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Top 5 characteristics most important – as ranked by HR Managers

What characteristics do HR managers value the most in candidates? The answer is not that straightforward for entry-level HR candidates.

HR is a hands-on profession and requires some experience to succeed. This makes it challenging for HR managers to pick the best candidate from a pool of largely inexperienced applicants. But they do pick the best, how?

Here are the top five most valued characteristics for entry-level HR candidates as ranked by HR managers.

1. HR-relevant skills
The first and most important characteristic sought after by HR managers is HR-relevant skills. From training to budgeting, coaching, and other relevant skills, candidates that can show that they possess HR-relevant skills are better positioned. HR skills are the preferred currency and proof of HR credibility, particularly when the candidate does not have any experience in the field to showcase. The value of HR-relevant skills goes beyond entry-level HR jobs to include non-HR jobs. This is because every job has an element of HR.

2. A degree in HR or a related field
Higher education is valuable for white-collar jobs regardless of the job entry-level, and HR is no exception. 20% of what an HR professional needs to be successful comes from higher education with experiential learning, and getting their hands dirty working in the field contributes 80%. A candidate with a degree in HR or related field already has a firm grasp of the basics. This is valued by HR managers over someone who doesn’t have a clue about what HR entails.

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3. Quality HR internship experience
There is a big difference between high and low-quality HR internship experiences. For instance, one can work as an HR intern but has low-quality internship experience because they are only tasked with coffee runs. An intern who plays a supporting role in the department is an example of a candidate with a high-quality HR internship experience. Getting a candidate with high-quality HR internship experience is valued and rare due to barriers of entry for fresh-out-college candidates even at the internship level.

4. Paid HR experience
While HR managers value candidates with internship experience, entry-level HR candidates with paid HR internship experience are valued more. This highly valued characteristic is not easy to come by. The candidate has to be incredibly talented for any HR department to pay for their skills without any experience in the field.

5. Extensive networking with HR professionals
It is easier to derail a candidate starting a new career in HR without extensive engagement with professionals in the field. Networking mitigates the impact of the unknowns that can undermine the success of any new-hire. HR managers also value candidates with a history of networking because it makes it easier to do an informal background check. Most HR managers are sticklers for fact-based decision making, and they usually turn to their fellow HR professionals for insight. The more HR managers know about the candidate, the easier it is for them to decide to hire. No professional wants to make decisions blindly, particularly for a position that has far-reaching consequences like HR.

What do you think? Are there other characteristics more important to HR managers for entry-level HR jobs?

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