Five HR skills to get you noticed

Published on: 24 Sep 2013

Getting Noticed

Ambition is back in fashion. After five years of recession-induced reticence, HR professionals are fired up to apply for the bigger roles and new opportunities which the brighter economic outlook promises.

So, now is the time to blow your own trumpet – just make sure that you’re playing the right notes. In other words, highlight the HR skills which recruiters need to see, show that you are a credible business partner who appreciates the pressures on domestic markets and the importance of the global stage and you should shine as a candidate.

“More HR professionals are considering moving jobs, and competition for roles is set to increase, so ensuring you stand out to prospective employers is important,” says Barney Ely, director at Hays Human Resources.

It’s all about business acumen as Ely explains. “Employers are looking for HR professionals with commercial skills, strategic understanding, and who understand the important role HR has to play in the wider organisation”, he says.

Many of the blazing stars of the HR profession display the traits identified by Ely. For example, Tea Colaianni, HR director of Merlin Entertainments, provided strategic focus for the HR function and won the 2012 PersonnelToday award for HR director of the year, while other entries were similarly praised for their business acumen.

So how can you delve into your own experience and achievements in order to label them as the stand- out HR skills?

A useful reference is the list of eight behaviours identified by the CIPD on its Profession Map which sets out the career-enhancing skills and behaviours for aspiring HR professionals. “These are excellent”, says Maureen Scholefield, the managing director of personnel consultancy Cullen Scholefield. She says that they can be used to define a cv. “Anyone can say they have theoretical knowledge, but these behaviours [which range from “decisive thinker” to “courage to challenge”] could be used by job applicants to give practical examples of how they have exhibited this behaviour to benefit the business.”

The Profession Map is a recognised guide to the skills and behaviours which an HR professional needs to demonstrate at all career stages. “Our research suggests that these are the skills employers are looking for, “says CIPD research adviser Dr Jill Miller.

When we also take into consideration the joint five top business priorities as identified by HR directors and business leaders: cost management; being a flexible organisation; growing the domestic market; attention to productivity, and increased customer focus, we can identify the top skills and show how to “sell” them on your CV.

Here are the five top skills in detail:

1. Demonstrate that you can use data to inform business decisions and demonstrate HR’s impact.

Nearly half of HR leaders surveyed by the CIPD said this is a priority development area for their function. “Cost management is one of the main issues keeping business leaders awake at night,” says Miller, “so being able to develop a robust business case for people initiatives and how they will benefit the business is an essential capability.”

2. Provide evidence that people initiatives are underpinned by a robust business case, and that they benefit the business.

In other words, don’t be woolly. Talk about culture being reinforced through performance, management and reward and the effects these three tangibles have had.

3. Explain how you have built relationships within different areas of the business

HR professionals can set themselves apart from other job seekers by demonstrating the ability to build relationships within different areas of the business. Illustrate that a close working with stakeholders and a close understanding of priorities helped tailor HR solutions.  

4. Show that you have influenced business decisions.

Give examples of how you have persuaded leaders to change course or to accept your ideas.  

5. Illustrate success in meeting both the long-term business needs and short-term requirements.

Any HR professional who can show that they have balanced cost- cutting with sustaining a talent pipeline and developing new leaders over the past few years is really worth their salt. “With high uncertainty and change being the ‘new normal’ in the UK over the next few years at least, this is a key skill we need to maintain as a profession”, says Miller.

Written by Stephanie Sparrow