Although HR and recruitment professionals make up just 1% of the UK workforce, they're a vital part of any organisation and improving digital skills is one of the sector's key challenges

What areas can I work in?

Nearly every type of organisation needs HR staff, so there are opportunities in all sectors.

If you work in-house at a large company you'll be part of an HR team, and may specialise in one or more of these areas:

  • employee engagement
  • employee relations
  • employment law
  • health and safety
  • industrial relations
  • learning and development (L&D)
  • payroll and pensions
  • performance and reward
  • recruitment and talent management
  • strategy and organisation development
  • training.

At small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), you'll likely perform a range of different tasks related to these various disciplines. However, this will depend on the needs of the business and your specific role within the range of human resources jobs.

While human resources officer is a common job title for those involved in numerous aspects of HR, other positions may focus on a related field such as L&D, careers coaching or occupational psychology.

Not all organisations have a traditional HR department. Some now outsource services such as recruitment, payroll and pensions management to external dedicated human resources outsourcing (HRO) companies, recruitment agencies or consultancies.

If you're looking to specialise in recruitment, large international agencies operate across the employment market. For example, Adecco connects more than 70,000 workers with job opportunities each day throughout its 500- locations spanning 60 countries. Many smaller independent agencies specialise in an industry or particular sector, such as education or digital.

Who are the main graduate employers?

HR and recruitment functions exist in many UK companies encompassing most sectors. In large organisations these services tend to be based at their head office, meaning that you're likely to be based in London or another major UK city.

Some organisations offer HR as one element of a general management programme, but HR graduate schemes are offered by many leading employers, including:

  • Balfour Beatty
  • Boots
  • BP
  • Centrica
  • Civil Service Fast Stream
  • DHL
  • GSK (GlaxoSmithKline)
  • Jaguar Land Rover
  • KPMG
  • Lloyds Banking Group
  • Mitchells & Butlers
  • Network Rail
  • NHS
  • Nestlé
  • PwC
  • Rolls-Royce
  • Royal Mail Group.

There may also be opportunities for internships and work placements with a strong HR focus. Find out how to get a job in HR.

Recruitment consultancies also take on graduates. These include:

  • Adecco Group
  • Big Red Recruitment
  • Cititec
  • Client Server
  • Hays
  • ManpowerGroup
  • PageGroup
  • Randstad
  • REED
  • Spencer Ogden.

What's it like working in HR?

Graduates entering the recruitment and HR sector can expect:

  • a competitive industry with strict deadlines and targets
  • high earning potential as the average salary for HR professionals is £39,716, according to Reed.co.uk, with some companies offering commission and bonus schemes
  • to be rewarded for having qualifications and a wealth of experience - the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) says HR officers earn an average salary of £24,598, but managers earn £36,009 and directors £68,793
  • self-employment as an option for those with experience and the right qualifications, especially with outsourcing making consultancy work increasingly common
  • to work in an office, most likely as part of a team in larger companies, but often independently in SMEs.

To find out more about typical salaries and working conditions, browse recruitment and HR job profiles.

Deloitte's 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report called for HR departments to take action in implementing new technological processes in the workplace.

The report revealed that, of the companies surveyed, 65% had no significant programme to drive digital leadership skills - but 78% believe it's an important part of the modern workplace. As you enter the field, adapting to this new way of working will be a focal point of your role.

CIPD's HR Outlook: Winter 2016-17: views of our profession survey questioned 629 HR professionals at all levels on the trends, topics and challenges facing the industry, with key findings including a call for HR to embrace the benefits of technology such as automation, social media and mobile services, and adapt to the workforce's changing needs and desires, including a demand for flexible working.

The survey revealed that, with high levels of employment coupled with economic uncertainty resulting from Brexit and globalisation, effective talent management in attracting, retaining and developing the best employees is needed now more than ever.

While organisation leaders were found to generally be highly competent in operational, financial and technical matters, they often lacked in people management skills.

The main focus of HR training and L&D continues to be getting the best out of a company's workforce while driving business performance.

Explore the range of available training, qualifications and HR courses available to HR professionals.

What about working in the recruitment industry?

The recruitment industry is moving from strength to strength. The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC)'s Recruitment Industry Trends 2016/17 report revealed the total industry turnover for the period was £32.2billion, and projected an industry growth of 3.6% in 2018/19.

In terms of trends, the LinkedIn Talent Solutions Global Recruiting Trends 2017 report targeted 4,000 global talent leaders across 35 countries and identified recruiting diverse candidates, improving soft skills assessments and innovating interviewing tools as the three areas driving growth in the recruitment industry from now until 2020.

The report highlighted the importance of social media and the digital age in improving on these areas. Professional social networks have positively impacted the quality of candidates hired in the industry, LinkedIn found.

Because of this, your strong digital skills as well as the ability to build successful candidate relationships will improve your prospects of landing a job in recruitment or HR talent planning.