ROI’s Marcy Whelan was a guest lecturer at Lindenwood University recently, where she met with students preparing for careers as Human Resources Professionals. Marcy offered the students tips relevant to anyone in the job market, including interesting insights about trends in HR today as well as tips for the interview process. Marcy said that developing soft skills has never been more important, particularly at a time when many firms are favoring generalists over those with specific technical expertise. She offered a list of the top skills necessary to get hired:

  1. The ability to work in a team structure
  2. The ability to make decisions and solve problems
  3. The ability to communicate verbally with people inside and outside an organization
  4. The ability to plan, organize and prioritize work
  5. The ability to analyze quantitative data
  6. Technical knowledge related to the job
  7. The ability to sell and influence others

Marcy also emphasized that one of the fundamental tenets of HR is solid business acumen. “Human resources is, first and foremost, a business function,” Marcy said. “During interviews, a lot of entry-level candidates say they like HR because they like people. That’s the worst answer they can give. Ultimately, a great HR person understands the business and can apply people strategies to help it succeed.”

Marcy told the students that most HR professionals most likely will employ behavioral interviewing techniques, so job candidates should be able to provide examples of how they’ve applied key skills and personal qualities to their work, volunteer and academic roles. Prior to the interview, candidates should assess the skills critical to carrying out the job they’re interviewing for, then prepare anecdotes detailing the situations, actions taken, and results generated using each of those skills.

Interviewers will be particularly attentive to interviewing protocol, so interviewees should dress appropriately. And they must send an effective thank you letter after the interview.

Finally, Marcy noted that it’s important for entry-level candidates to manage their expectations. “Your first job may feel administrative. You must be flexible and be ready to start at the bottom, because that’s how you’re going to understand all the pieces.  The better your foundation, the further you will go,” she said.