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

Totaljobs HR Manager job profile
Prospects HR Officer job profile
CIPD HR Generalist job profile

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:

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

HR news, institutes & organisations