What qualities are most critical for HR professionals?

Here’s a fairly trick HR question, mainly because there isn’t technically a right or wrong answer. It’s also unique in that it lets the hiring manager learn more about your traits, preferences, and personality, albeit a bit indirectly.

Usually, a combination approach is necessary. You might want to include a few traits that were listed in the job ad, creating a sense of alignment. However, you can also go further, including personal insights about what qualities have helped you thrive.


“When it comes to critical qualities, I think strong ethics and trustworthiness one certainly two of the biggest. HR professionals are privy to a lot of personal information and often have to navigate complex situations while following all regulations and remaining compliant. Strong ethics make sure you have a guiding light, making it easier to act appropriately. Trustworthiness ensures that what should remain private does.
However, it’s also important to factor in impartiality and objectiveness. An HR professional can’t let their personal opinions cloud their judgment. It’s crucial that they remain neutral, particularly when moderating disputes or executing certain employee actions. That way, facts always guide decision making.”

Human resources is not for the weak-hearted. Managing the employee experience, recruiting top talent, overseeing benefits enrollment, and processing payroll just begin to scratch the surface of an HR practitioner’s day. All of those responsibilities require a select, unique set of skills and not everyone is cut out for the job.

Think you have what it takes to work in HR? Here are some of the most important qualities an HR professional should have to excel in the workplace.

1. Be Organized

HR pros have a lot on their plate, that’s why it’s so important to stay organized. HR is pulled in so many directions and interrupted throughout the day that you need to be able to switch gears at the drop of a hat. Invest in sticky notes, to-do lists, task management software—whatever helps you prioritize your day, improve your daily workflow, and keep you on track to meet your goals, should interruptions arise.

2. Communicate Effectively

Being a good communicator is an essential skill for any people-facing role. From interviewing job candidates to solving issues around the office, being able to communicate your ideas and decisions effectively will help you tackle whatever comes your way.

3. Lead by Example

Most HR professionals are natural born leaders. While they might not necessarily view themselves as a “people person,” they generally find joy in helping the people around them grow and reach their full potential. Whether you oversee direct reports or just help your employees out around the office, HR practitioners need to lead by example and ensure their talent has everything they need to have a successful career at your company.

4. Enjoy Solving Problems

Any HR practitioner will tell you, there’s no such thing as a dull day in the office. Whether it’s resolving a workplace conflict, figuring out how to educate your employees on your benefits offerings, or building your hiring strategy, there’s always something exciting to work on. HR pros need strong problem-solving abilities to be able to make the right call at every situation and think and act fast in order to avert a crisis.

5. Be Comfortable Making Difficult Decisions

Unfortunately, HR isn’t all fun and games. More often than not you’ll have to put what is best for the company ahead of your personal desires, whether that’s assisting with layoffs or scaling back employee benefits. HR pros have to make difficult decisions on a daily basis. Knowing your decisions impact the lives of your employees and their families can be a daunting realization, but being able to make the right call for the good of business is an important and necessary skill for any HR pro.

6. Take Risks

Sometimes you may find yourself in a situation that requires you to trust your gut and take a risk, even if it means you might make a mistake. When it comes to hiring new talent or implementing a new HR initiative, you may have to embrace the unknown and take a leap of faith. We all make mistakes, but successful HR pros treat every failure as an opportunity to iterate on their idea and to grow professionally and personally.

7. Love Data

Being able to build a great presentation is a must for any HR pro. Thanks to modern HR software, today’s HR pros have access to all of their company’s people data right at their fingertips. Measuring workplace trends and visualizing the impact of your initiatives is easier than ever before, making it easier than ever to prove your team’s worth and ace your next senior leadership presentation.

8. Be a Talented Multitasker

Benefits administration, culture curations, recruiting strategy, employee engagement—there’s really nothing HR ­doesn’t do. ­Any HR pro needs to be a good multitasker to keep up with all the different responsibilities and issues that can arise throughout the workday with no notice. All HR professionals need to be able to wear many hats throughout the day and stay on track with their everyday duties.

9. Have Strong Ethics

HR teams handle sensitive and confidential employee and business information every day. HR professionals are responsible for keeping that information under lock and key to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. That means working closely with your IT team to ensure your security practices are up to date and your team is aware of phishing scams or other security risks.

10. Love Learning

HR is always changing and HR professionals need to keep up. New compliance laws, employee expectations, and benefits are just a few of the ever-changing facets of the industry HR pros. Odds are changes within your own company will keep you on your toes too—like headcount changes, new senior leadership, and mergers or acquisitions—which can send a whole new slew of challenges your way. HR professionals need constantly have an ear to the ground and stay up-to-date on the newest laws, ideas, and benefits in the industry.