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Placements/internship opportunities in HR

How to get work experience in HR and recruitment

Work experience in HR or recruitment will help you convince graduate recruiters that you’re genuinely interested in this career path and have made the effort to see whether it’s a good fit for you or not.

HR summer internships and placement years

A number of large companies in the UK offer work experience in their HR departments. These employers operate in a range of industries, from finance and retail to IT and engineering. Companies who have previously offered HR internships and/or industrial placements include:

  • Accenture
  • Barclays
  • BP
  • GlaxoSmithKline
  • IBM
  • J.P. Morgan
  • L’Oréal
  • Marks & Spencer
  • Rolls-Royce

However, just because a company advertised a HR programme one year, doesn’t mean it will every year. Equally, a company that hasn’t recruited HR interns previously may decide to this year. It all depends on the business’ needs and current resources. Keep an eye on the job listings on this page to see who is currently offering HR opportunities.

Alternatively, you may be able to secure some work experience with a smaller, local business. Remember that every employer needs a HR department, even if it’s only made up of one person. It’s unlikely that these companies will formally advertise internships, but you can apply speculatively to ask if they’d be willing to offer you some work experience, even if it’s just for a couple of weeks.

Work experience in recruitment

Internships and placement years with recruitment agencies are rarer, so you’ll need to be resourceful in your hunt for work experience.

That isn’t to say you can’t get a placement in recruitment; Hays, for example, offers a 12-month intern programme. You could also get in touch with other recruitment consultancies, such as Adecco, Gattaca, Michael Page, Opus Talent Solutions and Randstad, to ask whether they offer any internship opportunities. You could get in touch with them over email or over the phone – or you could see if any recruitment consultancies are due to attend a careers fair at your university.

Some HR summer internships and placement years may allow you to focus on the recruitment side of things. While this is in a different environment to that of a recruitment agency, some relevant experience is better than no experience. If the job description doesn’t reveal whether you would have the chance to work in recruitment, consider approaching the company at a careers fair or emailing them to find out.

Other experience that is relevant for a career in HR and recruitment

Get in touch with your university careers service; they may even be able to offer you some relevant experience with them!

Your work experience doesn’t need to be in HR or recruitment for it to be relevant. If you can’t get an internship in HR, look for work experience in an office or administrative role. If you’re struggling to secure some work experience in recruitment, consider sales or marketing – or any customer-facing role.

There are also plenty of other activities you can do besides formal work experience that will impress recruiters. Consider the following suggestions:

  • study for a qualification with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)
  • meet HR and recruitment professionals by attending careers and networking events on campus and further afield (the CIPD often holds events) and using LinkedIn
  • look into mentoring opportunities with your university
  • join – and play an active role in the running of – relevant university societies, clubs or sports where you can develop the transferable skills that are key for HR and recruitment professionals, such as the ability to make decisions and to work with a range of people
Other activities that will help you develop useful skills include getting a part-time job, travelling independently and volunteering or fundraising.