October 30, 2018 | 5 min read
8 HR Skills That Are Essential For Your Career


Whether you are just starting your career in Human Resources or you are an experienced HR professional, it’s important to have your pulse on the most in-demand HR skills. Not only can they can boost your marketability for career opportunities, but they will help you become more productive and effective at work.

“As you climb the ladder throughout your career, you should continuously make the effort to develop your HR skills,” says Lindsay Hildebrandt, a Senior Associate within The Execu|Search Group’s Human Resources division. “Hiring trends, HR technology, and business policies are always evolving, so it’s important to ensure your skills are up-to-date with these trends.”

This concept does not only apply to your technical HR skills, but your soft skills as well. Today, employers are looking for professionals with the right balance of technical and soft skills. “This is even true of the more technical HR roles,” warns Lindsay. “You can have all the skills for the role on paper, but you also need to be able to convey certain soft skills in an interview. On the flip side, even those in more front-facing roles need to work on developing a basic understanding of more advanced HR technical skills.”

To help you advance your career, here are the most in-demand technical and soft HR skills:

Technical skills

  • HRIS systems (Workday or Oracle): A lack of experience with HRIS systems can hold you back in today’s market. To increase your proficiency with these tools, first work to understand where the gaps in your knowledge are. Then, educate yourself on these different systems, how they operate, and how to navigate their interfaces.
  • Payroll software (ADP, Ceridian, Workday, Oracle): Some human resources roles require payroll processing experience or at least a little payroll knowledge. This is a hard skill to learn on your own, so the best way to gain hands-on experience with payroll software is to volunteer for some of these responsibilities at your current job.
  • Benefits administration: Among one of the most in-demand HR skills, this one requires you to constantly educate yourself on the latest and greatest benefit policies. Since you will need to balance the employer’s costs with the needs of employees, this type of role requires a lot of interaction and negotiation with vendors.
  • Advanced excel: Pivot tables, macros, v-lookups, and formulas are among the complex functionalities in excel that are most requested by employers. These skills are especially important for more junior HR professionals to possess as they will help you build the foundation for systems such as Workday and Oracle.

Soft skills

  • Effective listening: With two ears and one mouth, you should be listening twice as much as you plan on talking. Being an effective listener will help you be more impactful when managing conflicts in the workplace. It will also enable you to develop stronger relationships at the company, which can help you build trust amongst staff.
  • Objectivity: To cultivate an environment based on trust, HR professionals need to take an objective stance on all situations at the company. If you are going to make the best decision for employees and/or the business as well as respectfully handle issues, you must have the maturity to completely remove your personal bias.
  • Empathy: The ability to understand what others are feeling and thinking is a key trait for HR professionals. In a field where you often deal with people going through tough situations, being empathetic is the best way to ensure you are communicating effectively and can appropriately address their concerns.
  • Critical thinking: From who to hire to what benefits to offer, HR professionals have a lot of decisions to make. Therefore, you need to be a strategic and big-picture thinker who can evaluate a situation and come up with the best solution.
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