At the core of every business are human resources, champions of the 9-5er and a rapidly expanding industry that not only keeps pace with new workplace practice, but also technology. For those of us already working in the industry, this fast pace is exciting. For graduates looking to land a job? It can prove a challenge.

Getting your foot in the door is only have the battle won. Once you’re offered a job, there are other stresses to contend with. Different expectations, an unfamiliar environment and the inevitable pressure of your first slice of the ‘real world.’

Check out this guide to not only land the interview but your first job in human resources.

Use Your Education

While achieving a qualification isn’t everything, it can certainly give you the leg up needed to get your foot in the door. Many HR roles require a candidate with industry-relevant training, which is where your fundamental lessons in the field will come in handy. Completing a university degree or short course are viable study paths that build and refine your skill to assist you in the job search, as well as set you apart from the competition.

Whether you are a recent graduate or established professional looking to switch careers, education provides you with current industry knowledge and understanding. It will lift your resume to stand out and demonstrates highly employable attributes; hard work and perseverance.

Take Relevant Experience

Like many other fast-paced industries, HR is a field that will almost always take your prior experience into account. Significantly. When you’re going through the process of reviewing your resume and searching for the dream job, be sure to highlight industry-specific experiences alongside your core attributes. So you’re great at time management, but when and how did you really excel at it?

An application that demonstrates your familiarity with the workplace will give you an edge. Unpaid internships are a great way for young graduates to get hands-on experience of their future career without making a commitment. For an established professional, look back to your previous employment and search for the parallels between the demands of your old job and the one you are applying for. Taking the initiative to demonstrate your suitability and interest in the field can make a world of difference.

Network with an Industry Body

Industry bodies are essentially a collection of like-minded professionals who, for the most part, already work in the industry. Your perfect place to network. These groups will keep you informed of industry trends and best practice, as well as potential job opportunities. Networking with other professionals at organised events and workshops offers the ideal opening to introduce yourself and leverage the power of word of mouth. Consider joining the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the world’s largest HR society.

Sustaining a mutually beneficial connection is an important part of professional life, especially in an industry so closely connected to people. Positive communication will not only give you direct access to hiring managers and the ‘decision-makers’ but moreover the opportunity to practice developing your confidence in the workplace, not to mention find a mentor.

Prepare Accordingly

When an interview opportunity does arise, it helps to be as well-prepared as possible. Note: prepared, not rehearsed. The only way to appear genuine is to be at ease, honest and confident. There are many methods you can adopt to ensure you make the best possible impression from the other side of the hiring table.

Research:Before any interview it is crucial to research the business you have applied for – key industry figures, their core values and past projects may only be the tip of the iceberg, but are enough to get you through a preliminary interview. A scan on Google will offer a general idea of where the company sits in the wider HR industry, and whether you’re likely to be a good fit.

Presentation: It is always a good idea to be dressed and presented appropriately, not only for company policy but the position that you are applying for. As a general rule, neat and clean clothing that allows you to present the best version of yourself is a safe bet. With that said, there’s no need to turn up in black tie if the business is laidback and not corporate. The best way to judge? Don’t let your outfit outshine your skills and attributes.

Confidence:HR professionals are self-confessed interview experts, it’s what they do. No matter how nervous you feel, try to relax and have confidence in yourself. Be assured in your ability and fit for the role before you step in – remember, why else would they have asked to interview you?

Landing your first job in the HR industry is no easy task. As a highly competitive and agile sector, it can be difficult to keep pace. All you can do is put your best foot forward, utilise the experience you do have and demonstrate an unfailingly positive attitude – something every HR professional knows can’t be taught.

About Helen Sabell:

Helen Sabell works for the College for Adult Learning, she is passionate about lifelong learning. She has designed, developed and authored many workplace leadership and training programs, both in Australia and overseas.