How to get into HR

Getting that first all-important job in HR can be hard. It is even harder for people who don’t have any formal training because it is such a competitive profession. Employers can afford to be picky and will usually plump for the candidate with qualifications rather than the candidate with none.

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Not having any qualifications to offer also limits the number and scope of positions you could realistically apply for.

That said, there are HR professionals who made it into the field without any prior training, but they are in the minority. “It is possible to make a start in HR without a formal qualification,” says Gail Bell, managing director at recruitment consultancy, Interim & Executive Performers. “However, it depends on the level at which you are working and what your responsibilities are.”

There are a few things an aspiring HR professional can do to help their cause if acquiring a qualification first isn’t an option.

Start at the bottom

The most realistic place to start looking for jobs is at entry level, doing an administrator or HR assistant role. Having gained prior experience of working in an office will also help because you will have some administrative skills to offer. The work will be fairly routine but it is a way in. Most people start their HR career in an administrative role anyway, with or without training.

Work experience

Gaining work experience is always helpful because it shows a genuine interest and commitment to pursuing HR as a career. Just make sure the work experience is real and relevant and that you get a reference from the employer. Also try to make it longer than just a two-week stint, otherwise it looks a bit tokenistic. It’s also worth bearing in mind that successful work experience placements sometimes lead to job offers and it’s certainly a good way to get your foot in the door. If this doesn’t happen, at least the experiences you gain would give you something concrete and recent to talk about at interview.

Get a job in recruitment

Another potential route into HR is working as an assistant within a recruitment function. Bell says people do make the crossover from recruitment to HR. However, to get a job in recruitment there are certain skills and aptitudes that you would already need, so this is only relevant if you have them or are prepared to get them. “You will of course need skills before entering the recruitment market, such as sales, account management or business development,” says Bell.


Networking is always important and can be very useful when starting off in a new industry. It is often through talking to people that you hear of vacancies or other possibilities coming up. Use events to seek advice from HR professionals and improve your understanding of the profession and what’s happening in the industry.

Sign up to agencies

There are a number of agencies that specialise in junior HR recruitment, who would have vacancies on their list and again could be a valuable source of advice and information. Some also cover temporary vacancies, which could be useful.

If you are looking for a Human Resources job please visit our HR job section.

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