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What it Takes to Move into HR

What it Takes to Move into HR

Therese Droste | Monster Contributing Writer

June 20, 2008

Are you interested in working in human resources but fear you lack the experience? Many job seekers in this field are concerned about making this type of move. “Don’t be afraid to apply for an opening,” encourages Shannon Arens, a human resources specialist with Sioux City, Iowa-based Terra Industries Inc., a manufacturing company. “There’s great growth potential.”

If you can’t talk benefits or employee compensation programs with interviewers, don’t fudge it, and don’t feel you need to. It’s the intangible skills that count, says Donna Bernardi Paul, vice president and director of human resources services at Trammell Crow Co., a commercial real estate services firm in Washington, DC. “The technical skills can be learned,” she says. “But skills like good judgment and attitude are crucial for being a good administrative assistant.”

HR Essential Skills

“When I look for an administrative assistant, I’m not looking to see if the person has knowledge of benefits or the law,” says Paul. “I’ll teach people everything I know if they’re enthusiastic, have a customer service ethic and are hardworking and reliable.” Since company policies and procedures will vary, it makes it easier to learn everything you need to know on the job, she adds.

Good judgment and a large dose of discretion are both key to succeeding in HR. “You must be trustworthy, because people in HR know employee information before others do,” says Rebecca Zimmerman, an executive secretary to the senior vice president and chief administrative officer at Terra Industries. “I’d say the biggest challenge is confidentiality. You can’t share information with anyone.” Confidential information ranges from who is in line to get a promotion or to be fired to what’s in an employee’s performance review and paycheck.

You must be a people person to work in HR, says Zimmerman, who divides her time between corporate relations and human resources. She received on-the-job training for her HR role. “You deal with all different personalities, so if you’re not diplomatic, HR isn’t the place to be,” she says.

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