business leaders said the ability to successfully resolve disputes eclipsed even core skills like communication and organization in terms of importance to a worker’s career progression.
Conflict management is an even more essential skill for HR candidates; U.S. employers spend an average of almost three hours a week handling conflict, and the bulk of that responsibility falls to human resources. When two or more staffers are involved in a dispute they can’t work out among themselves or with their direct supervisor, someone from human resources typically steps in to act as a mediator.
Since conflicts can directly affect productivity and are detrimental to workplace morale, it’s in a business’ best interest to have a team with strong conflict resolution skills at the HR helm. Human resources candidates should be proficient in strategies like mediation and other proactive conflict resolution tactics.
7. Human Resource Information Software (HRIS)
Not all of the most in-demand HR skills are soft skills. One of the most important technical HR skills is proficiency with human resource information software, or HRIS. HRIS systems like SAP or Oracle help HR professionals streamline their operations and keep track of their company’s human resource activities.
HRIS systems may enable record-keeping, ensure compliance, facilitate activities like attendance-tracking and payroll, and act as a self-service HR portal for employees to navigate things like benefits.
In addition to acting as a key communication channel for employees, HR professionals must work collaboratively with other department heads to accomplish the organization’s goals. Everything from hiring new staffers to resolving performance issues to marketing your open roles will require teamwork with other key contacts in the organization.
When talented people work together rather than independently, creativity, productivity and efficiency all see a boost. Thus, employers value team players who contribute to shared projects, make decisions as part of a group, and foster an environment of respect that contributes to a positive overall culture.
Not so much a skill as a characteristic, resilience feeds into your ability to successfully tackle all of the duties we’ve mentioned thus far. Resilient candidates will have an easier time managing stress, navigating workplace conflicts, juggling numerous responsibilities and meeting the many daily a job in HR can present.
Resilience will not only serve you well in an HR job, but will help keep you in top mental shape. Studies show that resilient employees are more satisfied, more engaged with their work, more committed to their organizations and less likely to burn out—all of which will ensure a long and successful HR career.
Situational questions are a good opportunity for HR candidates to demonstrate resilience when interviewing. These are questions where the interviewer asks, ‘tell me about a time when…’ You can showcase your resilient qualities by picking an answer that describes a time when you persevered in the face of a challenge or adapted effectively when assigned a new responsibility.