The human resources landscape offers incredible career opportunities. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the HR field is expected to grow 10% by 2030.
As an early career HR specialist intent on becoming an industry leader, you're probably on the lookout for your next career opportunity. In this article, we discuss the soft skills, technical competencies, and critical HR skills a prospective employer will look for in your resume, LinkedIn profile, and in an interview. We also list stand-out skills to put you ahead of the pack when it comes to career growth as a human resources professional.
Essential Soft Skills for HR Professionals
Top-notch communication skills are undoubtedly a top HR generalist priority. Throughout a career in human resources, you will engage and converse with tons of people. You will conduct interviews, deliver presentations and participate in conflict resolution, all of which require that you’re able to communicate and listen like a pro.
Here are the communication skills employers will look for in your resume:
- Clear Written Communication: In most HR roles you will be expected to write memos and employee handbooks that have clear directives.
- Conflict Management: An important component of HR and employee relations is leading difficult conversations and resolving employee conflicts fairly.
- Active Listening: Active and critical listening skills will help you engage well with team members and achieve fast and effective resolutions.
- Interpersonal skills: As an important contact point representing the organization, employees (and especially new hires) need to feel safe and welcome in your company. This is achieved by being both professional and approachable when dealing with people.
As a human resource specialist, your job is to be a bridge between employees, executives, and department heads. Meeting every level’s hiring goals, priorities, and compliance requirements is a juggling act that can quickly become overwhelming if you’re not organized.
Here are the essential organizational skills you should have in your HR resume:
- Excellent Time Management: HR professionals deal with many critical and time-sensitive tasks. These include managing payrolls, hiring, and performance reviews.
- Proven Knowledge of Record Keeping: The HR team at an organization keeps a record of all personal details of all employees. You will be expected to retrieve and manage employee details with the utmost care. Mismanagement of confidential or sensitive information can result in legal trouble for the company.
- Multitasking Abilities: An HR pro's duties are many and varied. You will have to conduct interviews, manage employee training, oversee company policies, handle complaints, and so forth. This means you have to be a fully hands-on person who can handle multiple priorities, and an unexpected curveball from time to time.
The ability to keep a straight face is one of the underrated soft skills needed for HR.
As an HR professional, you will often sit in on discussions about your co-workers concerning sensitive matters. Being privy to employee data and information on compensation, medical issues, mental health, conflict, performance, workplace injury, harassment, and disciplinary problems puts a big responsibility on you in terms of maintaining employees’ privacy. Employees and employers must be able to trust you with this sensitive information.
Additionally, the HR department will be informed in advance if a company plans to undergo significant staffing changes. Firm ethics regarding confidentiality is a critical point to add to your resume, preferably with a reference letter from a previous HR job to back it up.
High Emotional Intelligence
As an HR professional, your interpersonal skills and understanding of people will greatly affect your success. What drives a person, triggers them, scares them, demotivates them, and engages them is often hidden behind their words and actions. These insights come with high emotional intelligence and empathy.
Working in human resource management, you will have to make many decisions that have a significant impact on the company, for instance, during recruitment.
Effective decision-making skills are rooted in strategic thinking, analysis, intuition on valuable initiatives, and experience. Be sure to highlight data-driven decisiveness as one of your top human resources skills in a job interview.
As an HR leader, you want to show that you can modify old company policies, create new ones and help employees embrace change. This is only possible if you are not averse to process evolution yourself.
As part of your management skills, you want to show that you do not settle into a comfort zone. As an HR professional, you must keep refining policies that ensure a healthy and engaging work environment for all employees. Consequently, a form of adaptability that you’ll want to highlight is the willingness to learn new important HR skills during your tenure, depending on the organization’s strategic needs.
Objectivity and Critical Thinking
In hiring, conflict resolution, disciplinary action, and many other matters of HR, your ability to remain objective is essential. As a representative of the company, an HR professional cannot be biased, unfair, or discriminatory in any way.
When discussing past work experience, demonstrate that you take action based on clear evidence instead of assumptions and claims.
Technical HR Skills
A Strong Command of HR Technology
HR tech is one of the fastest-growing software landscapes. You do not want to be left behind in terms of the ability to navigate and leverage these tools.
Larger companies will typically have a Human Resource Information System (HRIS) and an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). They may have additional recruitment tools, onboarding tools, and performance management systems also, depending on the level and frequency of hiring. Although you may not have experience in using all these tools, familiarity with a few of the best HRIS and best ATS solutions on the market will be beneficial to list on your resume.
A good grasp of financial management is essential for two reasons:
All employee compensation goes through the human resource department. You’ll need adequate financial insight to determine market-appropriate salaries for various positions. You may also need to manage tax and 401K contributions relevant to the hire’s compliance requirements.
Training, outsourced recruiting, talent development, incentives, and company social activities need to come from HR’s budget. Be clear about how your financial skills have helped companies optimize spend. Specifically, point out any implementations you made that positively affected cost per hire and time to fill. These are HR metrics that have a direct effect on the company’s bottom line.
Pro-tip: For a thorough understanding of how new implementations in the HR department relates to Dollar value, we recommend signing up for our free online course on Calculating and Proving the ROI of using HR Tech.
Training and Development
As an HR specialist, you are the custodian of your organization’s collective skills. Show prospective employers how you intend to hone their company’s abilities by organizing and promoting your training and development program.
If you’ve overseen the growth of junior employees to supervisor or management level, definitely showcase this in your resume and interview.
Critical HR Skills
Employee onboarding refers to introducing newly hired professionals to the company. The onboarding experience you offer is of critical importance to employee retention. 20% of new staff leave their role in the first 45 days due to a lack of proper onboarding.
If your onboarding knowledge can lower turnover rates, it will be a significant asset to the company.
As an HR professional, you’ll be expected to manage payrolls, leave calendars, attendance records, job applications, and other administrative duties to a high level of efficiency.
The administrative skills you need consist of traditional record keeping, and proficiency with the company’s HR software.
Strategic HR management plays a key role in how the company’s long-term goals are set and achieved.
Show your understanding of how the company makes money and retains valuable talent, and how your insight will lead to improvement in these areas.
To learn how HR can operate as a strategic function, we recommend reading our Guide on Strategic HRM.
Leadership skills are important, even if you are not yet an HR manager.
You use the same leadership mindset to show that you can improve the workplace culture and mentor junior employees to become the leaders of tomorrow. In your interview, demonstrate that you know how to coach employees and cultivate high-value expertise from within a company’s existing talent pool.
Being analytically minded is one of the most critical abilities for an HR specialist to possess, especially if you focus on people operations.
How well you analyze and interpret workforce data will determine how you manage your hiring budget and staffing needs.
Human resources use data analysis to:
- Evaluate employee engagement
- Monitor organizational performance
- Predict hiring needs and patterns
- Measure and act on employee retention levels
- Document the company’s hiring trends
Your HR tech stack will play a large part in how much data you have to work with. However, how you analyze, interpret and act on the data at hand is what will determine valuable results.
Show prospective employers your knowledge of using data analysis software in your HR career, as well as examples of how your interpretation of this data led to measured improvements.
Pro-tip: Use our PeopleOps Job Board to find your next career opportunity.
Stand-out HR Skills to Set You Apart from the Pack
Event Management and Promotion
In life, events management is a career in itself. In the corporate world, this responsibility often falls on HR professionals. In your resume, show previous experience in planning company retreats, welcome and farewell events, year-end parties, staff appreciation days, workshops, and the like.
Show how you communicated the objectives of the event, created a buzz amongst employees, budgeted, and achieved value from your efforts.
Team Building Skills
Besides arranging a team-building event outside the office, you can boost workplace morale by hosting events and workshops in-house.
Arranging and facilitating events like trivia quizzes, trust-building workshops, and company sports games are stand-out experiences to put on your CV. Point out how your ability to arrange these in-house events improved cohesion, and what this required in terms of budget.
Research and Continued Learning
HR is an ever-evolving field. HR professionals who become leaders continuously research new technology, practices, and techniques to maintain their skills.
In an interview, talk about the latest trends and findings in HR, as well as expert resources you follow to show that you care about new developments in your chosen field.
Knowing Your Worth
Possessing the skills covered in this article will help you excel as an HR professional, but your skill set will also be a catalyst for propelling your company to the next level.
In your quest to become a leader in the field of HR, always remember and respect the critical part you play in the organization lucky enough to employ you.