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A graduate career in human resources

Is a graduate career in human resources right for you?

Careers in human resources offer graduates challenges, promotion and prospects galore.

HR offers a wealth of opportunities within every business sector. It is a competitive industry and an integral part of any successful organisation. Often involved in the execution of significant business change, HR professionals liaise with senior management on a daily basis to coordinate their organisation’s running.

What human resources professionals do

Whether you’re interested in corporate finance or crop rotation, organisations in every area have HR departments and once you have the experience and essential skills you can take them anywhere in the world.

Opportunities now exist to explore HR in every sector imaginable and at many different levels. Responsible for all the functions associated with the staff side of an organisation, HR covers everything from training and recruitment, pensions, compensation, benefits, and payroll and redundancy to implementing employment law and relocation packages. Large recruiters usually have large HR departments where responsibilities will be split across several positions. Whether you work as a generalist or a specialist with particular expertise in one area of HR, you’ll be making a real contribution to the success of the business.

Specialisations could include recruitment or training and development. In a smaller organisation there may just be a personnel officer who deals with all HR-related tasks. HR is also increasingly outsourced to independent consultants who work on a freelance basis for a variety of companies as and when they are required. This offers increased flexibility if you like to live on the edge.

Implementing business change

Whenever a business goes through major developments, such as mergers or restructuring, the HR department will play a crucial role in implementing these changes. Human resources requires an excellent level of commercial knowledge but it’s sometimes overlooked in favour of more ‘glamorous’ areas, such as marketing and public relations. While the champagne lunches may not be quite as numerous, HR professionals can expect salaries at large organisations to start at around £17,000–£25,000 for an entry level graduate HR officer position.

Gender balance in human resources

Traditionally viewed as a predominantly female industry, human resources is increasingly popular with both sexes. While there is still a higher proportion of women in HR roles, people of both sexes are beginning to realise the advantages and attractions of a career in HR.


Common misconceptions about HR usually relate to its reputation as the friendly, handholding branch of business. This leads inevitably to the old gem: ‘I want to work in HR because I like people.’ In reality, you need to be fairly thick-skinned to do well in HR, as it is possible that you will have to manage redundancy programmes and disciplinary processes at some point in your career. A good HR person must be able to deal with business nasties without scrimping on professionalism.

The skills you need in an HR job

Jobs in human resources entail a broad range of duties. To get an idea of HR’s position in modern business consider applying for temporary work or putting yourself forward to learn more about the HR functions at your present employer. Many office jobs involve elements of HR and will allow you to see the processes involved. You must be able to work collaboratively with your colleagues throughout the company to be successful – it’s very much a team effort. Good HR professionals are excellent multi-taskers with strong organisational skills. To succeed in this sector, you need to be good at engaging with clients, listening to your company’s needs and delivering results.

Succeeding at interviews for HR vacancies

If you want to make a good impression in your interview, you’ll first need to understand what HR is really about – contributing to the success of the business. Before you go to interview you’ll need to research the industries and sectors in which the business operates, as this will determine the role of HR in that organisation.

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In Partnership

This content has been written or sourced by AGCAS, the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services, and edited by TARGETjobs as part of a content partnership. AGCAS provides impartial information and guidance resources for higher education student career development and graduate employment professionals.