Jobseekers and career-changers need more than a pair of sharp elbows to get ahead in today's tough economic climate. A CV that displays sought-after skills, attributes and achievements will grab a recruiter's attention.
But which skills should you emphasise, and which are regarded as the most transferable?
"I would always look for a well-rounded CV that demonstrates experience of all aspects of HR", says award-winning businesswoman Natasha Schofield.
Schofield, recent recipient of the Professional Services category of the Enterprise Vision Awards 2011, is managing director of Grassroots HR and a former HR manager. "Above all," she says, "HR professionals should show that they are 'business savvy'."
Top three HR skills to get you noticed: skills and evidence for your CV
1. Employment law
Suggested evidence: TUPE transfers - especially with the number of mergers and acquisitions in the current market and the growth in outsourcing. A complex area which people shy away from.
2. Talent management
Suggested evidence: Facilitating proven strategies for staff motivation and the development and retention of key personnel. Developing dynamic teams through psychometric profiling and development - to get more productivity and flow from employees.
3. Supporting the business
Suggested evidence: Restructuring a company in the tough economy while maintaining growth, performance and staff motivation/engagement. Demonstrating the impact of your decisions on the bottom line of the business. Showing proficiency in reducing attrition and increasing staff performance.
Source: Natasha Schofield, Grassroots HR.
Demonstrating such business intelligence is not easy in the current climate, as the recent survey "HR 2020 - rethinking the HR function in turbulent times" demonstrates. This global research, by Hyland Software, identified that the HR function is "facing an extended period of rapid change and transition, as it seeks to align more closely with the business at a time when the nature of work itself is becoming more complex".
Hyland's research identifies the complexity as "an increasingly international, cross-generational, multi-partner and technologically dependent design for many work activities".
The first step in convincing an employer that you have the skills to tackle this complexity comes from researching the organisation to which you are applying, so that you can tune your CV appropriately. This is according to Willma Tucker, principal consultant at Right Management, a talent and career management consultancy that is part of the Manpower group. "Understand what the issues are for them," she says.
Today's issues often centre around the need for HR professionals to be business partners, and Tucker recommends that applicants meet these expectations by demonstrating that they have led a robust workforce strategy that managed the talent within an organisation and helped it plan where it would go next.
"One of the reasons for complexity is that there are potentially four generations in the workplace," she says, adding that applicants need to show that they know how to develop, attract and retain talent from these different groups.
"Applicants should show why and how they have successfully implemented a people strategy - and how they imposed some hard measures around this culturally. This may be around seeing wellness as a strategy which drives out inefficient costs, for example."
The dominance of the internet as a research resource and a purveyor of social media means that evidence of harnessing it successfully is also becoming a necessary skill for job applicants.
"Applicants should show that they are media literate and that they understand which sources have authority and which are opinions dressed up as fact and therefore to be avoided," says Robin Hoyle, head of learning at Infinity Learning. "There is a real requirement for skilled information seekers."
Potential applicants who don't feel that they have enough to shout about in any of these key areas need to take time out of job hunting in order to devote time to personal development and align themselves with what Schofield calls "hot projects".
"In my case, in my last roles in HR before I set up Grassroots HR, I moved from a growing company with a lot of focus on recruitment, psychometric profiling and building dynamic teams, to one that was making redundancies and involved in TUPE transfers. It was invaluable to broaden my experience."
Hoyle agrees: "It's always good to say that 'when I was in x role I did y'. Always show that you have leather-on-the-sidewalk experience."