HR Career Advice
How to get a job as an HR Director
If you're looking to move up to HR Director level – or even further – we've pulled together our list of top tips to help you get there. Our Executive recruitment team will also be able to provide you confidential one-to-one advice.
Understanding the beast
As with many jobs, the position may vary greatly depending on the size and sector of the organisation you work in. Generally the position of HR director is strategic, although within smaller organisations an HR director may be more operational, and have a considerably smaller team, so be prepared for that. In larger organisation you will be expected to delegate much more, while staying on top of everything.
Depending on the sector, you may be dealing with unions. If the company you're looking to work for is unionised, it will operate under a union contract that governs many conditions of the workplace – which presents an entirely new kind of challenge that you should be prepared for.
Overall, make sure you do your homework and fully understand the nature of the organisation and the role you will be taking on, especially if you are moving to another business/sector.
Transferable knowledge/sector experience
Within senior level recruitment, you will definitely have an advantage coming from the same or similar sector, as you'll need to be able to get in and lead from the front. If you are looking to change sector, ensure you list all the similarities and transferable knowledge you can bring from your current sector to your desired one, and be prepared to make your case for understanding it. Where you see a potential gap in your knowledge, make sure you research this thoroughly so you can talk confidently about issues in the sector.
Walk the walk
In your career to date you've probably have many instances of "I would do it that way". Well now you can. If you're looking to take a running jump into a director level position, start instigating those changes in your current role. If there's something that's not working, propose and deliver a solution; if you're not getting much face time with the CEO, find credible reasons to interact and make sure you can communicate effectively in their language. Overall, make sure your team delivers everything that is asked of them, and more. If you start acting like an HRD now, you'll be much more convincing when you get there!
Head for figures
Something you may not like, but as a Director you'll have to start speaking the language of business, and that means money. From your own departmental budget, to company sales figures and tax implications, you'll be expected to understand it and communicate it. Reed Learning offers a great Finance for non-financial managers course, so that could be a good place to start.
Group HR Director - Running a committee
Experience or understanding of running a remuneration committee is key if you're looking to go global – as this could end up being up to 30% of the job. In this case we recommend shadowing relevant people in your organisation, or connecting with relevant people on LinkedIn if your organisation does not have them. In an international role you'll be dealing with HR issues across global boundaries and need to be sensitive to cross-cultural issues, so speaking more than one language and an understanding of cultural differences would also be helpful.
To be a successful HRD you need to be a certain type of person - one who can deal with any and every kind of personality. You'll have to maintain your equanimity as you move between meetings, job applicant interviews, compliance and health-and-safety, and impromptu sessions with disgruntled managers. Your days will be chock-full of people.
It also helps if you organize your time well, because "multi-tasking" and juggling projects will be your life. You'll need to know the rule book inside out and not be afraid to implement it. Be prepared for the fact that individuals in the organisation may have varying opinions and assumptions about your department, and be ready to approach each accordingly.
Make sure you're qualified
There will be an expectation for an HR Director to have a degree, if not an MBA or other post-graduate qualification. But CIPD qualifications are also essential. At this stage, you will need to be aiming for level 7, which can include:
- award in HR (Advanced level award in HR)
- certificate (Advanced level certificate in HR)
- diplomas (Advanced level diploma in HR Management or HR Development (These replace and are equivalent to the previous CIPD Professional Development Scheme (PDS)))
*CIPD Level 7 Advanced qualifications are comparable to European Qualifications Framework (EQF) level 7 and level 11 and 9 for Scotland and Ireland respectively. They are equivalent to a postgraduate level qualification. Visit the CIPD website for more details.