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Human Resources Assistant

Overview  

From start to finish

If you've ever interviewed for a job, you've probably met with a human resources assistant or director. HR professionals are the "people people" at companies. They follow the careers of employees throughout their term of employment; they file the paperwork when someone is hired and file it when that person retires (or is "downsized"). In between the coming and going, they also track employee absences and job performance, process promotions, supervise benefits packages, and listen to employee grievances. If an employee has a query or a gripe regarding pay, retirement, or benefits, he or she talks to someone in human resources.

Growing the business

Human resources personnel are also instrumental in recruiting new employees. They post new job openings; review applications and resumes; interview and test applicants; and hire based on each department's needs. Part of a HR assistant's or director's job is to screen applicants, deciding who gets to the next level of the interview process. Human resources assistants also handle internal recruitment, notifying company employees of openings within the firm and matching qualified applicants to the position. And if that's not enough, HR personnel generally dish out the acceptance and rejection letters to candidates.

A kind ear

HR personnel listen to both employee complaints and concerns. They also work with management to institute policies designed to take into account the "people" aspect of the business, such as incentive compensation plans. As their goal is to create the most productive work environment possible, HR professionals must have expert people skills.

Career Path  

While there are academic programs that prepare candidates for careers in HR (generally master's programs), most human resources professionals do not come through these programs. Many have degrees in "people-related" fields such as psychology. Also, companies tend to hire candidates with experience dealing with people, such as those with a retail or service background. Employees in other areas of a company often transfer to the HR department for a change of pace.

Starting out in human resources, an assistant earns a salary in the low- to mid- $20,000s. Motivated HR professionals may advance to managerial positions within five years. A master's degree in human resources, labor relations, or business administration may be useful for those seeking general or top management positions. The highest-ranking HR professionals can earn six figures or more. After seven to 10 years in the business, HR professionals often start their own consulting businesses or become trainers.

Uppers  

Access to confidential information;Work with people

Downers  

Long hours;Low starting pay;Listening to constant complaining

Personality Match  

Friendly;Outgoing;Good listener;Fair-minded

Personality Miss  

Disorganized;Shy

Hours  

Average about 40 per week

Salary  

Median salary: $33,000;Average entry-level salary with an undergraduate degree: $25,300;Average entry-level salary with a master's: $39,900;Average for HR directors: $74,218

Skills  

B.A., B.S., or M.S.

Our Survey Says  

Human resources professionals enjoy being "at the pulse of an organization." However, the job can sometimes be thankless. HR life can be "hectic" and it makes an assistant's day when "someone actually appreciates what" he or she does. Human resources is a field where "you're damned if you do and damned if you don't," since it is hard to keep managers and employees happy, insiders confide. "Everyone has some sort of axe to grind and favor to demand," which makes "burnout" a common malady.

Those in the HR department generally have "access to top-secret information," such as "salaries, discipline problems, and health problems." It is considered an HR asset to "keep one's mouth shut about sensitive, confidential information."

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