Human Resources Assistant
If you've ever interviewed for a job, you've probably met with a human resources assistant or director. HR professionals are the "people people" at companies. They follow the careers of employees throughout their term of employment; they file the paperwork when someone is hired and file it when that person retires (or is "downsized"). In between the coming and going, they also track employee absences and job performance, process promotions, supervise benefits packages, and listen to employee grievances. If an employee has a query or a gripe regarding pay, retirement or benefits, he or she talks to someone in human resources. In addition, HR professionals organize any employee outings or community outreach programs--the fun stuff!
Growing the business
Human resources personnel are also instrumental in recruiting new employees. They post new job openings; review applications and resumes; interview and test applicants; and hire based on each department's needs. Part of a HR assistant's or director's job is to screen applicants, deciding who gets to the next level of the interview process. Human resources assistants also handle internal recruitment, notifying company employees of openings within the firm and matching qualified applicants to the position. And if that's not enough, HR personnel generally dish out the acceptance and rejection letters to candidates.
A kind ear
HR personnel listen to both employee complaints and concerns. They also work with management to institute policies designed to take into account the "people" aspect of the business, such as incentive compensation plans. As their goal is to create the most productive work environment possible, HR professionals must have expert people skills.
Some companies have one HR manager or staff who handles all employee-related issues, from recruiting and training to safety and workplace issues, to health care and other benefits. Other companies, however, need different HR professionals for different areas and hire HR professionals who specialize in those areas. For example, a construction company will require a health and safety professional who focuses on workplace safety to make sure all their construction sites are safe. The health and safety professional works closely with compensation and benefits professional to make sure that, in the event of an on-site injury, the employee and employer are taken care of, and to ensure that the injury does not happen again. Another growing specialization is organization development (OD). OD professionals evaluate the overall organizational structure of a company and how its employees interact to create a system for the highest productivity and cohesion.
While there are academic programs that prepare candidates for careers in HR (generally master's programs), most human resources professionals do not come through these programs. Many have degrees in "people-related" fields such as psychology. Also, companies tend to hire candidates with experience dealing with people, such as those with a retail or service background. Employees in other areas of a company often transfer to the HR department for a change of pace.
Starting out in human resources, an assistant earns a salary in the mid- to high-$20,000s. Motivated HR professionals may advance to managerial positions or specializations within five years. A master's degree in human resources, labor relations or business administration may be useful for those seeking general or top management positions. The highest-ranking HR professionals can earn six figures or more. After seven to 10 years in the business, HR professionals often start their own consulting businesses or become trainers.
Most HR professionals say that "being able to interact with many people each day and their changing needs/wants," giving employees "a sense of value inside the door and out" are their favorite parts of the job. Looking at the bigger picture of the workplace as a whole, they are the "real contributors" to culture. One New York HR manager says, "the real job in the end" is the "ability to affect culture," a place where employees can do their best and "make a company an employer of choice." In the words of a HR manager, HR professionals are "driven to help and see people be successful." An HR manager from California describes her colleagues as "creative" "good listeners," "highly sensitive and bright," "sometimes nosey" and very loyal to the company.
Human resources professionals enjoy being "at the pulse of an organization." However, the job can sometimes be thankless. Some HR professionals get too bogged down by the technical stuff, such as coordinating benefits packages, that they forget about the joy of "setting cultural tone." HR life can be "hectic" and it makes an assistant's day when "someone actually appreciates what" he or she does or gives him or her a "pat on the back." Human resources is a field where "you're damned if you do and damned if you don't," since it is hard to keep managers and employees happy, insiders confide. "Everyone has some sort of axe to grind and favor to demand," which makes "burnout" a common malady.
Those in the HR department generally have "access to top-secret information," such as "salaries, discipline problems and health problems." It is considered an HR asset to "keep one's mouth shut about sensitive, confidential information." It is important to HR professionals that they breed trust, not only with themselves but also with the company as a whole.
Access to confidential information; Work with people
Long hours; Low starting pay; Listening to constant complaining
Affable; Good listener; Fair-minded; Resourceful
Average about 40 per week
Median salary: $50,230; Average entry-level salary with an undergraduate degree: $41,680; Median for HR managers: $88,510
BA, BS or MS