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You may have heard the term HR hundreds of times, but do you really know what HR or recruitment professionals do? As any manager will tell you, ‘a contented workforce is a successful one’ and no department has a bigger impact on this than human resources.

What is HR?

Also known as personnel, HR addresses all kinds of vital issues, for example profitability, restructuring, flexible working and globalisation, through to the effective management and development of people. As a human resources professional, you could be involved with the recruitment, training, management and development of employees; looking at salaries and benefits; legal issues concerning employment; help shape the culture of the company; help keep employees and colleagues engaged and proactive in the company.

Many people choose a career in HR because of the contact with people, the opportunity to influence all aspects of an organisation and the prospect of tackling a range of key business issues. The human resources profession offers you the opportunity to take your career in a variety of directions, with good salaries and the chance to influence strategic business decisions.

Human resources professionals are employed in all sorts of organisations and your responsibilities will vary depending on the size, nature and sector of your organisation. You may prefer to be a generalist and do a bit of everything, or you may want to specialise in areas like recruitment, training or employment law.

With good managers in HR, this department can really contribute to longevity of a business. Just look at the most successful companies worldwide and you can clearly see how highly they value people and in turn how their employees value the company. Virgin, Google and Heinz are all great examples of top class people management skills and how a good company culture is key to keeping quality employees.

The professional body for human resources

HR and recruitment is an evolving profession with emphasis very much placed on continuing professional development amongst employees. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) is the world’s largest Chartered human resources and development professional body and have over 135,000 members in 120 countries. As the profession continues to grow into one of the most popular chosen by aspiring graduates looking for a stimulating and rewarding career in HR, the CIPD is there to support and develop its members offering qualifications, networking opportunities and leading best practise in the industry.

A great place to start if you want to find out more about HR is the CIPD Human Resources Profession Map; it sets out their global standards for anyone working in HR, or what makes great human resource professionals. You can use it to find out what knowledge and skills you need at every stage of your career, whatever area of human resources you work in.

How does recruitment differ?

Recruitment is essentially one aspect of HR which primarily deals with the recruitment and hiring of new staff. The skills required and the work environment often differs with most recruitment consultants working in agencies.

Recruitment consultancy is often more competitive and fast paced than other HR fields, this may be partly due to salaries often being partially commission based. Some recruitment agencies will deal with companies or clients across a large range of sectors whilst others will build relationships with particular firms or work within an industry. The latter often means more specialised knowledge about the way in which a company functions and sorts of people suited both in skills and personality.

As part of your role you may have to hunt out specific people who would be well suited to a role. This is called ‘head hunting’. You may also be responsible for writing or drafting adverts and find the right place to place them in order to reach the right sort of person; and continued correspondence with existing and previous clients to fulfil any employment needs when they arise.

After the initial advertising phase, you may also be required to screen candidates; interview them, undergo salary negotiations and finalise employment contracts.

In order to achieve these, you will employ a range of sales, business development and marketing techniques.

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