I’ve read lots of articles about HR professionals and their activities, but I’ve yet to find something that really gets at what it means to be good at this job, so I thought I’d give it a try and write something about it myself. I don’t know whether I’m right or wrong, it is solely my vision for this critically important role in an organization that takes pride in itself.

You’ve just got to like people.

I remember my 10th grade psychology manual stated that human beings are as unique as the leaves of a tree. It’s true. People are very different from one another. In order to be a good HR person, you have to like people as people. Each one of them must be recognized as being special, and each one requires an adjustment in the way you speak, depending on their personality, so you must master the capacity to empathize effortlessly at a high level.

To do all of this well, you just have to like people. You have to like the interaction, regardless of the way they look and talk, to have an ingenious curiosity to get to know them, to think positively about them in general, and to enjoy hearing their stories so that socializing with them is a delight instead of an effort.

I’m under the belief that if you can’t stand people, just because they exist, this makes being in HR drudgery, for the effort then is humongous. That would mean playing a part that doesn’t fit you, which in its turn means an exhausting waste of energy. On the other hand, if you do like to talk to those around you, you can find your energy source in them, and you can limitlessly evolve as a person with their aid. The good part is that this doesn’t require any stress from any of the parties involved in the process.

You can’t take anything personally.

As someone who works in HR, you represent the company’s image. Therefore, you’re getting feedback every minute and, let’s face it, most of it is negative, whether related to you as an individual or to your position in the organization.

What you need to have is a strong sense of self-esteem, because this helps you to not take things personally, even when negative feedback lacks any tact. The focus must be on the source of the feedback, instead, on actively listening, and on eventually resolving the issue. Even if things are laid down personally, as if you’re the source of their frustration, you need to focus on solving the matter instead of defending yourself.

You must be optimistic.

For the past 10 years, I’ve been working in this industry, most of the situations that required my presence were when problems had to be solved, complaints had to be listened to, and bad news had to be delivered. Not many people come to this department to tell me they’re happy with the organization or to provide the HR people with positive feedback.

If those who work in this department aren’t optimistic and they absorb the negative states of mind of those around them instead, it’s really just a matter of time until they will wear down and turn into highly demotivated or even depressed people. When someone comes in to complain, show him or her the best side of the situation, listen carefully and suggest solutions, or at least help that person look at his or her problems from a different angle. People often exaggerate what’s wrong with them, and fixing the issue can sometimes be just a matter of perspective.

You’ve got to be everything for everyone.

For those who are under the impression that being in HR is just recruitment, think again. When you work in this field, you must also be a psychotherapist, coach, doctor, the Yellow Pages, social media director, mother, father, friend, journal, strongbox, and the list goes on. I remember knowing all my colleagues’ stories when I was at the office, having a drawer full of bandaids and threads and needles, phone numbers of all sorts of doctors and various banks.  I was and still am—even if it’s just online—close to my colleagues through different stages in their lives, and that has helped me feel the pulse of the company, to help managers raise other managers, and to grow along with them. Yes, knowledge is power, and it’s up to you to use that strength in the company’s best interest—first of all— and in your colleagues’ interest, as well, so that everyone will be happy.

You have to tell the truth and nothing but the truth.

Being in HR means being a salesperson, in part. But those who regard selling as saying anything to seal the deal are dead wrong. This only works until your word can no longer be trusted. The world is small and people talk, so it doesn’t take long before negative advertising spreads by leaps and bounds. A good HR person doesn’t choose the easy way, but the hard one when needed, even if it’s thornier.

You have to be a “needs translator.”

The company has needs and objectives, and so do the employees. As the part-time therapist you are, you know if the latter category’s wants are compatible with the corporation’s.

You need to translate the company’s objectives so that they match those of the employees so that they’ll do whatever it takes to help achieve them. The other way around is also a must so that the top management understands that satisfying employees’ needs translate into greater productivity and a diminished turnover.

The most important aspect to keep in mind at all times is that the corporation’s objectives come first, regardless of employees’ or your personal opinion. And you should always act according to this credo: your part is to do whatever it takes to protect the company. In a nutshell, you must know when to draw the line in trying to meet specific personnel requirements, even if this leads to their frustration and even resignation.

A good HR pro motivates him- or herself.

It’s true, a good HR pro doesn’t wait around for a pat on the back or kind words from others.; you need to motivate yourself. Positive feedback is a rarity. Instead, you hear that management wants recruitment results, a high retention rate, statistics to back it all up, and it’s all requested ASAP. The employees want attention or money, and HR managers are seldom asked what we would like. You don’t usually ask your folks what they dream of, and things are pretty much the same in HR.

How do we motivate ourselves? We are glad when a tough recruitment job is well done, pleased when those we’ve recruited get good evaluations, thrilled when projects we’ve developed are implemented and functioning well.

A good HR pro doesn’t give in to pressure and stress.

My HR friends and I are always amused when we describe our main job requirement: we need to be like the buffers in the train—flexible and unbreakable.

Sometimes, the pressure put on an HR person is a lot to take. Whether it’s the management or the other employees, we have to answer to all of them and do it fast.

A good HR pro is an organized doer who works really quickly, makes decisions with no major doubts, and is patient and able to multitask without getting confused. Last, but not least, it’s essential to love the lack of routine and the constant movement from one task or project to another that comes with the job.

After all my years of work in the human resources industry, the conclusion I’ve come to is that this is a job fit only for some people, those characterized by good people skills, excellent communication skills, creativity and zing, and most of all, a good sense of humor.


  • Ambrose D'Souza says:

    It’s real time experience of any effective HR Professional. You have to be a Father, Mother, Brother, Sister and so on……. all the times!!

  • richard says:

    Best Article i have ever read ,Many Thanks

  • John says:

    Great read and right on point. I will definitely share with my team.

  • Gemma Toth says:

    Great article! I agree. These are the traits of a true HR pro. One who understand that technology is simply a tool for the job, not a replacement for the human component of HR that provides professional, yet personalized service to his/her customers – the employees!

  • Jagan.J says:

    Really nice airticle… I have an question regarding Hr profession. I just now started my career in Hr, Can you please tell me what are the areas i need to concentrate to become a successful Hr professional.

  • Parker says:

    Some goods things here, some not so much. Really don’t have to have that undying love of people to succeed, actually might be a drawback.
    And the all things to all people. You CANNOT be the psychologist, social worker, doctor, social media director, mother, father, etc. That is a sure route to being the olden days social director and an impediment to good management.
    The worst thing human resources people can do is get the inflated opinion that they are the most so special of all people and so smart and so intuitive and so understanding.
    Every job is special and every job requires a special personality.

  • Constance Nicole says:

    Great article! As an HR director, I would often get pitying looks and other leaders saying,”I would not have your job for anything in the world,” and I agree that loving people, with all their failings, flaws, and idiosyncrasies was a major component of my success.

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