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Human Resources Career Guide

As companies strive to gain a competitive edge, HR plays a crucial role in corporate success.

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Human resources is a core component of every business. HR professionals are responsible for recruiting, screening, interviewing and hiring workers, with the goal of creating a competitive advantage. HR is also in charge of employee retention, keeping the talent that your company hires. It's expensive to recruit and train new employees, so it makes sense to keep the good people that you find and that fit into your company's culture. Use our guide to learn all about what you'll do in a human resources career and what type of education you'll need to start—and advance your career.

What You'll Do in a Human Resources Career

HR is a fast-moving field, and there are a lot of details to manage. Here are just a few of the things you might do as an HR professional:

  • Conduct initial interviews to hire qualified job applicants
  • Perform background checks on prospective employees
  • Conduct or help with new employee orientation and training
  • Maintain employment records and maintain employee records
  • Advise managers on organizational policies
  • Present employee training materials and provide career development
  • Mediate disputes and direct disciplinary procedures in the workplace
  • Conduct exit interviews

When you're looking for a job in HR, you'll need to first decide whether to target a large or small company. Larger companies need many people to manage their HR services, so there's a lot of specialization in their HR departments. You may specialize in recruiting, benefits, employee training, or other fields.  Smaller companies may need just one or two HR generalists who touch on all aspects of the field, from interviewing candidates to crafting policies.

HR also manages compensation (paying the right salaries to attract and retain employees) and negotiates benefits with outside vendors so that employees get the best benefits that the company can afford. This means balancing company priorities while always keeping employees' needs in mind.

If you specialize in training and development, you'll learn about all the roles in your company and train new hires so they get up to speed quickly. You'll also teach experienced employees new practices and share company directives.

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Another important HR consideration is workforce diversity. Talent comes in all shapes, sizes and colors, so HR is charged with finding quality employees from across the spectrum. Diversity is not just a feel-good measure; it makes good business sense because it breeds innovation and improves financial performance. HR professionals must keep current with the best practices to cultivate a diverse workforce, and are often tasked with advising company leaders on the importance of diversity for the company's bottom line—and its positive image.

HR also has its share of housekeeping duties. It's up to HR workers to develop, maintain and communicate organizational policy, including the employee handbook, supervisor protocols, and hiring and disciplinary procedures. While striving to create a sound, functional workplace, HR also ensures compliance with federal and state regulations

Human resources managers go a step beyond by analyzing and helping to organize the workforce to best use employee talent. For instance, they seek out ways to help employees develop their careers and optimize their natural talents.

HR managers are also called on to mediate disputes and grievances between employees and the company, or between employees and their managers, and may advise management on ways to improve company policies and guidelines.

Skills & Aptitude

To work in HR, you'll need an eye for detail, a strong service ethic, and great interpersonal skills. Depending on the area of HR you work in, you may also need to be familiar with compensation and benefits, including retirement benefits like 401(k)s.

If you've thought of working in human resources, check below to learn which personal and professional characteristics you'll need to succeed.

You are…

  • A critical thinker
  • A problem solver
  • A team player
  • Highly organized
  • Empathetic

You should have…

  • Strong people skills
  • Attention to details
  • Efficient clerical skills
  • Negotiation skills
  • The desire to collaborate

If any of these characteristics describe you, you may want to consider getting the training you need to be a successful HR worker.