Human resources specialists recruit, screen, interview, and place workers. They often handle other human resources work, such as those related to employee relations, payroll and benefits, and training. Labor relations specialists interpret and administer labor contracts regarding issues such as wages and salaries, employee welfare, healthcare, pensions, and union and management practices.
Human resources specialists typically do the following:
- Consult with employers to identify employment needs
- Interview applicants about their experience, education, and skills
- Contact references and perform background checks on job applicants
- Inform applicants about job details, such as duties, benefits, and working conditions
- Hire or refer qualified candidates for employers
- Conduct or help with new employee orientation
- Keep employment records and process paperwork
Labor relations specialists typically do the following:
- Advise management on contracts, worker grievances, and disciplinary procedures
- Lead meetings between management and labor
- Draft proposals and rules or regulations in order to help facilitate collective bargaining
- Interpret formal communications between management and labor
- Investigate validity of labor grievances
- Train management on labor relations
Human resources specialists are often trained in all human resources disciplines and perform tasks throughout all areas of the department. In addition to recruiting and placing workers, human resources specialists help guide employees through all human resources procedures and answer questions about policies. They often administer benefits, process payroll, and handle any associated questions or problems. They also ensure that all human resources functions comply with federal, state, and local regulations.
The following are examples of types of human resources specialists:
Employment interviewers work in an employment office and interview potential applicants for job openings. They refer suitable candidates to employers for consideration.
Human resources generalists handle all aspects of human resources work. They may have duties in all areas of human resources including recruitment, employee relations, payroll, benefits, training, as well as the administration of human resources policies, procedures, and programs.
Placement specialists match employers with qualified jobseekers. They search for candidates who have the skills, education, and work experience needed for jobs, and they try to place those candidates with employers. They also may help set up interviews.
Recruitment specialists, sometimes known as personnel recruiters, find, screen, and interview applicants for job openings in an organization. They search for applicants by posting listings, attending job fairs, and visiting college campuses. They also may test applicants, contact references, and extend job offers.
Labor relations specialists work with a labor union and a company’s management. In addition to leading meetings between the two groups, these specialists draft formal language as part of the collective bargaining process. They often address specific grievances a worker might have, and ensure that all labor and management solutions comply within the relevant collective bargaining agreement.
Human resources specialists and labor relations specialists held about 495,500 jobs in 2012. Of this total, about 418,000 were human resources specialists, and 77,600 were labor relations specialists.
About 15 percent of human resources specialists worked in the employment services industry, which includes employment placement agencies, temporary help services, and professional employer organizations.
Because hiring needs may vary throughout the year, many organizations contract recruitment and placement work to outside human resources firms rather than keep permanent human resources specialists on staff.
About 73 percent of labor relations specialists worked in labor unions and similar labor organizations in 2012.
Human resources specialists and labor relations specialists generally work in offices. Some, particularly recruitment specialists, travel extensively to attend job fairs, visit college campuses, and meet with applicants.
Most specialists work full time during regular business hours.
Applicants must usually have a bachelor’s degree. However, the level of education and experience required to become a human resources specialist or labor relations specialist varies by position and employer.
Applicants seeking positions as human resources specialists or labor relations specialists must usually have a bachelor’s degree in human resources, business, or a related field.
Coursework should include business, professional writing, human resource management, and accounting.
Work Experience in a Related Occupation
Although candidates with a high school diploma may qualify for some interviewing and recruiting positions, employers usually require several years of related work experience as a substitute for education.
Some positions, particularly human resources generalists, may require previous work experience. Candidates can gain experience as human resources assistants, in customer service positions, or in other related jobs.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Many professional associations that specialize in human resources offer courses intended to enhance the skills of their members, and some offer certification programs.
Although certification is usually voluntary, some employers may prefer or require it. Human resources generalists, in particular, can benefit from certification because it shows knowledge and professional competence across all human resources areas.
Some colleges and universities offer labor relations certificates to specialists who prefer greater specialization in mediation.
Decision-making skills. Human resources specialists and labor relations specialists use decision-making skills when reviewing candidates’ qualifications or when working to resolve labor disputes.
Detail oriented. Specialists must be detail oriented when evaluating applicants’ qualifications, performing background checks, and maintaining records of an employee grievance.
Interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills are essential for human resources specialists and labor relations specialists. When recruiting candidates and mediating between labor and management, specialists continually interact with new people and must be able to converse and connect with people from different backgrounds.
Listening skills. Listening skills are essential for human resources specialists and labor relations specialists. When interviewing job applicants, for example, they must pay careful attention to candidates’ responses, understand the points they are making, and ask relevant followup questions.
Speaking skills. All specialists need strong speaking skills to be effective at their job. They often give presentations and must be able to convey information about their organizations and jobs within them.
The median annual wage for human resources specialists was $55,800 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount, and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $32,770, and the top 10 percent earned more than $95,380.
The median annual wage for labor relations specialists was $54,660 in May 2012. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,690, and the top 10 percent earned more than $99,030.
Many human resources specialists, particularly recruiters, travel extensively to attend job fairs, visit college campuses, and meet with applicants.
Most specialists work full time during regular business hours.
Employment of human resources specialists and labor relations specialists is projected to grow 7 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. Employment growth will vary by specialty.
Employment of human resources specialists is projected to grow 8 percent, about as fast as the average for all occupations. About 15 percent of human resources specialists work in the employment services industry, which includes employment placement agencies, temporary help services, and professional employer organizations. Employment growth in employment services is projected to be much faster than the average as organizations continue to outsource human resources functions to professional employer organizations—companies that provide human resources services to client businesses.
In addition, rather than having recruiters and interviewers on staff, these businesses will contract preliminary staffing work to employment placement and temporary staffing agencies as needed.
Companies will also need human resources specialists to find replacements for workers leaving the workforce. Organizations will likely need more human resources generalists to handle increasingly complex employment laws and healthcare coverage options.
However, employment of human resources specialists will be tempered as companies make better use of available technologies. Rather than sending recruiters to colleges and job fairs, for example, some employers are increasingly conducting their entire recruiting and application process online. In addition, some of the tasks of generalists can be automated or made more efficient using Human Resources Information Systems—software that allows workers to quickly manage, process, or update human resources information.
Employment of labor relations specialists is projected to show little or no change from 2012 to 2022. Union membership has been on a downward trend, resulting in less demand for the services of labor relations specialists.
Job prospects for human resources specialists are expected to be favorable. Specifically, job opportunities should be best in the employment services industry, as companies continue to outsource portions of their human resources functions to other firms.
Human resources generalists, in particular may benefit from having knowledge of human resources programs, employment laws, collective bargaining, and human resources information systems.
Job prospects for labor relations specialists, however, are expected to be less favorable. Union membership has been declining, which means there are fewer opportunities for these specialists to negotiate with management.
Overall, candidates with a bachelor’s degree and related work experience should have the best job prospects.
For more information about human resources careers and certification, visit