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Career advice for job seekers

Stand out from the crowd in your job search 28/07/2011

Aileen Brown, director at Hays Human Resources, shares her top tips on how to stand out from the crowd when looking for a new job.

Stand out from the crowd in your job search

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  1. Outline specific skills & achievements
  2. Interview tips
  3. Flexibility is key within HR

Outline specific skills & achievements

Although there’s no denying that competition for jobs has intensified, there are still opportunities out there for senior HR professionals, so it’s vital to stay positive; employers are looking to hire individuals who can demonstrate an ability to add value in a challenging environment.

The first thing to think about when looking for a new job is your CV or application form. Often HR professionals don’t invest the time in their own job search and can struggle to identify their achievements, but in order to stand out from the crowd you need to have a solid CV. It needs to clearly highlight the value you can add to the potential employer – the goal is to set yourself apart from other professionals.

Don’t be too generalist, state your areas of expertise and then highlight the experience that supports this. What employers will be looking for are the extra responsibilities that you have taken on. For example, how many people have you managed? Who did you report to? Have you been on the board? Do you have any project and change experience?

On the whole, senior individuals produce good quality CVs due to their experience and understanding of what employers look for. But we still recommend you get someone else to review it in order to see if it clearly conveys what you have done and where your core competencies lie in relation to the role you are applying for.

Interview tips

Once you secure an interview make sure you prepare thoroughly. Most employers will use competency-based interviewing (CBI) as it is the most popular interview approach, based on the premise that future performance can be predicted by past behaviour. During a CBI interview, senior HR professionals will be expected to demonstrate their experience in key areas. These tend to include personal skills such as communication, commercial awareness, decision-making, problem solving and leadership skills, as well as organisational skills such as bench marking. Managerial experience and your functional skills will also usually be tested, but these may vary depending on the role you are applying for. Most senior roles will also require experience in areas such as strategy planning.
Ensure each answer you give includes an example that describes a particular scenario, the actions you took and the impact it had on the business. Be clear about the role you played, as the interviewer will want to see how you personally handled the situation, therefore avoid saying ‘we’ or using theoretical situations in your answers. Questions will come in the form of, “Tell me about a time when you had to manage a challenging member of staff. What was the situation, how did you deal with it and what was the outcome?” It's important to be prepared to answer questions in a detailed but succinct manner.

Flexibility is key within HR

Overall, in the current market it's important to make sure you are considering all of your options - being flexible is key. Think about where your transferable skills lie and focus your efforts on areas that are showing resilience, such as internal recruitment and talent management. TUPE, restructuring and change skills are also sought after. In addition, private sector opportunities are steadily increasing, and those showing greater opportunities for HR professionals are manufacturing, banking, financial services, energy and retail.

It's also important to be proactive. Make sure you are speaking with a recruiting expert as a good recruiter can aid your job search. Expert consultants will have access to opportunities that are not always advertised and understand what employers are looking for.

For the latest HR jobs and human resources jobs, please visit the Changeboard homepage

Aileen Brown, director, Hays Human Resources

Aileen Brown, director, Hays Human Resources

Aileen has recruited to the field of HR for the last 10 years, working with clients across a variety of sectors. She is currently responsible for running the Hays HR Leadership Series - regional events giving HR directors the opportunity to share best practice.