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Human Resources Specialist


Human resources specialists recruit, interview and advise senior management on hiring new employees in accordance with specific company policies and guidelines. The HR (human resources) role has become increasingly significant as companies and organizations realize the importance of hiring the most qualified employees and matching them to the right job, thereby contributing to the profitability and success of any business. The human resources specialist provides the link between management and potential employees by carefully selecting potential employees. Their recruiting expertise is a learned skill but also comes from years of experience and getting to know how to read and assess people. Equally important is knowing what questions to ask specific individuals and even what questions not to ask, such as personal religion or marital status questions. If a human resources specialist speaks out of line, violates an individual's human rights or asks a personally offensive question, they could find themselves in hot water. Therefore, human resources specialists are well versed in all human rights laws, labor codes, union accords and safety guidelines.

A human resources specialist's career description is expanding in scope and responsibility. Years ago, the HR specialist performed in a more administrative fashion, handling employee benefits questions and recruiting. Today, they play an important advising and consulting role to all employees in a company. They are responsible for staff welfare and morale, including the health and safety of employees, working conditions and staff training. Human resources specialists try to limit job turnover, provide training opportunities to enhance employees' skills, and heighten employee satisfaction in their present jobs and working conditions. If employees are unhappy in a company, it will be evidenced in their poor work productivity and happiness, therefore the human resources specialist must work to ensure that their company employs happy workers.

Working in a small company, HR specialists are often responsible for all personnel work whereas those working in larger firms may often specialize in a particular area such as labor relations or employee compensation.

A difficult aspect of the human resources specialist's position is dealing with the "dirty work" within a company. They often have to act as mediators to employees with clashing personalities, fire people and reprimand negligent employees, which can be extremely hard to do.
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Ashford University

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  Interests and Skills  
Human resource officers must possess superior communication and interpersonal skills since a majority their work deals with people. They must possess sound judgment and problem-solving skills, have the ability to understand a variety of viewpoints and backgrounds, assume leadership skills, be well organized and manage time properly, and attempt to get the cooperation of employers, unions and employees to settle disputes.

Human resource officers should enjoy working with people and taking responsibility for ideas and projects. They must be organized, have administrative abilities and be both analytical and fair in making decisions. Finally, human resources specialists need to be understanding, patient and good at listening. They must be able to work well under pressure and keep information private. They must also be culturally sensitive in order to relate well to people of different ethnicities and backgrounds.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Decide on appropriate recruitment strategies and advertise job vacancies
  • Write job profiles and descriptions
  • Interview potential applicants and recommend prospective employees to management
  • Arrange for and often deliver training programs for employees
  • Provide advice to management regarding employee promotions, transfers and dismissals
  • Administer all employee benefits such as group life insurance, sickness and accident benefits, health insurance, holidays and retirement pension plans
  • Administer and handle labor relations issues, collective agreements and mediation disputes within the organization
  • Make sure performance standards are consistent with the organization's mission and structure
  • Develop system to improve employment policies and practices and recommend changes to management
  • Meet with supervisors to resolve employee grievances and issues
  • Study legislation, arbitration decisions, and collective bargaining contracts to assess industry trends
  • Maintain employee profile records and compile statistical reports concerning personnel-related data such as hires, transfers, performance appraisals, and absenteeism rates
  • Human resources specialists always work in an office setting. A typical day will entail replying to phone and email messages, counseling staff and management discussing any issues or concerns they may have, interviewing prospective employees, meeting with management and attending meetings. Regular office hours are required of all human resources specialists however some with higher positions of responsibility will be required to work longer hours in order to complete tasks and duties. There is constant communication between the HR specialist and employees, management and interviewees therefore the office work is of a social nature. In some cases, HR specialists will travel to conduct interviews, such as recruiting at universities.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Human resources specialists are employed in both the public and private sectors. They often work for business and organizations such as universities, health care institutions, large retail stores, governments, manufacturing companies, and financial institutions (where there are many employees), act as private consultants to smaller companies looking to recruit and work in "headhunting" or employment agencies.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Human resources specialists have a good opportunity for advancement within their field to become more specialized personnel professionals. With experience, advancement prospects may include opening up your own HR consulting firm, advancing to supervisory and executive management positions, becoming a private mediator or arbitrator and switching careers to work in public relations, career counseling and motivation, social work or teaching.

Even entry-level positions today require some form of previous experience either through an internship or volunteer work. Junior workers often start off performing more administrative duties and then advance into positions with more responsibility with commensurate experience. This field offers advancement from clerical work to a more professional position. It is hard to move right into a human resources position straight out of university because people often lack the technical and practical experience of dealing with people, which can only be learned on the job through experience.

  Educational Paths  
Human resources specialists must complete either a university degree or college diploma in a field related to personnel management such as commerce, business administration, industrial relations or psychology. The most recent HR specialists hired have university degrees due to competition among potential applicants. Nevertheless, some companies may also accept a professional development program in personnel administration coupled with job experience from a mature applicant.

These days, recent graduates may require an internship, work-study experience or volunteer experience in order to get hired. They may also be required to gain some experience in an entry-level clerical or administrative position related to personnel administration.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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