Careers That Don’t Suck Profile: Human Resources Director

Job Title: Human Resources Director
AKA: HR Professional, HR Generalist

What is it?

A Human Resources Director is someone who is responsible for managing a company’s personnel functions or department. This might include benefits, leaves of absence, payroll, employee relations, recruiting, policies, management training, performance management and strategic planning.

A Human Resources Director is generally a mid-level or higher-level manager who supervises a staff and leads the human resources or personnel function for a business unit (either a geographic region or a division of the business–Retail or Government Sales, for example).

The Human Resources Director position is usually one step below a Vice President of Human Resources, though some companies may have positions titled Sr. Director of HR or Executive Director or Divisional Director of HR.

What does a Human Resources Director do?

A Human Resources Director works closely with managers of other departments to help them manage all things related to supervising their departments’ staff. This includes helping managers to recruit, hire, train, resolve conflicts, decide upon disciplinary action, develop leaders and build skills in preparation for promotion.
The best way to fully describe what a Human Resources Director does is to divide their responsibilities into categories.

  • Strategic Planning -Working with management and executives to figure out what might and should happen when the company makes changes in the way they operate. For example, if the company is going to expand into a new state, the HR Director would help executives figure out how many new employees the company might need, what type of employees they might need to hire, which employees should be transferred to the new locations to help with the transition and what types of training those employees might need in order to make the transition.
  • Compliance -The HR Director ensures that companies comply with employment laws. For example, making sure that all managers are trained on anti-discrimination laws and that managers don’t do or say things that violate state or federal employment laws.
  • Policies & Procedures -The HR Director advises managers on policies and procedures to make sure that they understand the policies and that they are following them. Some HR Director’s write policies and procedures, others help revise them when the company changes something about the way they operate. Finally, the HR Director makes sure that policies comply with the law.
  • Recruiting, Hiring & Staffing -HR Directors help managers to recruit new employees by helping with writing job specs, figuring out where to post the ads (a newspaper or online?), figuring out what other companies might have employees that might fit into their company, creating interviewing guides or questionnaires, supervising a team of recruiters to source candidates and/or conducting the actual interviews and making the offers.
  • Employee Relations -HR Directors advise managers on how to deal with difficult employees, how to get the best performance out of their staffs and how to evaluate staff performance. HR Directors are also available to employees who want help with resolving issues between other employees and management, or with balancing their personal lives with their work demands.
  • Supervision -As above, HR Directors usually supervise a staff comprised of any or all the following: HR generalists (HR professionals who do a little bit of every one of the HR functions), payroll and benefits, compliance and employee relations specialists, trainers, administrative staff and recruiters.
  • Training & Development -HR Directors develop or facilitate training on basic to advanced management or leadership skills, job- , technology- or product- related information, company policy and procedure, performance management, employment law, etc.
  • Workplace environment, Culture & Communication -HR Directors are responsible for ensuring that the workplace is a safe, comfortable environment where all workers have an opportunity to earn a living and achieve career goals. What this means is that the HR Director ensures that policies are in place, that management communicates changes that might affect employees in a way that doesn’t cause panic and lessens the disruption and is in keeping with what the company claims is its values and mission. HR Directors write a lot of the emails and newsletters and notices that go out to employees, or they help the managers with that. They are available to employees who have questions about the way the company works.

Who might like this job?

  • Anyone who likes to work with issues related to people and to getting work done through people
  • Anyone who has an aptitude for dealing with interpersonal issues, who can “see” and communicate resolutions to complex problems
  • Anyone who enjoys training others and can communicate complex concepts to people of all backgrounds and levels (within the staffing hierarchy)
  • Anyone who is a good communicator–both in writing and verbally
  • Note: Human Resources is not a “touchy-feely” job where HR professionals are in it for the love of people. The truth is that if you’re not careful you can end up hating people because in your role you will see most people at their worst (when they’re complaining, unhappy or stressed out).

What does this pay?

  • Entry-level—first-time HR Director, BA degree–$60k-$70k
  • Mid-level—3-5 years experience, BA degree–$80k-$117k
  • Sr. level—more than 5 years, MA–$120k-$175k
  • Executive–10-15 years, MA or above–$200k+
  • Note: You can earn more by becoming certified as a Professional in Human Resources (PHR) or Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)

To break in you’ll need…

In general, you’ll need at least a Bachelors degree. The major isn’t that important if you have a fair amount of experience (5 years on average). If you are newly starting out in HR, employers generally prefer that you have a BA degree in human resources or a human resources related major.

If you are trying to make a career change into HR, and you’ve long since earned your degree in History, you can still break in. Getting certified through the recognized credentialing organization. Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) is the most recognized credentialing organization for human resources professionals.

However, there are other certifications for HR specialists in Compensation, Benefits and Work-Life. WorldAtWork is the most recognized certifying organization for these HR professionals.
So,who would you work for?

HR Directors work for employers in every industry, in businesses large and small, all over the world. Most HR Directors work for non-profit and for-profit businesses that have anywhere from one to hundreds of thousands of employees. There are also HR Directors who work as independent consultants brought into businesses to work on specific personnel-related issues. Finally, there are HR Directors who don’t work inside a typical business environment; Instead, they work for outsourcing or consulting companies that employ only HR professionals and contract their services out to typical businesses.

To find current openings… -Professional HR jobs with salaries of $100k+ -The Society for Human Resources Management is the largest human resources organization and a clearinghouse of human resources information -Professionals in Human Resources Association, the HR organization for the majority of California HR professionals

More information?

SHRM is the most popular human resources website and the largest HR association in the US. Check out SHRM’s HR Career Guide. is an online information resource for HR professionals working in small businesses, and small business owners who are acting as their own human resources department

Other Info Sources:

Opportunities in Human Resource Management Careers

Real-Resumes for Human Resources and Personnel Jobs: Including Real Resumes Used to Change Careers and Transfer Skills to Other Industries (Real-Resumes Series)

What about this career doesn’t suck?

  • Being in a position that allows you to work closely with managers and employees of all levels to figure out the best way to get work done through people and to help the company get its employees behind its goals.
  • Since we all gotta work, it’s great to be in a position to influence whether or not a person has a good work environment and the opportunity to earn a living and grow their careers. You’ll also be able to help people balance work with the demands of home, provide benefits that help people to take care of their families.
  • Finally, if you have a gift for working with people or working through conflict or arriving at compromise, you’ll get your fill here.

WorkYourWay Index:

This job scored 78% on our WorkYourWay Index. The HR Director job scores well for flexible scheduling, relatively high pay, work-life balance, good work environment, path to top jobs, barriers to entry and job growth (growing rapidly). The job loses points for some stress related to dealing with lots of employee “problems”, for the fact that the path to the top can be blocked by degree requirements and by working for employers that don’t invest in employee-related programs.

Still want more?

Ask Miss Cellanea, our career expert, for help with career planning, specific questions on HR careers (She is a senior HR professional).

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