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As recruiters, much of our job overlaps with careers in HR. Our responsibilities include reviewing resumes, spending time with candidates, and handling much of the administrative work that goes into hiring a new employee.

But human resources goes beyond just recruiting; HR professionals have a hand in every aspect of the organization pertaining to personnel. They guide new hires through their onboarding phase, administer benefits plans, assist with resolving workplace conflicts and serve as a trusted legal resource, among other duties. Interestingly, our work as recruiters means we also specialize in hiring people for such roles. 

If you’re considering one of the many different careers in HR, we put together this helpful guide to HR job titles. It will help you understand where each of the various human resources job titles falls in the overall hierarchy of an organization and what specific duties are expected of each role. 

What is human resources?

First, it’s helpful to have a primer on what exactly is meant by human resources, which is a pretty broad term. Human resources refers to not only to the field of personnel management, but to the human capital of a company itself. 

Human resource management, sometimes called talent management or personnel management, is responsible for a wide range of functions in an organization, including:

  • Recruiting and hiring
  • Payroll and benefits
  • Onboarding and employee development
  • Employee relations
  • Record keeping

Smaller organizations may have just one person who covers all of the above duties, while larger organizations will often have specialists in every area working under a manager, director, vice president, or even a C-level executive. 

Most common HR job titles 

HR coordinator

This entry-level position is responsible for many of the administrative duties associated with running an HR department. They may maintain employee records, assist with processing payroll, help screen resumes, coordinate meetings and interviews, and provide administrative support to other members of the HR department. You’ll see similar job duties in human resources job titles like HR associate or HR assistant.

To be a good HR coordinator, you should be an excellent written and verbal communicator. You’ll need strong organizational skills to maintain clean, orderly records and a meticulous attention to detail to ensure those records are accurate. You should be able to multitask effectively, as you’ll often be required to stay on top of many different directives simultaneously. 

Employers look for HR coordinators who can leverage technology to do their jobs more efficiently, so a strong knowledge of HR apps and software is a plus.

HR generalist

An HR coordinator will typically report to an HR generalist, who manages many of an organization’s core human resource activities. They interview and hire staff, administer payroll, oversee benefits and employee leave, and enforce company policies pertaining to labor. 

They may assist other departments with conducting performance evaluations, participate in disciplinary meetings and step in as a neutral party to aid in conflict resolution. HR generalists oversee the activities of lower-level staffers like HR assistants and admins. 

Being a “people person” is a must to succeed in an HR generalist role, as much of your day will be spent dealing with employees and various company leaders. You should also have a firm grasp of workplace ethics and labor laws, as you’ll often be called upon to provide guidance in establishing personnel-related policies. 


As this HR job title suggests, this is a role that focuses specifically on recruiting talent. A recruiter manages the full scope of talent acquisition activities: identifying hiring needs, writing job listings, advertising job openings, sourcing candidates through various channels, screening applicants, conducting interviews, and weighing in on hiring decisions.

A good recruiter doesn’t just source candidates for each open position individually; instead, they focus on building a strategic hiring funnel that continuously attracts and engages top talent and moves them toward employment. This includes creating a strong employer brand and providing a positive candidate experience throughout the hiring process.

To be a top contender for a recruiting role, you should have several years of experience in HR that includes sourcing and evaluating candidates. You should have experience conducting interviews and be comfortable with different formats, like phone interviews, group interviews, and panel interviews. Working knowledge of applicant tracking systems is a must, as is being familiar with skills assessments and behavioral analysis tools.

Tip: Obtaining a recruiting certification can significantly improve your chances of landing the job!

Benefits administrator

Just as a recruiter focuses specifically on recruiting, a benefits administrator zeroes in on benefits. This role is responsible for the management and day-to-day operations of an organization’s group benefits offerings, including health insurance, dental and vision insurance, disability, workers’ compensation, and retirement packages.

The benefits administrator serves as the organization’s point person when dealing with benefits vendors, working on analyzing the available plans and identifying those that best meet the organization’s needs. As part of this duty, they’ll need to assess the company’s benefits needs on an ongoing basis and negotiate with vendors to strike deals that meet those needs while controlling costs.

The HR administrator also serves as a critical contact for employees, helping them to navigate and enroll in the available plans and access the benefits to which they’re entitled. They may set up self-service portals where employees can tackle enrollment, training, and FAQs.

Finally, a benefits administrator plans for the future, reviewing both short- and long-term projections for needs and making recommendations to leadership for how to modify the organization’s benefits programs accordingly. 

HR analyst

This metrics-focused position collects and analyzes the company’s HR data and uses it to make actionable recommendations that will strengthen recruiting, increase retention and lower costs. An HR analyst relies on a number of data sources, including human resource information systems (HRIS), payroll software, applicant tracking systems, employee and candidate surveys, industry trends, government labor statistics, and more. They may make recommendations for adding additional data sources as needed. 

If you love numbers, trends, and metrics, you may be a prime candidate for an HR analyst role. Strong candidates for this position must be proficient in gathering data, which requires a working knowledge of various software programs as well as tools like Microsoft Excel for producing reports. Companies are looking to hire HR analysts who can help them use data to overcome recruiting challenges, so strong analytical and problem-solving skills are a necessity. 

Harvesting and analyzing the right data is crucial for an HR analyst, so learn how to identify critical metrics for your organization by enrolling in Coursera’s Human Resources Analytics course.

HR director

This management-level role supervises the staff of the HR department and reports to the organization’s C-suite on human resource topics. The HR director is tasked with running their department smoothly and cost-effectively while providing direction to management on issues of staffing, compensation, benefits, employee development, and labor relations. 

A good HR director brings a broad-level focus to the role, helping to develop initiatives that promote the company’s larger goals in terms of culture and staffing. They play heavily in developing and implementing HR programs like onboarding, training, employee guidelines, equal opportunity programs, record-keeping, and documentation. 

To qualify for the role of HR director, most companies will prefer you to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a field like human resource management or business management. You should bring several years of experience working in HR, preferably with prior experience managing people. 

Chief human resources officer

Different companies have different titles for this position, which may include vice president of HR or chief people officer. The person in any of these roles is the top-ranking HR employee of the organization. Their core job function is to execute a human resource strategy that supports the overall business plan and strategic organizational goals. 

The chief human resource officer directs talent management, performance management, training and development, and employee retention initiatives, overseeing all staff and managers within the HR department. Their role also has a heavy focus on future growth, with attention to things like succession planning and future benchmarking for talent goals. The CHRO is responsible for communicating HR needs to the rest of the leadership team or board of directors, supporting their recommendations with the appropriate evidence and metrics.

A CHRO typically has a lengthy resume of work experience at all levels of HR, with proven leadership experience. A bachelor’s degree is recommended at a minimum, though many companies will prefer someone with a master’s degree or higher. Industry certifications like Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) are a plus. 

Position yourself as a top candidate by improving these in-demand human resources skills.

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Pete Newsome is the founder of zengig, which he created after more than two decades in staffing and recruiting. He’s also President of 4 Corner Resources, the Forbes America's Best Staffing and Recruiting Firm he founded in 2005, and is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance. In addition to his passion for staffing, Pete is now committed to zengig becoming the most comprehensive source of expert advice, tools, and resources for career growth and happiness. When he’s not in the office or spending time with his family of six, you can find Pete sharing his career knowledge and expertise through public speaking, writing, and as the host of the Finding Career Zen & Hire Calling podcasts. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn