WHILE human resource (HR) professionals may come from various educational backgrounds, the most highly regarded route into the industry is through a bachelor’s degree in HR, personnel or any other related disciplines.

Such related degrees offer you the best training for an HR career, and would successfully place you on more hiring shortlists. Other indirect routes include internal transfers within the same organisation.

If you are already working in a different department and would like to make the switch to an HR-related position, earning certifications in an HR-related field can help to smoothen your transition.

Some large organisations consider internal resources for new HR positions, and people with related majors in business, sociology, social sciences or psychology could very well find themselves in the running, especially for more entry-level positions.

An essential quality for HR professionals is a genuine passion for people development. You also need soft skills and a high level of emotional intelligence (EQ) to build and manage relationships while networking with people at different levels within the organisation.

Essential key traits

Having a keen sense of empathy as well as objectivity is crucial to becoming an effective business partner in an organisation. These qualities enable you to develop interpersonal skills to deal with the most difficult of staff members and make the toughest decisions; to balance organisational interests and individual concerns.

It is also imperative to be able to customise policies in appropriate circumstances. Conscientiousness and integrity will help you to build your relationships with employees based on trust and faith. As you will be handling confidential staff records, it is vital to maintain personal credibility. This quality will be especially important in tough times, when you may have to deal with downsizing and restructuring exercises, which involve letting people go.

Transferable skills

Sometimes, the unlikeliest people — for example, a high-performing sales professional — may want to make the switch to HR. She could face a number of difficulties, the most obvious being the difference in compensation. They must realise that their new role is regarded as back office support and must find satisfaction from other job factors such as the personable aspects of the role.

That said, a sales professional would make an exceptional HR business partner in a job that had a sales role. Conversely, a recruitment consultant who is tired of meeting sales targets but is still interested in recruiting, could consider moving into the HR profession, since an in-house HR role would allow him to continue hiring people, without the stress of meeting sales targets.

Working with recruiters

HR candidates should work with credible recruiters who have a good understanding of career progressions in the HR field. These recruiters are genuinely interested in helping candidates to develop their potential.

What employers look out for

Employers typically look out for relevant market experience as well as specific role experience. Candidate selection varies according to the different levels of employers’ expectations and open-mindedness.

Larger organisations may find it easier to hire non-typical profiles for junior positions since they have access to more resources and are therefore better positioned to train new hires. Smaller organisation with fewer resources to work with may hire people with relevant experience so they can hit the ground running.