5 soft skills for human resources jobs

Skills for HR careers don’t just include technical skills like interviewing, hiring, and onboarding. Soft skills involving empathy and understanding are also important.

As an HR professional, you need to understand how your soft skills impact your work interactions. You can even advance in your career by caring about and supporting others!

Read on for our guide to the top five human resources (or “people”) skills you need to succeed in the profession.

Why are interpersonal skills important in human resources?

Human resources professionals need strong interpersonal skills to successfully handle the day-to-day situations they face with employees. On a typical day, a human resources specialist may have to:

  • Fire an employee
  • Share negative performance feedback
  • Explain to a candidate why he didn’t get a job
  • Interview multiple job candidates

These tasks require social skills, self-awareness, and empathy to calmly deal with others while understanding their emotions.

In an HR career, you need to present a human face to your organization, which makes cultivating people skills essential.

5 soft skills for human resources

The daily tasks of an HR professional involve interpersonal skills. The following soft skills can increase your chances of getting noticed when applying for human resources positions.

1. Organization

Organization is vital. Most advanced and entry-level HR jobs are in offices where you’ll have to master mountains of paperwork. Organizational skills allow you to:

  • Coordinate company events
  • File and manage employee documentation
  • Plan employee training and development
  • Organize meetings with colleagues and bosses
  • Meet compliance and reporting deadlines
  • Accurately manage payroll and employee benefits

You can develop organizational skills by implementing them in your own life. Try using organizational apps like Todoist, Evernote, and Camscanner. Other useful tools include:

  • Dry Erase Boards
  • Personal diaries
  • Sticky Notes
  • Calendars

2. Cultural sensitivity

Cultural sensitivity allows you to navigate a diverse workplace while respecting and understanding the cultural, ethnic and religious differences of employees. In HR, it helps you:

  • Eliminate biases from recruiting, hiring and training practices
  • Help resolve conflicts related to cultural differences
  • Reduce the challenges of cross-cultural communication
  • Cultural sensitivity begins with listening to and learning from colleagues and employees.

You can build your cultural sensitivity skills by volunteering in a multicultural setting, taking a cultural sensitivity evening class, or earning an online human resources certificate that includes a cultural sensitivity course.

3. Confidentiality

Confidentiality is the ability to protect private information. Employees expect human resources professionals to keep sensitive information, such as medical records, confidential. You may also have legal obligations to protect certain information based on your location.

Managers also need human resources to ensure the security of sensitive information, including:

  • Layoffs or closures
  • Restructuring and expansion of the workplace
  • Labor data or reports
  • Lawsuits and other legal matters

You can develop your skills by being aware of your surroundings when discussing sensitive information, respecting others’ boundaries, and carefully handling other people’s private documents.

Human resources professionals use locks on cabinets, file rooms and other storage areas to protect sensitive information.

4. Adaptability

Adaptability is the ability to adapt to change and remain flexible. Becoming more adaptable means being able to pivot in response to organizational changes, such as:

  • New training and development models
  • Introduction of new technologies
  • Plant closures and layoffs
  • Changes in roles and responsibilities
  • New regulatory or compliance requirements
  • Corporate mergers and reorganizations

Adaptable workers know there is more than one way to do things and can change tactics if necessary.

You can become more adaptable by taking night classes, attending workshops, or earning an online human resources degree. Most human resources certificates and diplomas have courses in organizational change, which teach adaptability techniques such as setting goals and asking for feedback.

5. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the emotional states of others. You need empathy in a human resources job because employees may want help with issues such as:

  • To be fired
  • Health problems
  • Conflicts in the workplace
  • Loss of a spouse or family member
  • Marital problems
  • Birth and adoption

You must be able to listen to employee issues without judgment. You also need to be able to provide emotional support when you need to share negative feedback or fire them.

You can cultivate empathy skills by volunteering, reading literature, or talking to new people.

In conclusion

If you want to learn skills for careers in human resources, challenge yourself by talking to people from different backgrounds than yours.

Human resources careers help organizations reduce barriers to communication and understanding. You can prepare for this vocation by reducing these barriers in your own life.

This article has been reviewed by Krystal Covington, MBA

Krystal Covington, a woman with shoulder-length, curly hair, smiles at the camera.

Krystal Covington, MBA, is a business growth strategist with 15 years of marketing and public relations experience. His company, Go Lead Consulting, provides his clients with basic tools to build new relationships with clients and clients.

Covington founded Women of Denver, one of the largest private membership organizations in Denver, Colorado. Her program helps women increase their business acumen, hone their leadership skills, and connect with other high-achieving women. Covington received his MBA from Western Governors University in 2012.

Krystal Covington is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education Independent Assessment Network.

Last revised March 22, 2022.

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