How to get an Entry Level job in HR

With many University HR courses and HR leaders focus on the workforce as a strategic asset, you’d think that more organizations and college career centers would be able to map out clear paths into the profession. Some Universities help graduates get that first HR jobs, many say the efforts of others are non existent

Some Universities don’t design academic and hr jobs placements to the realities of the HR world. And some businesses don’t articulate what it is they want their HR functions to do in the first place.

In the businesses that do have defined expectations for HR, those expectations vary widely. At some, the department reports to the CEO. At others, it’s part of the CFO’s portfolio. Some companies look at HR as administration, while others see the workforce as part of their success. aa hr graduate finds an entry level job can be different from company to company.

Generally speaking, though, three paths can lead to an entry-level position in the field:

  • A degree in HR.
  • A degree in a related subject, like business or industrial/organizational psychology, then applying those skills to HR by earning appropriate certifications.
  • Working for several years in an operational role at a company, then transitioning into HR.

Here are some common strategies for getting the attention of HR’s hiring managers.

Get Work Experience

You need on-the-job experience, even if you majored in HR. “Don’t think just because you have a degree, you’re qualified for the role,” warned Jessica Miller-Merrell, SHRM-SCP, chief executive of Xceptional HR in Oklahoma City and founder of

“You rely heavily on experience in HR,” added Tracy Burns, CEO of the Northeast Human Resources Association in Concord, Mass., a SHRM chapter. “You have to … apply what you’ve learned in the classroom to the real world.” With all the employment laws, regulations and compliance issues that go along with it, HR can be “a risky profession, and you have to learn what you can and cannot do.”

So how do you get that experience? here is three approaches

  • Internships, which not only offer hands-on experience but also provide exposure to prospective employers.
  • Getting involved with a SHRM student chapter, which she called “a great way to network with practitioners and providers.”
  • Exploring opportunities with HR service providers, who “have tremendous HR expertise in-house.”

Internships can't be underestimated either one year of experience while you’re in studying can give you the edge on those never did an internship.

Build your Network

HR people should be good networkers and they like to help people succeed, so take advantage of their nature. Each company approaches HR differently, it can be key to learning how to get into a company.

How do you network? Get involved in as many or lead company wide initiatives/events, many students don’t reach out to colleagues.

Be Professional

Understand that human resources is a business function.

Understand business and applying people strategies and in interviews, a lot of entry-level. Great HR people understand the business and apply people strategies for success.

Unfortunately those moving in from other areas can find it hard from HR’s own managers. As people review resumes, they can just tick boxes so even if they could adapt to HR.’ Or they see someone senior who’s going to cost more money and they go and hire a student, who’ll be cheaper.”

Manage Expectations

It's crucial for entry-level candidates to manage their expectations. Some graduates balk at the type of work they’re expected to do when they start out. After a four-year degree and the first job feels administrative. But that’s where everyone starts

While some of the work is menial you need to be flexible and you have to be ready to start at the bottom, because that’s how you’re going to understand all of the pieces, and HR has a lot of moving pieces.

Like any career you can't get an HR manager’s role without some experience.