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Human Resources | The Careers Service Human Resources – Oxford University Careers Service
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About this sector

Human Resources (HR) is at the centre of business performance with HR professionals driving decisions that enable their organisations to perform at their best. HR professionals aim to make the most effective use of the people within an organisation. Given that anyone working in an HR department will deal with a wide range of people on a day-to-day basis, an approachable, calm and professional manner is key.

Recruitment is a major function within HR and roles in this area may be based either in-house (managing the recruitment needs of an organisation) or in a consultancy (handling recruitment for a range of different clients). Executive recruitment consultancies (headhunters) typically operate in specialist areas sourcing candidates for senior appointments. They often approach individuals directly rather than advertising openly.

Organisations are increasingly aware of the value and importance of HR functions and almost every organisation now has HR staff in some capacity. The professional association for HR/Personnel specialists and generalists in the UK is the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and its current global membership stands at over 140,000. Although most graduate opportunities are within large commercial organisations with large HR teams or in the large public sector employers, opportunities exist in organisations of all sizes.

Types of job

HR jobs

  • Generalist HR assistants, officers, managers and directors
  • Training and development officers, managers and directors
  • Compensation and benefits specialists
  • Employee relations specialists
  • Performance managers
  • Health and safety managers
  • Resource planners
  • HR Consultant

Recruitment jobs

  • Recruiters – including graduate recruiters
  • Recruitment consultants
  • Headhunters


Generalist HR officers will be involved in some, or all, of the following: strategic resource planning, recruitment and selection, training, pay and benefits and related administration, employment contracts, handling disciplinary and grievance cases, advising management and staff on policies and procedures, creating new performance management policies, reporting on HR issues, negotiating with trade unions/staff associations or councils and much more.

Generalist HR work involves a constant change in the type of interaction you have with employees. One minute you may be supporting the business to hire new talent and the next you may be supporting a member of staff who has raised a grievance against their manager. Some HR professionals will work across the whole range of areas and others may specialise. In small organisations, where there may be only one or two HR representatives, it is more likely that you will be required to cover all areas.


Recruitment is a specialist area of HR. You can work as a recruiter within an organisation (often either focusing on graduate or experienced hire recruitment) or as recruitment consultant or headhunter. Large organisations, such as law firms, banks, Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) and retail companies, will often have dedicated internal recruitment teams responsible for managing the recruitment process from application through to the assessment process and making offers. The key skills for such roles are:

  • very strong interpersonal skills – especially the ability to work with colleagues  at all levels within the firm including very senior staff
  • strong attention to detail
  • the ability to multi-task effectively

Due to the high volume of recruitment in some organisations the recruitment teams may also engage the services of recruitment consultancies or headhunters to help find candidates, especially those at the senior level or with specific expertise.

Recruitment consultants and headhunters work with their clients (companies and organisation of various sizes) seeking to match prospective employees to clients’ vacancies. Recruitment consultancies often specialise in particular employment sectors and invariably, they aim to make as much commission as possible by successfully placing the individuals who register with them. The ability to build good relationships with employers is key skill to have in this sector.

This is a fast moving environment, riding high or low depending on labour market conditions; the availability of entry-level positions for graduates will also depend on the labour market. In contrast, Headhunters, actively search and approach (“headhunt”) fewer specialist or senior staff and rely  more heavily on strong networks of contacts in the sectors concerned, approaching targeted individuals on behalf of prospective employers.


Salaries vary considerably depending upon location, specialism, sector and level of seniority. Basic salary levels in London range from c. £24,000 for entry-level HR/recruitment positions to upwards of £100,000 for HR directors in professional services firms (Hudson Salary Guide 2016). Recruiters working in agencies tend to earn a basic salary and then have an element of commission and/or bonuses on top.

Entry points

A large number and range of organisations recruit for HR vacancies.  Starting positions are often on formal graduate training schemes; a broad range of organisations from public sector (NHS and Civil Service Fast Stream) to large corporations (RBS, Nestle, Unilever, Centrica, Barclays, M&S, Jaguar Land Rover) run specialised HR graduate programmes.

If you are not joining a graduate training programme, some organisations prefer to take entrants who have achieved the CIPD practitioner-level qualification. Study can be undertaken on a full or part-time basis; more information can be found on the CIPD website. Many organisations who hire graduates onto HR graduate programmes will provide support to take this qualification whilst working. So before enrolling on the course it can be helpful to check whether qualification is necessary for the roles you are applying for and/or if your employer can support/sponsor your studies.

Recruitment consultancies regularly recruit new graduates, sometimes onto their own training schemes such as, Reed and Hays Recruitment. Headhunters sometimes look for researchers to assist more senior staff – an increasing area of opportunity for graduates. Alternatively another good place to start is as an administrator in an HR department or in a Personnel Assistant post. The CIPD qualification is less commonly requested for entry level positions in recruitment.

Whichever route you take, you can expect to be given as much responsibility as you can handle fairly quickly.

Postgraduate Qualifications

Unless you have a relevant postgraduate qualification in HR Management that provides exemptions from all or part of the CIPD Practitioner-level qualification or have fully or partly achieved the CIPD Practitioner-level qualification, postgraduate qualifications are unlikely to set you apart from undergraduates who are applying. However, it will be worth examining closely how your postgraduate qualification helps you to provide evidence that you meet the job requirements, as this may give you leverage when it comes to agreeing a salary.

Skills & experience


Skills needed

A wide range of skills are required for these business-focused roles. No specific degree discipline is required, although psychology, law or business related studies are useful. The competencies for HR programmes within large organisations are likely to reflect the general graduate competencies at that organisation, however some key skills that may be required include:

  • Resilience, with an ability to handle pressure
  • An analytical, often procedural, approach
  • An ability to form good working relationships and apply effective interpersonal skills when dealing with people of differing levels of seniority
  • A good level of business/commercial awareness
  • Well-organised, flexible and numerate
  • Ability to persuade and negotiate, influence, listen and question
  • Excellent oral communication skills and have the ability to switch from one type of situation to another rapidly, adapting communication styles as necessary
  • Integrity and approachability, as managers and staff must feel able to discuss sensitive and confidential issues with you

Getting experience

HR experience is not essential but is often a distinct advantage. Large multi-national organisations in a broad range of sectors offer HR internships such as Nestle, Lloyds TSB, EDF Energy, J.P.Morgan, P&G and Goldman Sachs. Some work placement opportunities are also advertised on on our website. Having a sales, marketing or customer service experience is useful for entry into recruitment, but not essential.

In the case of smaller organisations, you may need to adopt a ‘speculative’ approach, sending your CV and cover letter to potential employers. Don’t wait for advertisements to appear, think about your network of contacts and how they could help you. Any form of business experience is useful, so think laterally.

There is often confusion about whether you should be paid to do an internship or work experience. It will depend on your arrangement with the employer and also the status of the employer. To find out if you are entitled to be paid when undertaking work experience or an internship, visit the Government’s webpages on the National Minimum Wage.

Getting a job

Vacancies are advertised on the individual organisation websites, as well as in journals and newspapers. Larger organisations usually hire for their HR Graduate programmes during the “Milkround” (typically from September to December each year), so check the websites of the firms you are interested in early, to confirm the dates and deadlines. Vacancies may appear under other sectors as well as HR, e.g. Human Capital Management, General Management, Administration, or the sector of the organisations main business, for example an HR vacancy at a bank may well come under the finance sector. Recruitment consultancies often advertise vacancies throughout the year.

Speak to HR professionals at all kinds of recruitment fairs and employer presentations and build your network of useful contacts. Look for vacancies at more junior levels within HR that will allow you to work your way up. Target HR consultancies that regularly advertise. Look also in the main professional journals Personnel Today and People Management.

Equality & positive action

A number of major graduate recruiters have policies and processes that are proactive in recruiting graduates from diverse backgrounds. To find out the policies and attitudes of employers that you are interested in, explore their equality and diversity policies and see if they  are recognised for their policy and practice  by such indicators as whether they are signed up for  Disability Confident Employer scheme,  ‘Mindful Employer‘ or as a ‘Stonewall’s Diversity Champion‘.
The UK law protects you from discrimination due to your age, gender, race, religion or beliefs, disability or sexual orientation. For further information on the Equality Act and to find out where and how you are protected, and what to do if you feel you have been discriminated against, visit the Government’s webpages on discrimination.

Our resources


The following books are available to read in our Resource Centre at 56 Banbury Road:

  • Contemporary Human Resource Management – Text and Cases, Tom Redman, Adrian Wilkinson
  • Quick Look at Human Resources, Janet Tapsell
  • Careers in Human Resources, Wetfeet Insider Guides
  • Specialized Consulting Careers – Health Care, Human Resources & Information Technology, Wetfeet Insider Guides


External resources


Sector vacancies

  • Personnel Today – An excellent source of information on HR careers
  • Changeboard – Contains lots of sector vacancies and careers information

News, institutes & organisations

This information was last updated on 06 September 2017.
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Recent blogs about Human Resources

What other jobs could you do? Conference for Researchers on 17 March

Blogged by Rachel Bray on January 25, 2018.

Are you a DPhil or postdoc unsure about whether you want to stay in academia but feeling a bit clueless about what else you could do? Do you want to keep using your research skills in interesting ways, while expanding your horizons beyond strictly academic research?

Booking is now open for the annual Careers Conference for Researchers – your chance to learn more about the many realms in which your academic skills and credentials will be valued.

  • When: Saturday 17 March, 10:00-16:00
  • Where: Examination Schools
  • Book: via CareerConnect

The conference will feature:

  • Themed panels showcasing ‘a day in the life’ of doctoral graduates now working in research-intensive sectors,
  • Insights from experienced recruiters on what they look for when hiring researchers,
  • Hands-on skills sessions for managing your current life, expanding your skills in new directions, and honing your core employability skills,
  • A long lunch break for you to network with employers and/or try out a range of careers resources on everything from portfolio careers to overcoming a sense of academic failure.

The panel sessions will help you understand how to make an effective professional transition from academia into sectors including commercial science; entrepreneurship; finance; government and policy; higher-education funding and support; publishing; specialist consulting; and tech/AI.

The skills sessions will include negotiation skills and professional development; having a family as well as a career; creativity in a commercial setting; and how to make humanities and social-sciences training marketable.

Whether you’re on your third postdoc and know you want something different, on the verge of submitting your thesis and torn between academic and other paths, or would simply like to shake up your preconceptions about what your experience really equips you for, this Careers Conference may be just what you need. Places are being snapped up fast, so visit the events page on CareerConnect to book yours.

Micro-Internship sector and location lists now available!

Blogged by Rosanna Mills on October 11, 2017.

Looking for some 9th week work experience?

Last week, the Internship Office was excited to launch our Michaelmas 2017 Micro-Internship Programme. We’ve now published sector and location lists for all available placements to make your search for work experience that little bit easier. Each list has a breakdown of the relevant placements, including the type of project, related sectors, and a short summary.

We have many exciting opportunities this term, all offering fantastic chances to boost your CV and develop your professional skills over a 2-5 day placement. And there is still time to apply, as applications are open until midnight, 22 October.

Need some help with your application? Help is at hand! Application Support Sessions are underway at the Careers Service for CV and personal statement reviews. Please login to CareerConnect to book.

For more information see our micro-internships page, or email

We wish you the best of luck with your applications!

In each list, please click on the placement titles to view full vacancy information on CareerConnect. The link will take you to the Single Sign-On logon screen. 

Location Lists:

Main Sector Lists:

In the Sector Master List, please click on each sector heading to link to all individual sector lists. The main sector lists are below:

MIP MT17 Sector Master List


The Oxford Careers Fair – advanced notice!

Blogged by Juliet Tomlinson on July 27, 2017.

October may seem a long way off now that the Summer vacation is in full swing, but for any of you who are wondering ( or worrying) about where to start with working out what do with your career, then reserve Saturday 14th October, almost as soon as you are back, to come to our Oxford Careers Fair!

Here you will have the chance to meet over 45 employers covering business, education, charity and the public sector.  You will be able to find out about the many and varied opportunities they have for graduates of all disciplines.  So whatever you are studying at whatever stage you are at you are all welcome to this event.

If this sounds a little overwhelming, then be sure to pop along to one of our talks which will run during the day. They will cover:

  • “Getting Started with Your Career”
  • “Business Career Alternatives to Management Consultancy”
  • “Internships and Work Experience”
  • “Making a Difference – Graduate Schemes and Careers with Social Impact”
  • And of course, many of the the Careers Advisers will be available during the day for a friendly chat so  that you can find out about all the careers suppport that there is here for you in Oxford.

More details will follow about this,our first and most diverse fair of the term and all our other sector specific fairs for Michaelmas.

Look forward to seeing you on 14 October, 11.00-14.30, at the Exam Schools.

Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Luxury Industry

Posted on behalf of RedStone. Blogged by Julia Hilton on April 26, 2017.
  • When: 19:00, Wednesday 3 May
  • Where: Sutro Room, Trinity College

RedStone is going to host an information session in Oxford, discussing the development of the fashion and luxury industry. The founder and CEO of RedStone will come to share their expertise in the fashion industry and their entrepreneurial experiences.

RedStone Haute Couture Co.,Ltd is a luxury brand management company, which introduced Salvatore Ferragmo, Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino and GIADA to China. RedStone aims to internationalize exquisite Italian brands by incorporating consolidated luxury markets expertise, sophisticated brand management experience and financial capacity with Italian creativity, craftsmanship and unique heritage.

The HR Director will share career development plans and opening positions. The event is open to all who are interested in the fashion and luxury industry, either for full-time job opportunities or for social networking.

All Oxford students and alumni are welcome. To attend, register online.

Full-time job opportunities at Redstone

Graduate opportunities at Redstone are:

  • Finance & Accounting Leadership Program
  • Business Development Leadership Program
  • Data Analysis Leadership Program
  • Merchandise Marketing Management Trainee
  • Public Relations Management Trainee
  • Customer Relations Management Trainee

Further details about these positions can be found on Redstone’s Graduate Positions pdf. They are also recruiting for more experienced positions of Brand Manager and Finance Manager summarised on Redstone’s Experienced Positions pdf.

To apply

Please send your resume and cover letter to

Job applicants are encouraged to send a CV to the email above before May 3 ideally.

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