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HR & recruitment Career Pathways & Advice

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Overview

The Human Resources (HR) sector is focused on finding, hiring and retaining the best people for a business, ensuring their wellbeing whilst they’re there, and diplomatically resolving any legal or personal issues that may arise during their employment.

It’s an industry that’s entirely centred on people – so needs its employees to have the right balance of compassion and emotional intelligence, whilst still being fully aware of the business’s commercial objectives.

Areas within HR include recruitment, learning and development, change management, Workplace Health and Safety (WHS), Industrial Relations (IR), workforce planning and organisational development.

Often a part of HR, recruitment is focused on matching good candidates with the roles that suit them within the organisation – whether they’re from within the company or hired from elsewhere.

Recruitment sees individuals and teams working towards placing skilled individuals within jobs across various sectors. You might work as an in-house recruiter within a company (as detailed above), or for a recruitment agency, working on behalf of clients. You can earn a lot of money as a recruitment consultant, whilst also helping people progress in their own careers.

At a recruitment agency you are likely to recruit for a specific skillset, aiming to place talented individuals within organisations within a specific industry. You’re like to have monthly and weekly targets for placements and retention, and earn commission based on your rate of success.

If you work in-house you’ll source potential employees for the job roles that your company requires, and help to organise their applications and interviews, with the aim of making a successful placement.

You are also likely to be involved in training and inducting successful candidates into the business, and giving feedback to those that have been unsuccessful in their applications.

Because you will sit within an organisation’s HR department, a high level of professionalism is required at all times – there is a certain level of role model responsibility taken on by those who choose to work in this area.

HR & recruitment Jobs

TitleSalaryLocation
Graduate Human resources Assistant£18,000 per annumLondon,
Graduate Human resources Assistant£18,000 per annumLondon,
Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer - Graduate£20,000 to £30,000 per annumLondon, London
Graduate/Trainee Retail Recruitment Consultant£25,000 per annumLondon, London

Skills

Working with people will be a large part of your HR role, so you will require skills in communication and teamwork. These skills are essential to effectively manage the needs of both your team and your employer. As conflict management will also be central to your HR role, skills in this area are also beneficial.

Graduates looking to move into HR need to be highly organised and responsible, and must love working with people – making them perfectly suited to looking after the needs of others in a business environment. Whether your expertise are in management, recruitment or projects, you can find a graduate HR jobs to suit you.

Most degrees will equip you with the skills suggested below, but aside from these distinct skills you will also need a good knowledge of business if you are to get a job in HR. You should also be of good character, in order to represent the business both internally and to outside organisations. All these skills apply both to recruiters working in-house and all others across the HR spectrum.

Working in recruitment means that you will have to have a good head for sales, which requires confidence, good diction and a thick skin – calling clients will inevitably involve knock-backs, and this is something that those in recruitment jobs must be prepared for. Being able to speak confidently and easily to people on the phone is also an essential part of the job.

Being successful in recruitment is largely down to your personality, but many degrees with also equip you with the skills required. Communication, presentation and organisation are all skills that are essential in recruitment.

Progression opportunities

Career progression in HR is fairly straightforward, although it will of course vary between larger and smaller organisations. You’re likely to start as an HR administrator, before becoming an HR assistant or HR officer. Moving up in your career, you could eventually become an HR manager or HR director.

Of course, these roles are general and do not account for the specialisms that you will find within HR if you work in a large organisation – roles such as HR recruitment partner, for example, focus on one specific area, and fall within the wide spectrum of senior level positions within the HR department.

In general HR careers progress quickly, with most of those working in this area receiving promotions or moving to higher level roles within other companies after a couple of years - meaning that you can reach seniority whilst only a few years into your career.

In a recruitment agency you’re likely to begin as a resourcer, before progressing to become a recruitment consultant, senior consultant and eventually manager. There are particularly high earnings at the top end of the scale.

Career development

In both HR and recruitment, you’ll be expected to take on further training to ensure your skills and “people” knowledge is up to date.

In recruitment you might be sent on a course or have internal training in order to learn about specifics such as headhunting, psychometric assessment, employment law, business planning or negotiation.

The same areas of training might be required in HR, or you could find yourself working towards a qualification in counselling, coaching and mentoring, employee engagement or talent management.

Professional qualifications, which you can take whilst working, are run by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC). You may be able to persuade your employer to support you in gaining these qualifications.

Types of jobs in HR & recruitment

Earning potential

HR Managers are paid well, with some paid over £100,000 after only a few years in the industry. This pay-off comes with experience, though – your salary within an HR department is likely to start at around £24,000, going up to £30,000 relatively quickly and progressing from there.

Here are the average salaries for some HR roles:

HR administrator: £19,611
HR assistant: £20,147
HR officer: £24,460
HR advisor: £26,808
HR manager: £35,423
HR business partner: £40,389
HR director: £68,281

As a resourcer (the title you are likely to start with as a graduate in a recruitment agency), you may begin on around £16,000, while more experienced recruitment consultants may be on around £30,000. If you are on a graduate scheme your pay is likely to be somewhere between these amounts to start with.

The opportunity to earn a lot of commission is one of the top reasons for graduates to get into recruitment. As with any sales-based job, if you hit and exceed your target as a recruitment consultant you can take home thousands of pounds in commission each month. Excelling as a resourcer, even at the lowest level of the industry, could mean that you see your basic wage almost double, and this is the case at all levels.

Qualification requirements & subjects to study

Graduates with a wide variety of degrees work in the HR and recruitment sectors. You will usually be expected to have a 2:1. Degrees popular with those working in HR and recruitment include:

  • Humanities
  • History

  • English

  • Management

  • Business


Specialist recruitment companies may prefer their employees to have degrees that are in some way related to the sector they are in - for example, in order to work in recruitment for a company that specialises in finance it would obviously be beneficial to have a strong knowledge of the financial world. If you are to work in a general recruitment agency the subject of your degree will be less important.

How to get there

Many large organisations will run graduate schemes with an HR component. These schemes will last approximately two years and are your best chance of progressing quickly within a team to become an HR Manager. Employers will not usually specify a certain degree for an HR role, with any business or humanities related degree providing you will the soft skills that you’ll need.

There are also a number of entry level roles, for which you should apply directly to the company you are interested in. The majority of employers will look for a 2.1.

As with all competitive sectors, work experience is vital to give yourself the best chance of getting a job. Contact companies directly and see if you can come in for work experience or to shadow a member of staff.

Further Reading

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)
The British Institute of Recruiters
People Analytics and Planning Society (formally The HR Society)
London HR Connection
The Recruitment and Employment Federation
Institute of Recruitment Professionals
Association of Professional Recruitment Consultants

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