Human Resources (HR) is at the centre of business performance with HR professionals driving decisions that enable their organisations to perform at their best. HR professionals aim to make the most effective use of the people within an organisation.
Human Resource Management involves organisation and manpower planning, creating solutions, recruitment and selection, termination of employment, training and development, industrial relations, job evaluation and employee services.
Types of roles
The various career options within HR are outlined here. Broadly speaking, the types of roles that exist within the profession are:
- Generalist HR assistants, officers, managers and directors
- Training and development officers, managers and directors
- Compensation and benefits specialists
- Employee relations specialists
- Performance managers
- Health and safety managers
- Resource planners
- HR Consultant
Qualifications & Entry routes
Any degree subject is normally acceptable, although law, psychology and business-related degrees (particularly if you have taken a module in HR) are often seen as being particularly ‘relevant’. A scientific or technical background can be an asset in some organisations.
There are three main routes for graduates into HR:
- Through a graduate training scheme. The most competitive route in. NHS, Civil Service Fast Stream, Balfour Beatty, Boots, KPMG, Unilever, GSK, Centrica, Vodafone, Mitchells & Butlers, Diageo, BP, Natwest Group, Royal Mail and Jaguar Land Rover usually run specialised HR graduate programmes.
- Following a postgraduate course There are a number of master’s degrees and postgraduate diplomas in HR: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). Courses are available in many locations and modes of study, see cipd.co.uk/learn/training
- Through a junior role such as Personnel Assistant. This will help you to gain relevant experience that will allow you to progress in your career. Jobs may be advertised in the local press, through recruitment agencies or through websites for specialist industry sectors such as Jobsgopublic for the public sector.
Types of organisations
Any employer with a sufficient number of employees to justify a specialist personnel section may employ HR managers:
- manufacturing or service industries
- local government
- health authorities
- universities and colleges
- commercial organisations
Skills & Experience
Qualities required include:
- Resilience and persistence, with an ability to handle pressure
- An analytical, often procedural, approach
- Tactful with an ability to form good working relationships and apply effective interpersonal skills when dealing with people of differing levels of seniority
- Commercial awareness
- Well-organised, flexible and numerate
- Ability to persuade and negotiate, influence, listen and question
- Excellent communication skills
- Integrity and approachability
Large multi-national organisations in a broad range of sectors usually offer HR internships. In previous years Nestle, Lloyds Banking Group, EDF Energy, J.P.Morgan, P&G and Goldman Sachs have offered work experience opportunities. Experience relevant to personnel work can also be gained in other related fields, particularly retail management and recruitment consultancy.
Competition for vacancies in HR is great and applicants therefore need to be strongly motivated towards this work; to demonstrate that they have considered what the work is likely to involve and whether they are personally suited. Try to shadow a personnel manager and get some office experience.
Further information and resources
General recruitment sites
Sector specific vacancies
- Personnel Today– An excellent source of information on HR careers
- Changeboard– Contains lots of sector vacancies and careers information
- PM Jobs from the CIPD – People Management vacancies
- Barclay Meade – HR Jobs
HR news, institutes & organisations