15 Dirty Little Secrets For Landing Your Next HR Job…

by Alan Collins

I recently talked with a terrific HR leader who was out of work for seven months.

She had 10 years of HR experience, all with one company, before she was laid off in a brutal organizational restructuring.

The good news is she just landed a terrific new job as a divisional HR leader for a Chicago-based pharmaceutical company…and is excited and relieved!

However, as she was job hunting, she discovered that a lot has changed in the job market.   Her biggest shock was learning that the old job search strategies she grew up with…


She is a seasoned HR pro, immensely qualified, with a great track record of leading HR teams and delivering results.  However, she admittedly entered the job market unprepared.  Based on the horrific job search experiences she shared with me over coffee at Starbucks and my own observations, here are 15 dirty little secrets you should embrace if you want to succeed in today’s HR job market:

#1.   Your HR experience doesn’t matter as much as it used to.

The old rules were:  Tell me what have you done?   The new rules are: Tell me what can you do?   This may seem unfair or even ridiculous.  But the reality is hiring managers don’t want to hear about everything you did way back when.  They want to hear about everything you can do, specifically, to help them today.  Right here.  Right now.  Employers want HR people they believe can help solve their problems.  If you cannot clearly articulate how you contribute (directly or indirectly) to enhancing retention, reducing costs, improving revenues, and helping them become more competitive, you might as well stay at home.

#2.   You can’t depend on a résumé to get an interview.

Forget spray and pray.  Applying to every HR job in sight with the same, uncustomized resume is a total, utter waste of time.  Simply mass-mailing out hundreds of résumés and then sitting back and waiting for responses never worked.   And today it’s just consumes your time, your paper, your postage, and your emotional energy…with no payback.

#3.   You can’t rely on job fairs.

Years ago, job fairs were a fantastic way to hire highly qualified people.  Today, job fairs have become thankless, confidence-crushing meat markets.   Instead of spending money on dry cleaning and parking to attend a job fair, do this instead:  contact employers one by one after you’ve done your homework researching their businesses and their problems.

#4.   You shouldn’t expect to hear back.

Unfortunately, this little courtesy has become as ancient as the horse and buggy.  Expect many of your follow-up calls go unreturned.  People are just too swamped or don’t care.  Sure, that isn’t a excuse.  But, you combat this by continuing to network, interview, and research companies right up until the moment you have a firm HR job offer in your grubby little hands.  Maybe even a little after.

#5.  Your résumé is no longer a complete summary of your work experience.

Don’t bother to list HR jobs more than 15 years old.  They really don’t matter that much.  Instead, quantify your recent accomplishments, emphasize your HR certifications and highlight your leadership capabilities.    Also, your resume needs to be digital-friendly, easily uploadable, downloadable, and scannable (i.e., no bullets, boxes, boldface, unusual fonts, indenting). It should be rich in the “keywords” that recruiters and HR hiring managers are looking for.

#6.  You should forget resume-blasting services.

There are lots of vendors who will blast your resume out to a gazillion employers for a fee.  Like #2 above, this is simply more spray and pray.  Employers are buried with resumes already.  Your unsolicited, uncustomized resume is the last thing they want to see.   Skip these services and conduct your own research, using search engines and LinkedIn. Then write to hiring managers directly with targeted overtures.

#7.   You must be web savvy.

Get comfortable with applying for jobs online and learn how to do research online.  If all this is new to you, your public library is a good place to start.   Oh, and have a professional-sounding e-mail address.  It is also a great idea to go one step further and establish a strong online presence.  Explore LinkedIn (get some stellar endorsements), Twitter, and Facebook.  Become active in your field’s social media sites.   Consider building your own Web site (with a career-oriented blog, professional photo, and résumé).

#8.   Forget video resumes.

Imagine the hiring manager sitting at her desk swamped in resumes, cover letters, reference lists, portfolios, and unanswered emails from job applicants.   What’s her incentive to watch your video resume?   There isn’t one.  Video resumes are a solution in search of a problem.  Craft a killer resume and get it out, along with a pithy “pain letter” that explicitly shows how your HR background makes you the perfect person to relieve a business’s pain, to hiring managers instead.

#9.  You must google-proof yourself.

One of the first things a potential employer will do is Google you. That means you need to find out if there’s anything negative about you online. If there is something bad, get it removed.  If it’s not easily removed, your best bet may be to “bury” it with more recent, more favorable information about you posted online through articles and blog posts…all authored by you.

#10.  Posting “I’m job hunting” messages on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or HR job boards have little to no success.

I always feel bad for the HR folks who I don’t know who e-mail me on LinkedIn with a message that says, “I am seeking an HR job.”   I’m a total stranger to them.   The odds of getting a HR job lead that way is about the same as winning the lottery.   If you’re like me, you want to know the people you refer for job opportunities.   And, if you’re a job seeker, you’re better off spending your time making one-on-one connections or following up via phone or in person with people you know already…or their referrals.

#11.  If you’re a seasoned HR executive, many interviewers, hiring managers, recruiters may be younger than you are.

If you’ve been in the HR field awhile, get used to it.  Take your ego out of the equation.  Treat them with respect and learn how to speak their language.   Do not say “You remind me of my son/daughter,” or “When I was your age…”   They know you may mean well, but it’s tacky.

#12.  Envision & position yourself like a blue chip stock…

#13.  Get brutally clear on the job you’re going after….

#14.  Develop a compelling, one-page resume that stands out from the pack..

(Note: For more info on putting together a guerilla resume, click HERE.)

#15.  Finally…more than ever it’s about who you know, and who knows you.

This is the most critical point of all. Landing your HR dream job today is less a matter of applying for existing open positions and more about identifying needs potential employers have and demonstrating to them that you can address their problems.

Fortunately, there are more networking venues (offline and online) than ever before.  Successful HR job seekers get results through thoughtful, well-crafted letters, resumes, phone calls, and LinkedIn overtures — sent in response to posted job ads or sent to employers who don’t currently have jobs posted but who may well have business needs anyway.

They also do it through networking, and through careful follow-up with the people they know and the new people they meet during their job search.  “Hey, I need a job” is not a compelling pitch– but “I think I understand what you’re up against, and would love to talk about solutions” most definitely is.

These are 15 new rules for your job search.   Embrace them and you’ll succeed.  Ignore them at your peril.   Onward!

CLICK HERE to comment on this article or provide additional insights below.


Want more dirty little secrets for crafting your resume, then check out:  HR RESUME SECRETS:  How to Create An Irresistible Human Resources Resume That Will Open Doors, Wow Hiring Managers & Get You Interviews!   For more details, go HERE. 


Want more dirty little secrets to you prepare for and crush your next HR interview, then check out:  HR INTERVIEW SECRETS: How to Ace Your Next Human Resources Interview, Dazzle Your Interviewers & LAND THE JOB YOU WANT!  For more details go HERE.

About the Author: Alan Collins is Founder of Success in HR, Inc. and the author of a variety of best selling HR books. He was formerly Vice President – Human Resources at PepsiCo where he led HR initiatives for their Quaker Oats, Gatorade and Tropicana businesses.

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25 Responses to “15 Dirty Little Secrets For Landing Your Next HR Job…”

  1. Rodney U Bellamy Says:

    These 15 points are soooo on point! I have almost 25 years HR experience and have always been on the lookout for new opportunities. I actually had to start changing my gameplan and methods before I landed my new opportunity. . .which took me out of my comfort zone, relocated me, and has proven to be a phenomenal opportunity. Now I can coach others with these same strategies; not only do I speak from experience, it’s also encapsulated in this article!

  2. Jacquie Adorno Says:


    Thank you for posting “15 Dirty Little Secrets for Landing Your Next HR Job” The information provided is well received and great insight to all who still have not landed a job. Please continue to provide us with information that will help all to have a leg up on the competition.

  3. louise galvin Says:

    Dear Alan, This article is packed with great information not just for hr folks, but for anyone looking for a job today, I plan to share it with everyone who comes to me for an “information interview” and really appreciate your doing this. I think the title of the article, while it is eye catching and intriguing, doesn’t really do justice to the information…these 15 items may not be intutitive, but they are far from “little” secrets, they are the building blocks of success in the job hunt! just a thought, and thanks again, I am an admirer of your work!

  4. Alan Says:

    @Louise – You’ve pointed out a GREAT use of this article that I hadn’t thought of — that is, referring it to others requesting “informational interviews.” And you’re right, much of this can apply to those outside of HR as well, hopefully we can help those with this information as well. Thanks also for your very kind comments.

  5. Alex Putman Says:

    Great article and helpful information to all job seekers. In recent discussions with many HR executives, the thing they point out is the importance of utilizing their networks to meet potential employers versus the resume blast. Thanks for the post!

  6. Alan Says:

    @Alex – glad to hear the confirmation. My experience is that anything that smacks of “spray and pray” is doomed to failure. Thanks for the comment.

  7. Darricka sorrells Says:

    ALL job seekers can gain something from this wonderful and on point article. The title jumps out at you and after reading each point, makes your adrenaline rush to get to the next point.

  8. Kandace Morrow Says:

    Thanks so much for the information, the job search for a career changer has been very difficult this article gave some very interesting points that I need to start using if I am really looking to land that HR role.

  9. Antony Xavier Says:

    Dear Alan, Useful posting for all Job Seekers. It means one has to prepare a lot before making any decision on seeking a new job.

  10. Faisal R Awan Says:

    Thanks for sharing the valuable and effective information. I would just want to say that “You nailed on the head”.


  11. Vinod Bala Sharma Says:

    Thanks for sharing the great information. Today, HR hiring managers are more concerned about application of the concepts in daily life rather than grabbing information. Previous Experience only helps in grooming but to get the job today, you need to prove how can you contribute towards organization success.

  12. Albert Says:

    As a young HR practitioner, these 15 valuable points gave me a wider overview of what my life would be with the profession. Adapatability to change, technology and new methods are very important especially in HR (though some consider it just a simple sedentary job).
    Thank you so much sir for sharing… God blesses you…

  13. gb Says:

    I do not agree with the idea of tayloring a resume to a job, I think that you should NOT taylor or customize your resume, that’s what the cov letter is about, send the SAME resume to companies, show the TRUE yourself, show the company your essence, not some flashy blabla to get you in

  14. Andrew Peters Says:


    Thank you for sharing this valuable and timely information. I am an HR “Executive in Transition” for over 100 days and belong to several professional networking organizations in DE and PA where we collaborate to develop our strategies to assist each other land that next great and rewarding opportunity in our respective fields. Within the last 6 weeks approximately 12 executives have found meaningful employment and the vast majority were offered comparable pay to their last engagement. I am excited for the opportunity to share your work with others who will need to modify their search processes in order to be successful in this tight employment market. Cheers!

  15. J. Staicos Says:

    This is definitely a helpful article, especially the things that I see recommended/suggested by others that you say are a waste of time. Thanks for sharing.

  16. T. Allen Says:

    Great article Alan.

  17. Michael Esposito Says:

    This article is spot on. I loved it after reading the very first point, about promoting what you can do versus what you have done to prospective employers. As for the discussion on resumes, I consider them to be a “leave beyond” document instead of a “door opener.” Building meaningful relationships is the best “door opener” I know.

  18. Tim Collins Says:

    Note to GB: No offense intended, but you don’t “taylor” a resume, but you might “tailor” it. One of the cardinal rules of job hunting is to have 100% accuracy in spelling, grammar and usage.

  19. Rina Sarif Says:

    SPOT ON!!!

  20. Rajesh Bhatia Says:

    This article of bringing fact on face (FOF) is for real in some parts and certain parts have been added to put pressure or fear, but those who conquer this are winners at the end of day, so CHEERS and win the market,

  21. Tia Says:

    Does anyone have tips for recent graduates who are trying to break in to the HR field. It is a little hard to network when you don’t know many people because you are just starting out. Thanks

    I can be contacted on linked in http://www.linkedin.com/in/tchoward

  22. Deirdre Simons Says:

    This article is about branding, self awareness, and simple hints to those who have been “off the market”. These tips apply to HR professionals as well as other all other professionals.

    Know what’s hot, what’s not, know your key skills and accomplishments and present / sell yourself!

  23. kathiresh Says:

    Great and informative article. Hope this helps for all job seekers. Recruitment trend has been changing a lot along with technology and we should adapt the same.


    Very pertinent. Thanks a lot!

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    Every freelancer needs a strategy and the site will help you develop yours.