Human resources (HR) is a broad field, encompassing HR generalists as well as many sub-areas including recruiting (also known as talent acquisition), benefits administration, talent management, learning and development, and more. If you’re an HR professional, especially if you work in recruiting, you’ve probably reviewed hundreds or even thousands of resumes. But when it comes to creating a solid resume of your own, it can be just as hard as it would be for a hairdresser to cut their own hair. (And if you’re still looking for open positions to apply to, you can search for HR jobs right here on The Muse.)
Here are some tips to help you write an outstanding resume as an HR professional.
- Tailor Your Resume to the Job: Keywords
- Make Your Resume Shine: Achievements
- Look the Part: Resume Layout and Design
- Check and Double-Check Your Resume
- Put It All Together: Resume Example
Tailor Your Resume to the Job: Keywords
As you may know if you already work in HR, tailoring your resume to the particular job you’re applying for can make it easier for the reader to see why you’re the right hire. So scrutinize each job description to find out what achievements, skills, and qualifications are most important—and tweak your resume accordingly.
You can highlight your most relevant achievements for each job by moving the bullet points that describe those achievements further up within each experience entry, highlighting key skills in a summary section, and repeating key terms in different sections of your resume (for instance, mentioning names of important software in a bullet point describing your work achievements and repeating them in your “Skills” section).
If you’re an experienced HR pro, you’re likely aware that many companies use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to keep track of resumes from job applicants. These systems allow a recruiter to quickly search resumes for keywords, which typically include acronyms, proper nouns, or phrases from the job description. Therefore, it’s always important to look for these key terms in every job posting and work them naturally into your resume.
You should always default to the keywords you find in a given job posting (and use the same phrasing and language that the company does). But here are some keywords for different types of jobs within HR to get you started; some of the most common terms are listed first, followed by acronyms referring to laws or regulations, key software, and certifications toward the end of each list.
HR Generalist Keywords
- Recruiting, interviewing, hiring, job descriptions
- Personnel files
- Policies, procedures
- Open enrollment
- Performance reviews
- Equal employment
- Employee safety
- Organizational charts
- Exit interviews
- I-9, W-4
- Software: Microsoft Excel, PeopleSoft, human resource information systems (HRIS)
- Certifications: PHR (Professional in Human Resources), SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources), SHRM-CP ( Society for Human Resources Management Certified Professional), SHRM–SCP (Society for Human Resources Management Senior Certified Professional)
- Candidates, pipeline, candidate experience
- Sourcing (including tools such as LinkedIn, social media, Indeed.com)
- Interviewing, selection, screening
- Hiring managers
- Strategic workforce planning
- Job descriptions
- End-to-end hiring process, full-cycle recruiting
- Recruitment metrics (such as time-to-hire or similar)
- Reference checks
- Background checks
- Offer letters
- New hire packets
- Wage/salary analysis
- Job fairs
- College and university relations
- Closing candidates
- Software: ATS, HRIS, Oracle
Benefits and Compensation Keywords
- Leave, paid time off (PTO), vacation days, sick days, personal days, paid holidays
- Benefits: total reward, health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, life insurance, Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), workers compensation, disability, tuition reimbursement
- Voluntary deferred compensation/retirement plans, pension plans, 401(k)
- Contract negotiations
- Vendor negotiations
- Benefit plan administration
- Audits, reconciling, reports
- Open enrollment
- Disability accommodations
- Leave of absence (LOA)
- Government departments:Department of Labor (DOL), CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services)
- Government programs and regulations: Medicare, Medicaid, COBRA, Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), American with Disabilities Act (ADA), Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), Pregnancy Discrimination Act, HIPAA, Affordable Care Act (ACA), Dependent Eligibility Verification Audit (DEVA)
- Software: ADP, timekeeping systems, Workday Human Capital Management (HCM), HRIS
Employee and Labor Relations Keywords
- Grievances, disputes, investigations
- Disciplinary and termination meetings
- Collective bargaining agreement (CBA)
- Conflict resolution/management
- Contract negotiations
- Legal and regulatory compliance; Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO), ADA, FMLA
- Wage and hour laws
- Climate surveys
Training and Development/Organizational Development Keywords
- Development and implementation
- Subject matter expert (SME)
- Content, curriculum, e-learning
- Performance improvement/performance management
- Instructional design
- ADDIE model (analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation)
- Adult learning theory
- Facilitation guides, course material, training aids, job aids
- Organizational development
- Cultural change
- Software: Microsoft PowerPoint, Learning Management Systems (LMS), knowledge management systems, Oracle, Articulate Suite (Storyline, Rise, Review), Camtasia, SharePoint, Adobe Creative Cloud
- Certifications: Associate Professional in Talent Development Credential (APTD), Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP)
Make Your Resume Shine: Achievements
The bullet points describing your past experiences have the most potential to show prospective employers who you are as a professional. Framing your bullet points as achievements is essential for a strong resume. Include metrics or examples that illustrate how you contributed to your organization, prevented risk, improved efficiency, or took initiative to solve a problem. Whenever possible, you should quantify your accomplishments, or measure them using numbers, percentages, or dollar amounts.
In HR it can be hard to quantify your success, but as you think about your achievements look for opportunities to attach metrics to what you’ve done. One way to think about your achievements could be: What did you do that prevented a problem? Another is: What would go wrong if you did a bad job? How can you measure that what you did was better than what was done before or what was done on average?
Once you’ve answered those questions, put it all together. A common formula for a strong bullet point is to start with a strong action verb, then add a description of your work or process, and then end with the outcome or achievement, adding numbers whenever possible so readers can see the scale of your accomplishments.
Here are some ways to frame HR-related achievements as bullet points in the experience section of your resume:
HR Generalist Achievements
- Ensured compliance with a broad range of regulations, including ADA, FMLA, and EEOC, reducing risk and liability for an organization with 15,000 staff in three countries.
- Reduced time-to-hire by 15% through consistent follow-up with hiring managers in 14 offices, expanded utilization of ATS, and timely outreach to candidates.
- Improved candidate experience, increasing percent satisfied from 50% to 66% through courteous, efficient, and thoughtful communication with candidate pool, resulting in 10% increase in referrals of high-quality applicants by current staff.
Benefits and Compensation Achievements
- Saved 15% of company’s benefits costs in the first year by conducting scrupulous benchmarking research and highly effective contract negotiations with five vendors.
- Accurately audited time and leave tracking for an organization with 500+ staff, ensuring compliance with company policies and FMLA regulations.
Employee and Labor Relations Achievements
- Effectively mediated highly complex employee conflicts, resulting in improved performance and a positive organizational culture as demonstrated through a 25% increase in positive responses to organization-wide climate surveys.
- Negotiated contracts with three different unions, avoiding a highly challenging potential labor dispute and coming to a mutually beneficial contract agreement.
Training and Development/Organizational Development Achievements
- Designed and implemented new leadership curriculum, training 50% of key organizational leaders in 6 weeks and resulting in improved morale and staff retention in units led by managers who participated in training.
Look the Part: Resume Layout and Design
Many resume layout and design tips apply just as much for HR resumes as for candidate resumes in any field. So you’re likely familiar with some or all of the below, but if you’d like a refresher or you’re just entering the workforce, these tips can ensure your resume looks the part.
HR Resume Format and Sections
In addition to writing powerful achievement-focused bullet points and using the right keywords, you might wonder about where to place content within your resume and what sections to include.
Most job applicants should use a reverse chronological resume, which lists your work experiences, academic degrees, and other qualifications in order from most recent to furthest back in time. This type of resume is the most common version used in most industries (including HR) and is helpful for documenting your career growth and progression. If you’re changing careers or returning to paid employment after a career break, you may want to consider a combination, or hybrid, resume format (which helps emphasize your skills in addition to your work experience and dates of employment).
Whether you choose a chronological or hybrid resume, the sections typically included in an HR resume are:
- Header and contact information: your name and contact information, which includes crucial information such as your phone number, email address, and LinkedIn profile URL
- Experience: including work, internship, and sometimes high-level volunteer experience, can be broken up into different sections such as “Relevant Experience” and “Other Experience”
- Education: typically including college and advanced degrees
- Skills: including computer software, technical skills, and languages you speak
There are also optional sections that may show you’re the right candidate for a given job such as:
- Summary: a quick, high-level, easy-to-scan overview of your top achievements and keywords, generally used if you have extensive work experience or are a career changer
- Certifications: including PHR, SPHR, or SHRM certification among others (if you’ve earned them, you can also add these letters after your name in the header for stronger emphasis)
- Ongoing training: including short, on-the-job trainings, online courses that are not part of a degree program, or other professional development that doesn’t fit under education
Resume Design and Formatting
A resume should be easy to read, which means the document itself needs to be well formatted and limited to one or two pages. Many jobs in HR require attention to detail, so it’s especially important for an HR resume to use consistent formatting and design. For instance, be sure that:
- Your bullet points are consistent in size, style, and indentation
- Your fonts and formatting are consistent—if job titles are going to be in bold and italics, make sure that all of your job titles are in bold and italics
- Your design is clean and readable—font size should be no smaller than 10 and keep at least a small amount of white space between sections and entries
- Your name and contact info are centered correctly on the page, if you choose to center them
It’s also important that your resume is easily scannable by an ATS, which can have trouble with columns, overly fancy designs, text boxes, or graphics. So keep it simple and clean and only use formatting elements like bold, underline, italics, and color to emphasize different parts of the text.
Check and Double-Check Your Resume
Once you’ve designed an easy-to-read, keyword-rich, achievement-focused resume, it’s time to edit and proofread the document. Don’t rely on a spellchecker alone. Read the document from the top to the bottom, then read it backward from bottom to top. Ask a friend to read it; bring it to a career coach; show it to people in your network and ask for their unvarnished feedback.
Make sure to quadruple check items which are the most crucial—your phone number and email address—and be sure you check your voicemail and email (and spam folder) constantly when you are actively job seeking.
Put It All Together: Resume Example
Below is an example of an HR generalist resume. This resume is designed for a mid-career HR generalist or HR business partner and highlights key skills relevant to those kinds of roles.
With the right achievement-focused bullet points, keywords, design, and structure, your HR resume can be a powerful tool in landing you more job interviews. As you progress in your HR career, feel free to come back to this list of tips as a benchmark to help keep your resume fresh and tailored to your target positions. And best of luck advancing in your HR career!