As convocation comes to a close, it is on to the next chapter for the class of 2017. For all the HR graduates on the hunt for employment, we asked industry professionals Stephanie d’Obrenan and Michael Kim for job search advice based on their years of recruiting experience. 

  • Stephanie d’Obrenan: Nine years of experience, currently a Human Resources Manager at 30 Forensic Engineering
  • Michael Kim: Three years of experience, currently a Payroll Administrator at Toronto Community Housing

Here are their thoughts on questions that have likely crossed your mind as you prepare to compete against your fellow HR graduates:

1. For someone with no work experience in HR, how can he/she stay competitive among the pool of applicants in the job market?

Standing out without real-world HR experience can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. It’s all about getting creative with how you brand yourself.

Stephanie – “Don’t be afraid to show your personality in your resume, LinkedIn and interviews. Everyone says they are a hard working, team player with good attention to detail etc. What have you accomplished in your spare time? What are you passionate about outside of your career? I want to hire someone that is skilled but ultimately someone who is also fun, dynamic, and enjoyable to be around.”

Michael – “Take initiative during the recruiting process. Instead of telling the employer what you are capable of accomplishing, show them. Give them something that relates to what you would be doing on the job. For example, you could pull your knowledge of the different business functions to draft a short proposal on ways of better aligning the HR strategy to the strategies of finance and marketing. Giving them a sample of your work can not only show that you are invested in getting the job, but is also a great way to showcase a variety of your skills in one effort, such as communication, detail orientation, and problem-solving. It’s really about thinking outside the box when marketing yourself and there are plenty of ways to do that – the only limit is your imagination”

2. When hiring for an HR position, what are the top qualities you seek out in candidates that are needed to succeed in the profession?

Differentiate yourself from the hundreds of applicants offering their communication, problem-solving, and organizational skills by giving employers qualities beyond what is expected.

Stephanie – “The ability to adapt to change and adversity.  Employees are your biggest wild card, and they are always changing. If you can’t learn to adapt to the changing circumstances and the situations that different mixes of personalities among employees will bring to you, then you will have a challenging time in HR. You need to learn to embrace all the differences and roll with the punches and challenges. The moment there are no more challenges, then you don’t have a job.”

Michael – “I look for someone with exceptional customer service. In HR, the employees are essentially your customers and the ones who come to you first for a lot of their employment needs. It’s important to know that the person I hire has the ability to help employees address situations that arise on the job. Emotional intelligence is also essential in being able to quickly deescalate situations with frustrated employees. The ability to be aware of and have control over your own emotions is a skill that is often overlooked, but says a lot about how well you can handle the most pressing circumstances with employees.” 

3. What additional tips do you have to help new grads launch their HR careers?

Focus on building a sustainable career and, throughout your journey, stay positive, patient, and open.

Stephanie – “Start with a few internships to get a feel for the kind of industry you would like to get into and to make connections. Networking is everything. You may not get a full-time job at the place you intern at, but chances are you will meet someone who knows someone who can pass your information along. Even if it is just the most basic administrative tasks, getting into an organization, meeting people, and doing the mundane tasks with a positive attitude will get you really far down the road. Also, do not be picky about salary. It will take a few years of experience until you have the leverage to market yourself. Education is great and necessary, but it is not bargaining power.”

Michael – “Now that you are out of school, don’t be afraid to go back. HR professionals come from various educational backgrounds so if you’ve graduated from a non-business degree, consider taking some business courses in finance and project management. Or if you think you could improve on your leadership skills, take on a fun extra-curricular activity that’s going to develop that skill for you to later leverage in an interview. I think the lack of alignment between HR and the rest of a business is what keeps HR out of the decision-making tables in some organizations. So if you can continuously improve on your business acumen and show how you can bridge that gap, you’ll have greater leverage on you. Ultimately, just be open to any experience that will add to your skill set. The more patient you are now with developing your skills and experiences at the start of your career, the more success you will find in the long run.”

4. What has been the most rewarding part of your HR career that new grads can look forward to experiencing themselves?

To keep yourself motivated as you experience the challenges of job hunting, always remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Stephanie – “Seeing people that you hired enter into an organization and be successful. When you go through the sometimes very long process of recruitment and finally land on that right person and see them succeed – it is amazing.  They often always come up and thank you (sometimes multiple times) at some point along their journey, as you were the one that played a huge part in getting them to their success. Very rewarding!”

Michael – “The most rewarding part I’ve enjoyed so far is being able to witness the impact of my team’s HR strategies on employee success and well-being within their own careers. There is something very satisfying about seeing others grow and go on to do great things, and it’s something I know very HR professional can relate to.”

Thanks to Stephanie and Michael for their time. If you have any questions you would like answered in the future email us!

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