How to Write an HR Resume
Writing an HR resume can be intimidating. After all, the position you’re applying for may involve recruiting and training managers to recruit. You’re expected to demonstrate a standard of professionalism that you’ll be holding many others to. Even if you’re a seasoned HR pro, it can still be a challenge to distill all of that experience into a concise yet comprehensive resume.
So, in this article, we’ll cover how to build your HR resume—even if you’re new to the field. By the end, you’ll have a better understanding of the skills, experience, and credentials that employers are looking for in an HR candidate.
Of course, in the header of your resume you’ll include your full name and contact information. If you have HR experience, you should include a headline—such as “HR Generalist” or “Payroll Specialist”—that gives the reader a quick impression of your area of expertise.
Next, include a summary paragraph of about three to four lines. Rather than simply repeating the skills and experience you plan to mention in those later sections, your summary should:
- Connect your cover letter to your resume.
This is especially important if you’re new to HR and depending on your cover letter to make the case for how your skills and experience will translate well into HR. This is a great opportunity to sell yourself in your resume, especially if you're concerned with how your qualifications might “look on paper.” As cover letters are becoming less of an expectation in the labor market, the resume summary may be your only opportunity to explain your qualifications.
- Include the position you’re applying for.
On a basic level, it shows the reader you took a moment to update your resume for the position. Including the target position can also help remind you to keep your summary focused on the job you want, not just the jobs you’ve had.
- Highlight not only your past accomplishments, but also your future career goals.
This is a delicate balancing act that applies to your whole resume, too. You want to signal that you’re both qualified for the position you’re applying for and eager to grow in that role. It also helps to use some of the language in the job description to make the connection easier for the reader.
In other words, your summary should add value to your resume and frame the information that follows in the way you want the reader to see it.
What should immediately follow the summary really depends on where you’re coming from and where you want to go—again, it’s an approach that should apply to your entire resume.
So, if your certifications and education are directly relevant to the position, you might add that as the next section. If your work experience is directly relevant to the position—meaning you’ve held the same or similar titles with the same or similar responsibilities—you could make that the next section. But if you’re new to HR—just trying to get your foot in the door—you should start with relevant skills.
In fact, leading with relevant skills is never a bad idea—no matter how much or how little HR experience you have.
First, it’s important to be honest. You might be asked to demonstrate your skills in an assessment, or in an interview, you might be asked to elaborate. It will kill your credibility if you claim to have particular skills only because they’re listed in the job description and not because you’ve actually acquired them.
But to be clear, you should use the job description as a guide to what skills the position requires. Most recruiters—human and AI—are trained to scan resumes for keywords from the job description.
So, if you’re an HR career-seeker, you’re probably wondering what skills are generally desirable in human resources. Indeed.com—the major online job board—recommends the following:
- Training and development
- Business management
You may have noticed that all of the skills listed are either nouns or noun phrases. Recruiters don’t have to be grammar snobs to notice how an inconsistent word in a list just sounds off. You don’t have to brush up on your parts of speech, either. It’s as easy as completing this sentence: “I am skilled at _____.” If it sounds correct in that sentence, it will sound consistent in a list of skills.
It will also help to list technical skills, such as what relevant software you’re most familiar with. Modern workplaces depend on HR tech like BerniePortal to keep their businesses going and growing, and a list of technical skills can demonstrate you know your way around a computer, even if you’re not proficient in the particular software mentioned in the job description.
Just as there’s no industry standard for how to order the sections in an HR resume, there’s also no “one-size-fits-all” approach for how to list and format items in the experience section. That does not mean, however, that formatting doesn’t matter on resumes.
Listing your relevant experience in reverse chronological order—starting with your most recent job—is always a safe bet.
In each entry, you should include:
- the name and location of the organization—as well as a brief phrase explaining what the organization does if it’s not obvious from the name
- the month and year you started in that position as well as when you left
- your title at the organization
Although there’s no standard, formatting does matter because it affects the recruiter’s reading experience, and as you likely know all too well, recruiters read a lot of resumes.
But what matters more than formatting is how you describe your relevant experience. That includes using language from the job description to make the relevancy of your experience as clear as possible.
Similarly, at the risk of sounding repetitive, you should embed the keywords from the skills section in the experience section as well, using them in phrases that show those skills in action.
Highlight your accomplishments, using numbers as much as possible. Don’t hesitate, though, to include achievements that aren’t quantifiable. The field is human resources, after all, and many of your most satisfying work experiences won’t translate into hard data. You work with people!
Certifications and Education
As mentioned, if you already have certifications and education that are directly relevant to the target position, you might want to add this section before skills and experience.
For each degree, include your major, school, location, years attended, and any notable accomplishments or activities. I would not recommend listing your high school diploma unless that is your highest level of formal education. Don’t be discouraged, though, if you don’t have an advanced degree in HR. Many HR pros came to the field through experience rather than education.
Professional certifications through SHRM and HRCI, continuing education through BernieU, and industry conferences like Weekdays with Bernie are all excellent ways to show your commitment to the profession without a formal degree.
Other Resume Considerations
Here are a few more considerations when building your HR resume:
- Curate your LinkedIn profile to match your resume
- Clean up your social media accounts
- Format your resume to make it easier for human and AI recruiters to read
These seemingly minor issues are easy to fix but go a long way in how a recruiter sees your resume and whether or not they’ll want to meet you.
You can stay informed, educated, and up-to-date with important HR topics using BerniePortal’s comprehensive resources:
- BerniePortal Blog—a one-stop-shop for HR industry news
- HR Glossary—featuring the most common HR terms, acronyms, and compliance
- HR Guides—essential pillars, covering an extensive list of comprehensive HR topics
- BernieU—free online HR courses, approved for SHRM and HRCI recertification credit
- HR Party of One—our popular YouTube series and podcast, covering emerging HR trends and enduring HR topics
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