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Differentiating Yourself in the HR Job Market

A young woman holding up a resume.

​Securing a job can be difficult, but implementing the right tactics can make it easier. Depending on the job market and how often you submit applications, a job search can last a few months or take a year or longer. Differentiating yourself in the job marketplace means having your resume stand out from the other hundreds of applicants for the position you want. Plus, distinguishing yourself can help decrease the time it takes to find a new job.

SHRM Online reached out to members of the Society for Human Resource Management's (SHRM's) Emerging Professionals Advisory Council (EPAC) for advice on how they have set themselves apart from other HR candidates while searching for jobs.

WILLIAM SPENCER III, SHRM-CPWILLIAM SPENCER III, SHRM-CP, has worked full-time in HR since August 2019. He is currently an HR business partner at Innovative Defense Technologies (IDT), a federal defense contractor specializing in groundbreaking warfare capabilities. His role covers various human resource functions, including talent development, onboarding and offboarding, compliance, and employee relations.

Spencer participated in multiple HR internships as a student at the University of Tennessee, two of which were at IDT.

"As students and emerging professionals, differentiating yourself is pivotal in ensuring long-term career success," he said. "Securing an internship during school goes a long way in doing just that. Internships are a great way to gain professional experience and learn HR best practices. Often, they transition into a full-time role once you graduate."

Here's how Spencer encourages all students to leverage their experiences and stand out in a large pool of candidates:

  • Participate in internships.
  • Get involved in a collegiate or professional SHRM chapter.
  • Take on stretch assignments in school and at work.
  • Obtain the SHRM-CP credential.
  • Seek out a mentor who will assist in your professional development.

"Many students that don't take full advantage of the resources available to them while in college fail at differentiating themselves in this realm," he said. "Getting involved on campus is one of the best ways to secure an internship and [make] valuable connections with professional organizations."

ALEXANDRA CAFFERTY, SHRM-CPALEXANDRA CAFFERTY, SHRM-CP, has worked in HR since 2019. She is currently a human resources analyst at Con Edison Clean Energy Businesses, a company that develops, owns and operates utility-scale renewable and energy assets. Cafferty also participated in multiple HR internships and worked in office coordinator roles related to HR before landing her first full-time job.

For job seekers to stand out, she encourages them to:

  • Use LinkedIn Learning or other online learning sites to take a class in a specific area of HR where you need more experience.
  • Further your education in HR by obtaining a master's in HR or taking specialized HR certification classes.
  • Give back to the community by offering to edit resumes for local high school and college students.
  • Take on a leadership role with your local SHRM chapter.
  • Ask a peer, mentor or teacher to review your resume.
  • Add more details to your resume. A company might be looking for a recruiter who has experience with a specific applicant tracking system (ATS). Adding the name of that particular ATS to your resume strengthens your chance of being considered for the position.
  • Include HR-related keywords. Review a position description and highlight any you may have missed.

"On my resume, I added all of my involvement with the HR community to show my commitment to the HR profession outside of work," Cafferty said. "I included awards and scholarships, my HR chapter leadership roles, HR certifications, and the courses I took for my master's degree in strategic human resource management."


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