The Prepped Team
November 8, 2022
An entry level job in human resources can be a first step to a fulfilling career that focuses on helping people thrive in the workplace. Today’s companies recognize that employees are key to their success. As a result, human resources is a growing function that helps create and lead people-centric practices that strengthen the workplace. The demand for HR professionals spans all industries and has increased 131 per cent over the past two years, making it an ideal profession for new graduates who are passionate about helping other professionals excel in the workplace.
In this article, we outline what the HR function does, what are some entry-level jobs in HR, how you can become a human resources professional, and tips on how to get your first HR job after you graduate.
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Human resources professionals have a wide range of responsibilities. At a small- to medium-size enterprise (SME) where the HR department is small, you may have a diverse role to play in supporting employees. Whereas in a corporation with a large HR department, you may have a more narrowly defined role where you can build deep expertise in one area. There are various ways in which HR supports businesses and their employees, such as:
With such a variety of career paths to pursue, you may want to focus exclusively on one area to develop deep expertise in it, explore a number of paths to determine your passion, or become a generalist with a broad knowledge of many aspects of human resources.
Whichever path you choose, an entry-level HR position after graduation can open the door to a rewarding career that’s in demand by companies across Canada.
Human resources professionals are needed across all industries and business categories, including government, academic institutions, non-profit organizations, technology, insurance and financial services, consumer products, recruitment agencies, consulting businesses, and media organizations. Over the past few years, the workplace has changed significantly, from the pivot to remote or flexible work arrangements and increased attention to employee mental health, diversity, and inclusivity to challenges with employee retention, and the role of HR professionals has become centrestage. Many industries in Canada also face labour shortages, fueling the need for HR professionals to recruit, train, and retain staff.
Recent graduates can look forward to a challenging and evolving career in the field of human resources. Some common entry level job titles in human resources are:
Many entry level human resources jobs require candidates to have a university or college degree in a related field, such as psychology, business administration, industrial relations, or social sciences.
If you have an MBA specializing in human resources, you will likely have even more opportunities for jobs and career advancement. If you have an undergraduate degree and wish to increase your understanding of human resources while boosting your competitive edge in the workforce, you may want to consider a post-graduate certificate or diploma in human resources.
Working towards an HR designation can be a significant boost to your resume. The Chartered Professional in Human Resources (CPHR) designation is offered by Chartered Professionals in Human Resources Canada (CPHR) in many provinces and territories. In Ontario, the Human Resources Professional Association (HRPA) offers HR designations as well, with the Certified Human Resource Professional (CHRP) designation being most relevant for new graduates. You will typically need to complete an academic course component and appear for two exams to earn this credential.
An undergraduate degree for a human resources job takes three to four years; a college diploma or certificate in a related field may be completed in two to three years (a co-op program may take longer). To complete an MBA or a post-graduate certificate program in HR, you’ll need to attend school for one or two additional years.
A wide variety of skills are valued by employers when hiring an HR professional. Here are some key skills that can help your resume stand out when applying for an entry-level HR position:
An ideal resume and cover letter should not only pass the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) many employers use, but also convince the recruiter that you’re a good fit for the job. Although it may be a daunting task when you’re applying for your first job out of university or college, here are some helpful tips to craft an impressive resume:
While crafting a professional resume and cover letter is essential to your job search, there are many other considerations to help you land the HR job you want. Here are some ways to set yourself up for success when applying for an entry level HR job after you graduate.
You can cultivate relevant experience while you’re still in school through internships, volunteering, or a part-time office job before you graduate. Most part-time jobs offer at least some opportunity to build skills that are valuable in the human resources field, so carefully consider what transferable skills you may have picked up in each role. For instance, if you’ve worked as a barista, you likely have experience with teamwork and multi-tasking. If you worked part-time at a yoga studio, you may have learnt about mental health wellness and honed your communication skills. If you had a summer job as a receptionist, you might have experience with following procedure, and may have built your communication and organization skills. Add relevant experience to your resume, outlining your achievements and transferable skills, to improve your candidacy.
There are two benefits to building your skill set. One is to improve your knowledge for your desired job, and the other is to show hiring managers that you’re a self-learner and eager to continue learning on-the-job. There are a number of specific skills you can learn to improve your chances of getting hired for your desired HR role. If you’re not sure about which certifications or skills are in demand, review job postings to find the skills employers most commonly ask for.
Many human resources roles require proficiency in Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS), Talent Management Software (TMS), and Application Tracking Systems (ATS). Familiarizing yourself with these platforms can help you upgrade your technical skills. You may also want to expand your knowledge on specific topics such as pensions and benefits, labour relations, diversity and inclusion, and mental health through online workshops and courses.
Did you know that a large percentage of job openings in Canada are never publicly advertised? They are filled through recruiters’ networks instead, which is why networking should be a key part of your job search strategy. A strong professional network can unlock the door to some of these hidden job opportunities. LinkedIn is a great place to start building connections with HR professionals as well as potential employers. As a recent grad, you may find that many seasoned professionals are happy to talk to you about the industry over a coffee chat or informational interview.
Alumni from your university or college may also be happy to support recent graduates from their alma mater, both with industry insights and job referrals. Seek opportunities to build your network with HR professionals in the industry or companies you want to work in. You may also want to consider human resources associations that host conferences or meet-ups. Find out if any offer student memberships or programs that support recent graduates just starting their careers.
To take advantage of the human resources job market, be sure to pursue a variety of job search sources. One of the simplest ways to find jobs is through online portals like Glassdoor, Monster, Indeed, LinkedIn, and Grabjobs, so these should definitely be part of your strategy. Your university or college job portal is also a good place to routinely check for employment targeted to recent graduates. Recruitment agencies may have access to entry-level HR roles, so consider reaching out to ones that specialize in this field or a specific industry you wish to target, such as technology.
Because human resources spans every industry, you may want to narrow your search by based on personal interests or career aspirations. Compile a list of companies you wish to target and track their career pages to stay abreast of job opportunities. Learn more about them by following their social media accounts, including LinkedIn, where you can search for employees who graduated from your college or university or who are among your first or second degree connections. After making the connection, ask if they’ll be willing to meet for informational interviews.
Job fairs can be a good place to find entry-level HR jobs. Be sure to attend on-campus job fairs at your university or college where employers target new graduates. Professional organizations, such as the HRPA, also host career fairs for new graduates to fill internships and entry-level positions. Whether the event is in-person or virtual, be sure to have your resume ready and be prepared to answer questions about your career aspirations on-the-spot to improve your odds of getting an interview later. It’s a good practice to research the employers who’ll be attending the job fair in advance and look at job postings on their website, so you can stand out with a customized resume.
All your work to craft a professional resume and cover letter pays off when you get an invitation for an interview. The resume shortlisting process can be rigorous, as many companies rely on ATS to filter out candidates that don’t meet minimum requirements. This is why customizing your resume with keywords is so essential. However, referrals are also an ideal way to get your application in front of a hiring manager.
Once the hiring manager has reviewed your resume and decided you may be a good fit for the job, the interview process begins. Although many new grads find the interview process stressful, with proper preparation you’ll succeed in impressing the hiring manager and increasing your chances of receiving a job offer.
The typical interview process for HR positions can include up to four interviews. The first round is often a screening interview that is done over the phone, as an on-demand video interview, or a live video interview. This is typically followed by a one-on-one interview with the hiring manager, one or more panel interviews with the human resources team, and a culture fit interview.
The interviewers will ask technical questions as well as a mix of general, behavioural, and culture fit questions. Practicing your responses to potential interview questions can help calm your nervousness and, more importantly, help you make a good first impression. When coming up with answers, it’s a good idea to research the company’s website and social media channels so that your responses relate specifically to the role and the company.
It’s normal to be nervous before an interview, which is why preparation is key to ensure you respond to questions professionally, even if you have the jitters. Here are some simple tips to keep in mind.
As a recent graduate, landing your dream job is your top priority. At Prepped, we provide you the tools you need to get your first job. With our Resume Scanner, you can build an ATS-friendly resume that’ll impress recruiters. You can also use our AI Interview practice tool to approach the hiring process with confidence. Sign up for Prepped to get access to tools and resources that’ll make your job search easier and more effective.