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HR Assistant Career Guide

Do you have excellent decision-making skills and the ability to manage conflicts? Are you interested in working in human resources? You can combine your interests and skills by pursuing a career as an HR assistant.

An HR assistant is typically tasked with various human resources functions, including recruiting, hiring, and training new and existing employees. They need to have a good understanding of employee relations, staffing requirements, benefits administration, and payroll functions. HR assistants must have exceptional communication skills to assist employees with concerns and questions pertaining to pay, benefits, and more. They should be able to calmly resolve conflicts that arise. Intermediate computer skills are necessary, as is the ability to solve problems quickly and effectively. 

HR assistants may also provide record maintenance and clerical support to employees. Multi-tasking and the ability to prioritize are required skills as HR assistants handle a variety of duties. If you have excellent people skills, work well under pressure, and have a keen eye for detail, you could find a rewarding career as an HR assistant.

Sample job description

[Your Company Name] is hiring someone who is new to the HR field and looking to grow and expand their knowledge of the HR function to become our newest HR assistant. This role will exude a “put the customer first” mindset to respond to employee inquiries, support recruiting and hiring functions, and provide general HR administrative support. This role will also be expected to take ownership of our office and breakroom supplies to ensure our team has everything they need to achieve success without interruption. As an ideal candidate, you have an in-depth understanding of human resources practices and labor laws, proven experience in recruitment processes, and working knowledge of human resources computer programs.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Assist with recruitment, including vetting candidates, interviews, issuing employment contracts, and employee orientation
  • Support internal and external inquiries and requests related to the HR department
  • Maintain employee records
  • Process payroll and assist with documenting employee compensation and benefits
  • Assist with HR-related training programs, workshops, and seminars
  • Coordinate new hire orientations 
  • Maintain accurate and up-to-date human resource files, records, and documentation, ensuring integrity, and confidentiality
  • Coordinate training sessions and seminars
  • Provide clerical support to the HR department
  • Act as point of contact for external benefits providers and vendors, which may include health, disability, and retirement plan providers
  • Handle termination paperwork and exit interviews
  • Assist with planning and execution of special events such as benefits enrollment, employee recognition events, holiday parties, and retirement celebrations

Education and experience

  • Associate’s or bachelor’s degree in human resources or related field
  • 2 years related office experience  

Required skills and qualifications

  • Good working knowledge of HR functions and best practices
  • Familiarity with employment law and human resources responsibilities
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills 
  • In-depth understanding of payroll practices
  • Exceptional interpersonal skills
  • Working knowledge of computer applications and HR-specific software programs
  • Excellent organizational skills and attention to detail

Preferred qualifications

  • Experience with payroll processes
  • Experience with Microsoft Office software
  • Hands-on experience with an HRIS or HRMS

Typical work environment

HR assistants work in offices. Most work full time during regular business hours. They spend their days processing employment applications, verifying, and maintaining personnel-related documentation, including staffing, recruitment, training, grievances, performance evaluations, classifications, and employee leaves of absence. They also answer phone inquiries regarding examinations, eligibility, salaries, benefits, etc.

Typical hours

The typical work hours for an HR assistant are 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday. Some travel might be required to attend professional meetings or to recruit employees.

Available certifications

HR assistants work in almost every industry, and many institutions offer certifications for HR professionals. Here are three of the top HR certification institutions, offering a wide range of certificate programs for entry-level through experienced HR professionals:

  • Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). The Society for Human Resources Management offers competency-based HR certification programs that demonstrate knowledge in specialty areas, including the HR department, immigration laws, workplace investigations, talent acquisition, inclusive culture, and people analytics. The Society for Human Resources Management Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) covers all aspects of HR work and is good for HR generalists. The SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP) certificate is for advanced HR professionals who develop policies and strategies, manage the execution of HR operations, and analyze performance metrics.
  • HR Certification Institute (HRCI). The HRCI offers a number of human resource certifications, starting with the associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR) or the Professional in Human Resources (PHR). With experience and/or advanced degrees, you can obtain the Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certification or the Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR). These certifications are for entry-level professionals with limited experience to senior leaders in HR. Eligibility requirements for the aPHR or the PHR include at least a year’s experience in HR. 
  • Academy to Innovate HR (AIHR). The AIHR offers a range of HR certification programs online for all HR experience levels, providing domain-specific learning. Candidates can earn multiple specialist certifications or focus on one area of interest. The nine HR certificate programs include organizational development, strategic HR leadership, HR analytics, and HR metrics and dashboarding. The certificate programs provide proficiency in four core HR competencies: data literacy, business acumen, digital integration, and people advocacy.

Career path

To start on your path to becoming an HR assistant, you’ll need an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree in human resources or a related field. However, some employers only require an apprenticeship or completion of a course from one of the various professional bodies in the human resources industry. HR assistants learn many skills on the job and must gain a good understanding of human resources practices and labor laws. They also learn how to write and post job ads on recruitment sites, conduct background checks on applicants, and assist with interviews. Becoming proficient with human resource computer software tools, such as MS Office and ADP Workforce Now, is important, as is acquiring excellent written and verbal communication skills. HR assistants can aspire to become HR managers once they’ve gained years of experience. Senior-level management positions in HR often require a graduate degree, such as an MBA in human resource management.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 43-4161

2020 Employment112,000
Projected Employment in 2030108,800
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 3% decrease
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift10,600 decrease

As social media continues to bombard us with constant notifications about everything, people are not shy about spilling the details of their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual status. HR departments are starting to study this information to assess the well-being of workers and how they can develop a culture in the workplace that contributes to the well-being of the team or the individual.

In this age of advanced technology, the workforce is changing, including the addition of automation. AI and cloud computing are already aiding HR professionals in the recruitment and onboarding of new hires and streamlining workflow, and this trend will continue to develop. AI assists in integration, employee training, performance tracking, reporting, payroll, and data administration.