I often hear young folks tell me they want to get into human resources because they are good with people and they like working with people. It’s true that an HR professional must have good people skills since the product they are dealing with is, after all…people. But for some reason, every time I hear it, I cringe. I think maybe these folks should be thinking about some other field like counseling or something in the social sciences. Yes, there are aspects of counseling in every HR job and there are lots of opportunities to work with people. Then again, most jobs, no matter what the discipline require people skills and interacting with others effectively. Why does someone automatically think of HR because they want to work with people?
Many HR professionals, including myself, are speaking out against the old stereotypes of what used to be called personnel. HR is so much more than just the department that keeps people in line or acts as the gatekeeper to bring people in and out of the organization. Some employees mistakenly look at HR as the representative voice of the people. Executives often call upon HR to deliver tough messages to the staff since they “know how to talk to the employees”. But, for HR to be truly effective, they need to have strong business acumen. They need to understand the business, the products, the sales cycle, marketing, development, manufacturing, service, etc. They need to be able to create a budget and read a financial statement.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recently changed their certification program and adopted a competency and knowledge based model. It looks at HR functional knowledge as the foundation, and introduces technical and behavioral competencies. In looking at the technical competencies, they look at four areas; people, organization, workplace, and strategy. People represents only one part of the HR expertise. Just being good with people or liking the fact you work with people is not going to make you a full-rounded, well-balanced HR professional.
So, when someone says they like working with people, help them understand that the HR profession is so much more than that. If that’s the answer they give in an interview, it may be well short of what organizations are truly looking for in their next HR hir