Human Resources Specialist

A day in the life of a human resources specialist: coordinate interviewing and hiring; handle paperwork; coordinate exit processes for departing employees; facilitate career growth

The Balance / Derek Abella

human resources specialist—often referred to as an HR specialist—helps an employer find job candidates who are most qualified to meet the organization's needs. They recruit applicants, review resumes, conduct interviews, and perform background checks. The HR specialist may also inform applicants of their acceptance or rejection.

Their work often goes beyond recruitment and hiring. An HR specialist may orient new employees by explaining company or organization policies, procedures, and benefits. Some HR specialists also have other duties including benefits administration and employee retention.

Quick Facts

  • HR specialists earn a median annual salary of $60,350 (2017).
  • 547,800 people work in this occupation (2016).
  • While most human resources specialists recruit and screen applicants, as well as tend to other HR-related tasks, for one employer, about 16% work for employment placement firms or temporary help agencies, acting as consultants to other companies.
  • Most HR specialists work full time during regular business hours.
  • Those who specialize in recruitment must travel to job fairs and college campuses where they have access to potential applicants.
  • Human resources specialists have a good job outlook. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment will grow as fast as the average for all occupations between 2016 and 2026.

A Day in a Human Resources Specialist's Life

These are some typical job duties taken from online ads for human resources specialist positions on

  • "Recruit and coordinate interviewing, references, and documentation for staff hiring"
  • "Follow up on hiring decisions"
  • "Distribute, complete, and process paperwork for new hires"
  • "Work with employees to answer benefits questions and assist in processing life events and open enrollment elections"
  • "Conduct new hire orientation and benefits orientation to build a strong foundation for new employees and increase employee engagement"
  • "Assist in the development of policies and procedures"
  • "Coordinate exit process for departing employees"
  • "Coach management and teams to promote and facilitate career growth and development"

How to Become an HR Specialist

Most employers will only hire human resources specialists who have a bachelor's degree in human resources management, business, or a related major. Earning a degree in psychology, particularly with a minor or dual major in human resources or business, can also prepare you for this career. Regardless of the major, coursework should include personnel administration, human resources and labor relations, social sciences, business administration, and behavioral sciences.

Human resources specialists aren't required to become certified but doing so can increase the likelihood of advancing in this field. Two organizations that offer professional certification are the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the HR Certification Institute (HRCI).

Soft Skills That Will Help You Succeed in This Career

In addition to educational requirements and voluntary certification, an HR specialist also needs certain soft skills (personal qualities) to succeed in this occupation. Interviewing job candidates requires one to have strong listening skills. He or she also needs excellent interpersonal skills including, social perceptiveness—an awareness of another person's reactions. Excellent speaking skills, as well as the ability to convey information through writing, are other necessary attributes, as are sound judgment and superior decision-making skills.

What Employers Will Expect From You

Here are some requirements from real job announcements on

  • "Excellent attention to detail while multitasking"
  • "Ability to handle sensitive situations and maintain a high degree of confidentiality"
  • "PC literate, including Microsoft Office products"
  • "Extremely strong organizational skills"
  • "Ability to build and develop relationships"
  • "Ability to execute daily tasks with minimal supervision"
  • "Maintain records or files and respond to visitors and telephone calls"
  • "Demonstrated ability to exercise initiative, independent judgment and be a self-starter who works with integrity while also being a strong team player"

How to Determine If This Occupation Is a Good Fit for You

Career satisfaction is more likely to be achieved if an occupation is a good fit for your interests, personality type, work-related values, and aptitude. Learn about yourself by doing a self-assessment and consider becoming a human resources specialist if you have the following traits:

  • Interests (Holland Code): ECS (Enterprising, Conventional, Social)
  • Personality Type (MBTI Personality Types): ENFJ, INFJ, ENFP, INFP, ENTJ, ENTP, ESTP
  • Work-Related Values: Relationships, Support, Achievement

Occupations With Related Tasks and Activities



Median Annual Wage (2017)

Minimum Required Education/Training

Human Resources Manager Oversees hiring and strategic planning for an organization's staffing needs $110,120 Bachelor's Degree in Human Resources or a Related Field
Human Resources Assistant Provides support services to HR specialists $39,480 HS Diploma or GED (minimum); Associate Degree
Labor Relations Specialist Works with labor union representatives and an organization's management team $63,200 Bachelor's Degree in Labor Relations, HR, or Business


  • Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook
  • Employment and Training Administration
  • U.S. Department of Labor
  • O*NET Online (visited January 9, 2018)