How (and When) to Hire a Human Resources Specialist

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By Robert Half December 4, 2019 at 6:00pm

As more managers realize that wooing great job candidates takes significant time and effort today, many organizations are adding human resources professionals to their teams to help out with the recruiting process.

Human resources specialists support recruiting, onboarding and talent management programs. In addition, they may take responsibility for employee engagement, create wellness initiatives, develop training and team-building programs, and enhance organizational culture.

With this focus on people management, it’s essential to find the right person to serve as a human resources specialist for your company. However, low unemployment rates and a shortage of skilled candidates have made that difficult.

So, what HR roles should you spotlight now in your hiring, and how do you attract the top candidates? Here’s what you need to know:

Human resources specialist roles and salaries

Keep in mind that to attract the best candidates, it’s crucial you’re offering salary and benefits that are on par with industry trends. Here are three common HR specialist roles, along with their responsibilities and the starting salaries you can expect to pay for each position.

  • HR assistant — These employees take on critical functions in the hiring process, including conducting internet research to identify potential candidates, scheduling interviews and interviewing applicants by phone. They may also review resumes, help plan new employee orientation programs and maintain employee records. The 2020 OfficeTeam Salary Guide lists the salary midpoint (or median national salary) for HR assistants as $36,750.
  • HR recruiting specialist/coordinator — Recruiting specialists manage the internal and external postings of open jobs, evaluate candidates to ensure they meet company hiring standards and prepare employment offers. They may also oversee applicant tracking, conduct recruitment analysis and facilitate other HR projects. For HR recruiting specialists or coordinators, the midpoint salary is $44,000.
  • HR benefits specialist/coordinator — These professionals oversee the enrollment and management of company benefits plans. They help register new employees, serve as the primary point of contact for benefits-related questions or concerns, and work directly with vendors to resolve any issues that may arise. The midpoint salary for this position is $48,000.

Use our Salary Calculator to find out what HR specialists expect to earn in your city.

When to hire a human resources specialist

Determining the right time to bring in specialized HR professionals depends on the needs, schedules and budget of your organization. Also, depending on your industry and market, you might find different types of expertise in demand.

Here are just a few examples of when and where a human resources specialist can benefit your company:

  • High workloads — If the amount of work is increasing at your organization, new employees or project professionals may be required to handle the additional responsibilities. That’s a sign you’ll need a human resources specialist to help with hiring, rolling out updated benefits packages or new employee programs, especially if you’re creating and staffing multiple roles.
  • Sluggish staffing — If your favorite candidates are getting snatched up by other companies before you can make an offer, you’ll want to bring on a human resources specialist to help ensure you’re conducting interviews and extending offers in a timely manner.
  • Benefits enrollment — Many organizations also need assistance with benefits open enrollment, which an HR specialist can provide. In California, for example, HR specialists with this experience are in particularly high demand.

How to find your best hires

Because of the increased competition for HR gurus, strategy is key when staffing these positions. As you search, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Be specific — Knowing how to write a job description that’s carefully crafted can give you a springboard to identify candidates who match your requirements. Job descriptions should contain an outline of all the skills, experience and personality traits you’re looking for. This is also your chance to sell your company to candidates, so tout factors that will entice top HR talent, like on-site childcare, career advancement opportunities and how great your organizational culture is.
  • Get referrals — Friends, family members, professional contacts and existing staff are valuable resources when looking for accomplished HR professionals. You might even offer incentives, such as gift cards or bonuses, to employees who provide referrals leading to promising new hires.
  • Look for balanced skill sets — Along with HR expertise, a human resources specialist should have outstanding soft skills. Particularly valuable today are collaborative abilities and an aptitude for problem solving. Also essential are strong communication skills, including a capacity to work well with others and clearly explain HR matters that can be confusing to employees, such as benefit elections or how pay periods are structured.
  • Keep an eye toward the future Transformative technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are reshaping HR as they change processes and take over routine responsibilities like scanning resumes and data entry. You’ll need HR specialists who are tech savvy and adaptable to help you in this age of digital disruption.
  • Don’t wait for a unicorn — Keep in mind that the perfect candidate probably doesn’t exist. Spending time looking for someone who ticks every box could cause you to miss out on a wealth of talented individuals who would shine in your company. Instead, be open to providing on-the-job training to develop additional skills required for the role.
  • Make your offer quickly — Today’s candidates know they’re hot commodities, and many have multiple job offers on the table. If you drag out your hiring process, you will lose skilled HR specialists to your competition. Once you’ve pinpointed the candidate you want to hire, make an offer. At the very least, stay in contact with promising applicants throughout the process to keep them interested in the position.

One of the easiest ways to find human resources specialists in today’s labor market is to work with a staffing agency. Their experts have the experience and connections to find candidates who are right for your company.