Why can't I get the HR job I want?

As part of our career counselling service, we are repeatedly asked the same question from our HR professionals.  Namely, "what do I have to do/develop to get the job that I want"?  Also on this theme, is the frustration we hear from many professionals when they're searching for their next HR role - "why won't these employer companies consider for me for this HR executive job"?

There is no easy "one fit" answer, but certainly there's been consistency to the advice that we're sharing beyond specific leadership and technical knowledge capabilities, and resume & interview presentation refinement:

1. Commerciality.  

We've written countless articles about it.  As a HR leader, you'd better have this developed to an advanced level.  And be ready to prove it with quantifiable results from your initiatives and interventions.

2. Clarity for your "USP".  

Every HR person tells us that they're strong for relationship building, business alignment and partnering, change & project management, etc, etc.  If I had a dollar for every time I've heard exactly the same platitudes......  If you can figure out and prove what makes you truly unique compared to your network, and to your global peers, you'll stand out from the crowd.  

3. Genuine international experience. 

Companies are globalising.  Business executive teams are increasingly made up of multinational professionals.  They expect their HR leaders to have similar breadths of global market experience.  Working from the USA and supporting 1 employee in Mexico and 2 employees in Canada does not make for an international expert.  Working from the UK and  supporting 3 employees in Ireland and 5 in Sweden isn't convincing evidence of your European markets expertise.

4. Bi/multi lingual skills. 

Yes, English is the first language for many multinational companies.  But when faced with 2 similarly impressive professional histories, employers are likely to opt for the person who gives more "bang for the buck".  With a chance to save on translation fees, and to speak directly to offshore local leaders and workforces in their own language - yes please!

5. Tenure. 

If you've changed jobs every 18-24 months, regardless of your justifiable reasons for doing so, there will come a time where hiring execs will regard you as a "job hopper" and flight risk.  They won't care about the breadth of experience and knowledge you've collected.  They probably won't give you the chance to explain/justify the moves, voluntary or involuntary.  The fact remains that most employers remain conservative on tenure. 

6. Doors opening, or closing.  

Consider the link between your employment choices and your marketability.  It's an exciting challenge to join that super cool sounding start up, or to take on the challenge of being a freelance consultant, or to help the greater good by working for that charity or NGO, or to accumulate cash in that region where salary and benefits packages are high and taxes are zero.  But these kinds of detours, whilst interesting and attractive to you at the time, could make you a less attractive candidate to employers later on.  Employers trend to being sceptical when a HR leader has a history of roles that (on paper) appear to be unplanned; or who has been working in sectors/companies that aren't recognised for fast paced, commercial innovation; or who is returning from time in a country that is known for poor quality HR and where the "sub standard" and "leftover" professionals inevitably wind up.   In instances where there's an oversupply of high quality job seekers, your earlier "career adventure choices" may put you at a distinct disadvantage.

7. There's more competition at the top.  

We've got a simple graphic to explain this if you're visually minded!   There are thousands of new entrants into the HR profession, and plenty of junior level jobs to be filled.   Even allowing for people who split out for freelance consulting careers, family commitments, or simply leave the HR profession, there's still a large number of people wishing to progress in seniority.  But the typical job progression hierarchy has a rapidly decreasing number of senior jobs, which means large numbers of people competing for fewer and fewer possible roles.  It stands to reason then, that a significant percentage of would-be leaders, just won't have the executive HR opportunities they desire, because the equivalent number of jobs simply don’t exist.

8. We reap what we sow. 

Within all areas of the HR profession, leaders preach long and loud about transferable skills, hiring for development potential, and the need for diversity and inclusion.  However. When it comes to hiring for their own function within HR, those principles are rarely applied.  Certainly some roles require deep technical and/or legislative expertise that genuinely limits the candidate profiles that can be considered.  But ageism, sexism, racism, sexuality, industry sector experience, academic limitations, company brand preferences and more; is rife within HR.   There is an irony that many HR leaders struggling to find work and bemoaning the prejudices being applied to them, are guilty of having applied similar restrictions to hires they've effected in the past.....

Curious about what more you can do to enable your job searching success?  You will find plenty more tips and useful observations, by clicking here