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How to get an entry-level job in human resources

Published March 21, 2024| minute read
Hadiya Iqbal

Senior Associate, JPMorgan Chase

    Working in human resources (HR) can come with a wide range of responsibilities, from coordinating employee recruitment efforts to ensuring that the organization you work for complies with employment laws and regulations.

    It can be a fulfilling career for those passionate about supporting and developing a workforce within an organization, broadly speaking, along with aiding in the development of individuals’ careers. People in HR may have a direct role in influencing workplace culture along with influencing the overarching strategy of a company.

    Continue reading to learn more about finding an entry-level job in HR.

    What does someone working in HR do?

    Human resources, also known as HR, refers to the department within an organization that’s responsible for managing the employees who work in an organization. HR is often critical in supporting an organization's workforce and creating a positive work environment. It’s often a diverse pillar within a company, and HR professionals may take on many different roles that can be quite far-reaching.

    Some common responsibilities for HR professionals include:

    • Recruiting and hiring employees
    • Training employees
    • Helping to structure pay and benefits for employees
    • Employee relations
    • Defining and maintaining a workplace culture
    • Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives and recruiting
    • Maintaining compliance with employment laws and regulations

    Entry-level roles in HR

    As covered above, HR can be defined quite broadly within companies. Here are some entry-level HR roles that companies fill:

    • HR Assistant: Those in these roles may support various HR functions, such as recruitment, benefits, administration, employee relations, and HR policy implementation. They may also handle administrative tasks and assist with maintaining HR databases.
    • Recruiting Coordinator: Those in these roles may assist with various aspects of the recruitment process, such as posting job openings, scheduling interviews, and communicating with candidates. They may also help maintain candidate databases and track recruiting metrics.
    • Payroll Assistant: Those in these roles may help with processing employee payroll, managing timekeeping systems, and ensuring accurate and timely payments to employees. This role can be an entry point for individuals interested in the financial and administrative aspects of HR.
    • Benefits Administrator: Those in these roles may assist with managing employee benefit programs, such as health insurance, retirement plans, and other perks. This role may involve communicating with employees about benefits and assisting with benefit enrollment processes.
    • Employee Relations Assistant: Those in these roles often work to maintain positive employee relations within an organization. This may involve assisting with conflict resolution, employee engagement programs, and feedback surveys.
    • Entry-Level HR Information System (HRIS) Analyst: Those in these roles may be involved in managing and optimizing HR databases and systems. They often work to secure data accuracy and provide technical support for HR systems.
    • Training Coordinator: Those in these roles may organize and schedule employee training sessions, including logistics and materials. They often work closely with those leading training programs to ensure that training runs smoothly.
    • DE&I Coordinator: Those in these roles may support initiatives and programs to promote diversity and inclusion within an organization. This may involve organizing diversity training sessions, participating in recruitment efforts to diversify the workforce, and collecting data to assess the effectiveness of any DE&I initiatives.
    • Entry-Level DE&I Analyst: Those in these roles may collect and analyze data related to DE&I efforts within a company.

    What’s an entry-level HR professional’s salary?

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2022 median annual salary for HR specialists was $64,240. Keep in mind that this salary is for HR specialists in general and not just for those in entry-level positions, but it does provide some context for what to expect salary-wise for HR positions. 

    It's also noteworthy that HR specialist positions are projected to grow by 6% from 2022 to 2032, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This means about 78,700 openings for HR specialists are projected to be added to the job market each year, on average, over the next decade.

    How to secure an entry-level job in HR

    Acquiring a job in HR may be competitive, but building a skill set that will be attractive to potential employers and then taking steps to prepare to find a job in HR may be helpful on your road to landing an entry-level job in HR.

    Education requirements

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a bachelor’s degree is the typical education level of HR specialists. Majoring in HR or a related subject such as industrial or organizational psychology may help you stand out to prospective employers, but it’s usually not a job requirement.

    Skills employers may look for

    • Communication skills: Strong written and verbal communication skills may be essential for interacting with employees, managers, and external parties. This includes the ability to convey information clearly and professionally, strong active listening skills, and effective conflict resolution skills.
    • Interpersonal skills: You may need to build strong relationships and interact with individuals at a variety of levels within an organization working in HR. This may involve having soft skills like empathy, tact, and the ability to maintain confidentiality.
    • Attention to detail: Being meticulous and thorough may be important when it comes to tasks such as maintaining employee records, handling sensitive information, and ensuring accuracy in documentation.
    • Problem-solving skills: HR professionals often need to be able to identify issues, analyze situations, and propose solutions to resolve employee conflicts, performance issues, or other HR-related challenges.
    • Organizational skills: The ability to manage multiple tasks, prioritize work, and meet deadlines is often crucial in HR roles, particularly when dealing with recruitment, onboarding, or employee benefits administration.
    • Teamwork: The ability to collaborate with colleagues within HR and other areas of an organization is often essential in HR roles.

    Potential steps to take to secure an entry-level job in HR

    If you’re interested in pursuing an entry-level job in HR, there are a few steps to consider taking to best set yourself up for success in your job search.

    • Network with HR professionals and recruiters: Networking is a powerful tool for job seekers, including in the HR field. Consider connecting with HR professionals through in-person events, industry seminars, and online platforms. Professional networking can open doors to mentorship opportunities, informational interviews, and potential job leads. Additionally, consider joining HR-related professional associations and attending events to broaden your network. Beyond networking with HR professionals, consider networking at companies you’re interested in joining, as well as recruiters.
    • Seek internship opportunities to build your resume: Internships may provide valuable hands-on experience and can serve as a gateway to securing a full-time role in HR. Research and apply for internships with companies that offer HR internship programs for students and recent graduates. The skills and insights gained from working in an HR environment may enhance your desirability as a potential hire when you’re ready to apply for entry-level roles.
    • Tailor your resume for HR-specific roles: It’s common advice to tailor your resume to the jobs you’re applying for. HR roles are no exception. We’ll go into more detail below on how to consider doing this.
    • Prepare for interviews in advance: As you start landing interviews, thorough preparation may be critical to presenting yourself as a strong candidate. Familiarize yourself with common interview questions HR candidates receive, and practice articulating your responses. Be ready to discuss how your skills, experiences, and education align with the responsibilities of an entry-level HR position and be able to demonstrate your passion for contributing to an organization’s HR initiatives.

    What to include on your resume if you’re applying for entry-level HR jobs

    When tailoring your resume for entry-level HR roles, it’s essential to highlight relevant experiences, skills, and an educational background that align with the job description of the role you’re applying for. Start by emphasizing any direct experience in HR-related positions, such as internships or volunteer roles where you managed responsibilities akin to those in HR, like organizing events, recruiting, or participating in training and development programs.

    If your direct experience is limited, showcase transferable skills from other roles, such as communication, organization, problem-solving, and teamwork, that may be critical for HR roles. Mention specific examples where you can, like leading a team project, resolving conflict, or coordinating logistics for events, to illustrate how your skills and experiences align with the HR roles you’re applying for.

    Your educational background also plays a significant part, especially for entry-level positions. Include your degree and highlight any relevant coursework and certifications that you have. Any workshops and seminars related to HR that you’ve completed may also be worth including.

    Lastly, use keywords and phrases from job descriptions to tailor your resume to the specific HR roles you’re applying for. For example, if the job emphasizes recruitment, provide details of any experience or skills in this area. For a role focused on training and development, describe experiences where you’ve facilitated training sessions or developed educational content. This targeted approach may increase your chances of standing out to recruiters and hiring managers.

    Final thoughts

    As you prepare to apply for entry-level roles in HR, network and tailor your resume and build up your skill set where you can. Also, don’t forget how varied HR roles can be and explore the full breadth of jobs that may be available to apply for.