Tips for HR Professionals – Resume, Cover Letter and Networking

by Sharon Elber

HR Professional

As a human resource professional, you have probably had the opportunity to review hundreds, and maybe even thousands, of job resumes. However, looking at someone else’s resume is one thing, crafting your own is another. Since your resume and cover letter will be a reflection of how well you embody hiring best practices, it is critical that your application materials hold up to intense scrutiny.

This guide offers HR professionals a chance to take a second look at their resume, cover letter, and professional networking efforts with tips to make the most of your job search. We will start with some general considerations which apply across the board, followed by specific tips for each of these three critical aspects of the job search.

1) Clarify and Project a Consistent Professional Brand

As you probably already know, one of the ways that recruiting has changed over the last decade has been the integration of a person’s online presence and their professional brand into the process. It is important that as an HR professional, you demonstrate that you are not only able to talk the talk, but also walk the walk.

Now is the time to get clear on what it is that you bring to the table, your professional values, and your career orientation. Make sure that your public social media profiles, such as LinkedIn, are up to date and reflect your professional brand in order to capture the attention of hiring managers for the types of positions you are applying for.

2) Allow Your Unique Value to Shine

One of the hardest aspects of creating a winning HR resume is to capture your credentials, experience, and qualifications in a way that is going to stand out and be memorable to the hiring manager. In order to do this, you will need to take the time to develop a clear understanding of what they are looking for, and then communicate your unique value, that is, the specific combination of education, skills, passion and experiences that make you uniquely qualified to excel in the role.

One of the best ways to make a strong case for your unique value is to use quantified achievements or impressive results from past positions. For example, if you are applying for a job where you will be developing training programs for employees, a quantified accomplishment might include: Developed 25 training seminars and team building workshops for over 2,000 employees.

3) Showcase Knowledge of Recent Trends in HR

Human resources is a field that is constantly changing. New federal and state guidelines, corporate procedures, and trends in the field evolve at a rapid pace. The only way to stay relevant is to make an effort to keep up with new developments. Since employers are keen to hire HR professionals that not only have the right credentials, but also have the most up to date perspective on the field, it is critical that your application materials highlight ways that you have worked to stay current.

A few sentences devoted to this in your cover letter is appropriate. For example, if you have attended professional conferences, participated in online HR forums, or taken additional coursework in the last few years, the cover letter is a good place to include this information. In addition, if you have recently attained certifications relevant to the work you will be doing, adding the date in your education section is a good idea.

Resumes for Human Resource Professionals

1) Resume Sections for HR Professionals

When choosing which sections to use for your HR resume, the most important consideration is to present your information in a way that highlights your fit for the job you are applying for. Think of each section as your “evidence” for the fact that you are the strongest candidate for the job, and strategically select those sections that showcase your strongest qualifications for each position you apply to.

  • Name
  • Contact Information
  • Professional Summary
  • Skills
  • Experience
  • Education
  • Professional Affiliations

i) Skills

One of the advantages of choosing to use a skills section on your HR resume is that it can make sure the most likely keywords will make it to the top of your resume. This will ensure that automated applicant tracking systems will be satisfied that you meet the basic qualifications for the job, increasing the odds your resume will make it to the human review stage of the hiring process.

In addition, a skills section allows you to pack a great deal of information about your qualifications in a small amount of space, making the most of the limited real estate on this important document. Consider using a table to maximize both vertical and horizontal space in your skills section. Use industry specific terms, mirroring language in the job ad itself when possible.

This section of your resume needs careful attention when you are customizing for a particular job. Imagine yourself doing the work described in the ad and be sure your skills section reflects the priorities of the exact work you will be doing in your new role. These skillsets can be fairly broad. Remember, you can detail specific responsibilities in your experience section. For example, “Staff Recruitment and Retention” covers a variety of more specific skills that you can cover in the context of previous positions.

ii) Education

In addition to any college degrees you hold, you can use this section to include valuable certifications and professional credentials relevant to human resources. Examples include Society for Human Resource Management Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP). It is advisable to include both the full name and standard abbreviation to be sure that the ATS will pick up vital keywords.

iii) Professional Affiliations

If you are an active member of professional associations such as the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), then devoting some space on your resume to this fact can offer an advantage because it shows that you are keeping up with trends in the HR industry.

2) Resume Design for Human Resources Positions

It is critical that an HR resume makes use of modern design best practices. The overall look and feel should be modern, sleek, easy to skim, and information dense without being visually crowded. If you lack graphic skills, consider getting some help or using professionally designed resume templates.

If you have a strong body of experience to demonstrate, you may find graphics are an impressive way to showcase previous results such as impressive statistics, including low employee turnover, decreased healthcare costs over time, or high job satisfaction ratings among staff you have served in the past. Be sure that if you showcase company wide metrics that you also include a clear explanation of how your individual efforts contributed to those results.

Keep colors simple and reflective of those that you use for your professional brand. And, remember that Applicant Tracking Systems are likely to miss terms used in graphic elements, so be sure your keywords are distributed throughout the regular text on your resume.

See HR resume samples.

Human Resources Cover Letters

1) Specific Introductions

Although it is always the case that addressing the cover letter to the right person is a plus, there is a higher expectation for HR professionals who should have enough insight into the hiring process to be able to identify who to address the cover letter to. Rather than sticking to a generic introduction, such as “To Whom It May Concern,” it is critical to make every effort to find out who will be in charge of the search and address the letter to that specific person.

2) Bullet Points

Although it was once considered to be too informal for a cover letter, the use of bullet points is now considered acceptable, and it can be a great way to cover a lot of ground in this short, one page, introduction letter. One way to make use of these bullet points is to highlight specific strengths that you bring to the table that make you a particularly strong fit for the job at hand. These strengths should be backed up by facts shared on your resume such as statistics covering past performance or the responsibilities that you held in your work history section.

For example, you can mention how you are able to develop targeted outreach programs to identify top talent utilizing the latest in social media tools, extensive connections with universities, and online job search engines. Then, in your resume, you can back up this claim with specifics in your skills and work history sections by mentioning the tools you have mastered, hiring statistics, and/or specific recruiting programs you have developed.

3) Include Your ‘Why’

What is it about this specific position or working for this particular company that really gets you excited about this opportunity? Make sure this critical element makes it in your letter. The cover letter is your chance to let the hiring manager know that you will be a motivated and invested employee.

If the job is the next logical step in your career, that is one way to frame your why. If you are switching your focus or taking on new responsibilities in this job, make sure to briefly touch on how those areas will allow you to pursue aspects of human resources that you are most passionate about. Or, perhaps you have a strong affinity for the company because of another reason such as the importance of the work they do or their commitment to a well-trained workforce.

All of these can be compelling ways to establish that you are particularly interested in working for the company, which can help you stand out from the rest of the applicants. In addition, they make it clear that you have done your research in advance of applying, and have a strong sense of how you will fit into their larger company mission.

See HR cover letter samples.

LinkedIn Networking Tips for HR Professionals

In the United States, LinkedIn has become the most widely used professional networking platform for professionals of all kinds, including HR professionals. It is often used as a recruitment platform, so showcasing your expertise on this platform may even be a required qualification for HR jobs that include talent acquisition.

In fact, in most cases, including your LinkedIn profile in the contact section of your resume is recommended for people working in human resources. Chances are good that your profile and history will be viewed, particularly if you make the short list for the job.

Here are some tips to make sure you are making the most of this important networking platform for advancement in your HR career:

1) Use Your Recruiting Expertise to Build a Strong LinkedIn Profile

If you happen to have experience using LinkedIn to locate top talent, then you can use this information to make sure your profile will catch the attention of other HR professionals, including those making hiring decisions at your prospective new company. This includes fully filling out each aspect of your profile, making the most of skills (and updating them often), and participating in discussions in your field. It also means seeking out endorsements and referrals by utilizing your professional network and contacts.

2) Participate in HR Groups on LinkedIn

The groups featured on LinkedIn is one of the best ways to connect with other professionals in your industry. If you are an active participant in these groups, you will not only grow your contact list organically, you will also be able to show potential employers that you are on top of the latest trends in your industry.

A few starting places include: Linked:HR, Human Resources Professionals Worldwide, and Human Resources Professionals: THE "Unofficial" forum for SHRM Members. In addition, if you are interested in working in specific employment sectors, such as healthcare or the high tech industry, it is important to also follow the large employers and groups dedicated to those industries so you can stay on top of the most relevant job trends.

3) Engage and Track Regularly

While LinkedIn may still be “optional” for some fields of work, that is simply not the case for HR professionals. This goes beyond developing a professional network. It means becoming an expert at using this platform to attract top talent. This means that as an HR pro in the job search, you need to engage regularly in group discussions as well as with individuals that work in your field or area of expertise.

If you are new to this social media platform, there is no time like the present to start getting more comfortable with it. Premium accounts developed specifically for recruiters include several engagement tracking tools that help you keep track of your efforts and learning how to use them is a significant credential that can benefit your resume, particularly if you will be responsible for hiring in your new role.

4) The Homepage of Your Professional Brand

Many professionals have found that LinkedIn offers a chance to get clear about their professional brand. Need a little inspiration? Take a look at other top contributors in your field to see how they have crafted their brand using the tools available on the platform. If you are still unsure, feel free to reach out to people on the site if you find their branding particularly impressive. Asking for some advice is, after all, a great way to start connecting and establishing relationships that could benefit you in the job search now as well as later in your career.

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