Special offer 

Jumpstart your hiring with a $75 credit to sponsor your first job.*

Sponsored Jobs are 2.6x times faster to first hire than non-sponsored jobs.**
  • Attract the talent you’re looking for
  • Get more visibility in search results
  • Appear to more candidates longer

Top HR Skills to Look For in an HR Generalist

Is your human resources department ready to expand? Before you write or update a job description for an HR generalist, consider the top HR skills they need to have. This pivotal role covers a lot of ground in your human resources department and needs a diverse set of skills. The following guide helps you decide what skills in human resources to look for in a candidate.

Post a Job

What is an HR generalist?

A human resources generalist is a key part of the HR team, handling a wide range of HR tasks that keep the department running. They handle paperwork related to hiring, training, benefits, pay, attendance and HR policies.

HR generalists collaborate with the rest of the HR team, and they work directly with job candidates, new hires and established employees. Because of the variety of tasks they do, HR generalists need a broad skill set. Below are some essential HR skills to look for when hiring an HR generalist.

1. Written and verbal communication

The HR department interacts with many different groups, including job seekers, managers, new hires and employees. If your company outsources recruiting or other parts of the HR process, the department also acts as a liaison for those vendors. HR generalists often serve as a first contact point for everyone reaching out to the HR department, so they need the skills to handle those interactions.

Look for a candidate who can clearly communicate ideas verbally and in written form. HR generalists also need active listening skills to ensure they understand what employees need. They also need to communicate with different types of people. A strong HR generalist can relate to employees just as easily as they communicate with stakeholders who have a lot of authority.

They need to be able to explain sometimes confusing policies, laws and benefits information to employees in a way they can understand while also having an in-depth conversation with other HR professionals about those topics.

This role might also require the candidate to speak publicly. This could be in front of the employees, as part of new employee training or to represent the company during recruiting initiatives. Your HR generalists should feel confident with public speaking and be able to handle themselves well in front of a crowd.

2. HR skills and knowledge

While an HR generalist job can be an entry-level position, hiring someone who has some basic HR skills and knowledge is a good idea. They should have a basic understanding of the rules and regulations that govern the human resources department.

They should also understand the different functions of HR, such as hiring, training, payroll, benefits and performance management. These functions are things a strong candidate can learn, but they can ease into the position faster with previous experience.

3. Time management and prioritization

Another human resource skill your generalists should have is time management. They have a constant flow of new tasks and ongoing duties that they manage. Being able to judge how long tasks will take and allotting time to each task can help the HR generalist be more productive.

This requires prioritization skills to determine which tasks need to be done first. Someone with effective time management skills can stay productive and keep the department’s tasks on track.

4. Teamwork and collaboration

Your HR generalists work in a variety of HR areas, such as benefits, recruitment, pay and employee performance, and they’ll likely need to collaborate with the specialists in those areas. You might have a benefits manager or benefits specialist who plans and carries out the benefits program.

However, the HR generalist is responsible for helping employees enroll in benefits or answering questions job applicants have about your benefits. They might also work on projects with those specialists. Being able to collaborate and work well on team projects can help your HR department run smoothly.

5. Recruitment

HR generalists need a strong understanding of the recruitment process and the ability to implement effective recruitment strategies. They’re often an integral part of recruiting new employees. Even if they don’t handle every part of the recruitment process, understanding how those processes work makes them better at their jobs.

For example, an HR generalist might not conduct the interviews, but they might schedule and prepare the materials for the interviews. Knowing how the interview process works helps them do those related tasks, and they’ll be better equipped to answer questions from job candidates.

6. Training Ability

In some companies, training new employees falls on the HR generalists. Training might seem easy, but not everyone is well-suited to teach other people effectively. Having previous training or teaching experience can make it easier for an HR generalist to lead or plan training sessions for employees. Someone who is able to explain things in an engaging, easy-to-understand way could be a good trainer, even if they don’t have previous experience.

7. Project management

An HR generalist will likely work on multiple projects at once. Having project management experience or at least an understanding of project management makes it easier to coordinate those duties. Ensure your HR generalists understand how to plan and carry out a project from start to finish, as well as balance multiple projects at once.

8. Aptitude for technology

The HR field relies heavily on technology to carry out daily tasks, so it’s helpful for HR generalists to have an aptitude for technology. Ideally, HR generalists will already have experience using various HR software programs. If they don’t have experience with specific software, they should at least be comfortable using technology and learning new programs.

There are several types of HR software that companies often use to streamline the department. Consider the types of software your company uses and look for someone with experience in those programs. Examples of HR software include:

  • Human Resources Information Management (HRIS): This type of software serves as a central data management system for various HR functions, including storing and tracking employee data, recruitment and managing your benefits and payroll. These programs often incorporate automation to speed up HR processes.
  • Applicant Tracking Software (ATS): Applicant tracking software focuses specifically on the hiring process. It helps with tasks, such as posting jobs, scanning resumes, contacting applicants and maintaining data about applicants.
  • Payroll systems: Many companies use payroll software to track employee hours, send out payroll and manage tax information. While the HR generalist might not routinely handle payroll, they might need to step in occasionally if the payroll person is out of the office.
  • Performance management: Some companies incorporate performance management software that helps assess employees and set goals for improvement.

9. Decision-making

While HR generalists typically work under the supervision of HR specialists, they often have autonomy over their tasks. They need to have strong decision-making skills when dealing with various situations. Look for someone who is able to analyze the available information and make an informed decision quickly and confidently.

10. Organization

A successful HR generalist needs strong organizational skills to keep track of the multiple projects and duties they handle on a daily basis. Keeping the workspace physically organized makes it easier to keep track of the documents they’re working with and reduces the risk of losing important documents. Organization is also important for digital work, ensuring that files are easily accessible. Someone who struggles with organization is typically less productive.

11. Problem-solving

The human resources department juggles many aspects of running your business. That often means they face tricky situations or need to make a certain part of the process work better. For example, if the company needs a very specific skill set for a position, an HR generalist might have to get creative to overcome the lack of applicants meeting those requirements.

If the company is struggling to remain compliant with a particular law, being a problem-solver could help come up with solutions to remedy the situation. Having a strategic, creative, problem-solving approach to work can be a major benefit in the HR department.

12. Analytical and data interpretation

HR involves a lot of data that HR generalists need to interpret and use. Strong analytical skills make it easier to handle this aspect of the job. Someone who’s analytical can use data from HR reports to identify areas where your company can improve.

They can also turn metrics into important messages for employees or the public. For example, they might look at the improvement in retention rate and use it as a selling point for recruitment.

13. Administrative tasks

It might not be the most exciting part of the job, but HR generalists need to understand how to handle basic administrative tasks. This includes duties, such as filing physical copies of documents, using multiline phone systems, completing paperwork accurately and documenting information in employee files. These are tasks that can be taught, but someone who already has these skills can jump into the position faster.

14. Cultural sensitivity

Having a diverse workforce helps your company improve its innovation, provide better solutions for a diverse audience and earn a positive reputation. Since your HR generalists play a key role in hiring, having cultural awareness and sensitivity helps recruit a diverse workforce.

These team members also work with all your employees, so they need to understand how to interact with people who are different than they are. Being insensitive to cultural differences can at a minimum create a negative work environment. It can also leave your company open to legal action.

15. Discretion

HR staff members have access to personal information on all employees and applicants. They might be part of disciplinary action or other sensitive issues in the workplace. HR generalists must understand that they can’t share any private information, either with other employees or their friends and family outside of the company.

Confidentiality is essential to avoid complaints or legal action from your employees. Ensure you hire someone who understands the importance of discretion and knows how to protect the confidentiality of data.

16. Ability to handle pressure

HR is often a fast-paced department, especially when you’re in a hiring crunch. Someone quitting unexpectedly, a sudden grievance filed by an employee or being out of compliance with regulations can create a situation that needs to be resolved quickly.

Even when there’s not a major incident, the HR department is balancing many different needs and tasks. Someone who can stay calm in stressful situations and deal with continuous heavy workloads is well-suited for an HR generalist position.

17. Interpersonal relationships

With so much time spent helping and interacting with people, having good social skills is a must. HR generalists need to understand that everyone is different, and they need to adjust their interactions accordingly. Being aware of emotions and personalities allows them to interact positively with different staff members.

Post a Job

Ready to get started?

Post a Job

*Indeed provides this information as a courtesy to users of this site. Please note that we are not your recruiting or legal advisor, we are not responsible for the content of your job descriptions, and none of the information provided herein guarantees performance.

Editorial Guidelines