Every working adult needs to be familiar with his company's human resources department. In a smaller company, the HR office may consist of just one person. If you work for a large company with multiple offices across the country, however, there may be a chief HR officer, an HR office manager, an assistant manager, and several administrative assistants or file clerks in this department.
Even if they work at a business that is focused on customer service, such as a restaurant or retail establishment, human resources professionals are not expected to deal with the general public as part of their job description. The main function of a human resources department is to provide support for employees within a company. This includes current workers, as well as people applying for new positions at the company.
When a company advertises job openings, the HR office is typically responsible for collecting resumes. They sort through these documents to weed out people who don't meet the specific requirements of the position and pass along the contact information for the most promising applicants to the department doing the hiring. This allows the department manager to focus on conducting interviews to evaluate who will best be able to perform the duties of the particular job.
The HR office is also in charge of processing paychecks and dealing with employee benefits. If you have questions about your vacation time or policies regarding performance raises, the HR office manager should be able to assist you. The HR office is a good place to learn more about your company's medical and dental insurance benefits, although you may need to contact someone from the insurance company directly if you have a specific question about what procedures will be covered under your policy.
From a legal perspective, the HR office is the first checkpoint for dealing with complaints relating to discrimination or harassment. If you believe you have been unfairly treated because of your age, gender, or a physical disability, the HR officer's job is to try to satisfactorily resolve the situation so both you and the company are protected. This is true whether the dispute is between you and a coworker or you and your supervisor.
If you are interested in a career in human resources, keep in mind that strong communication skills and the ability to get along well with people from a variety of backgrounds are essential for success in this field. Additionally, post-secondary education is almost always required for job openings. A bachelor's degree in business administration with a human resources focus and elective coursework in psychology, sociology, political science, and economics is typically recommended. However, an associate's degree may be sufficient for positions in smaller companies if you also have relevant work experience.