If you are looking for new job opportunities, then you will want to learn everything you can about potential employers. But as you are reading up on the company’s history, you should also familiarize yourself with the current structure, including the Human Resources department. Here are 10 things that jobseekers will want to know about HR before their next interview.
What’s the Role of HR?
The Human Resources department has several different roles. However, most people don’t realize its full reach and participation within the company.
Your initial exposure to HR happens during the interview and hiring process, but they also handle other aspects of employee relations. The department is responsible for managing benefits, compensation, and career development. But, HR also monitors its employees’ behavior, assists with conflict mediation, assesses risks, and oversees legal issues involving the company.
Since it is responsible for sensitive, personal information, everyone in the HR department must use discretion and operate under a certain level of secrecy. HR can’t disclose information without having the proper authorizations. Otherwise, they may have to deal with some severe legal consequences.
What Should Jobseekers Know About HR?
For those who are currently in the job market, Human Resources will present the first opportunity to get your foot in the door. So, you should start by doing your research about the company. Understanding their HR policies is a great place to start. Here are 10 more things jobseekers will want to know about HR.
1. Human Resources is the best source of information for benefits and employee development.
Since they handle your benefits and provide opportunities for career development, HR is one of the best sources of information. It is a valuable resource for new employees who are learning their way around the company.
Additionally, they can tell you everything you need to know about the extent and eligibility requirements of your benefits. So if you have questions, HR is the place to find answers.
2. Not all information is confidential.
Many people assume that HR’s personnel files are strictly confidential. But, this isn’t true in every case. Under certain circumstances, such as when a crime has been committed or there is a harassment complaint, they must break anonymity.
The company is obligated to investigate claims and report them to the appropriate authorities. Although there are legal limits to what HR can share, employee information may be given on a need-to-know basis.
3. Human Resources may require your health information.
One thing all jobseekers should know about HR is what information you are required to share with them. In most states, you do not have to discuss your health information if you are calling in to use a sick day or PTO. As long as it doesn’t inhibit your ability to perform the essential functions of your job, you are not required to share any details of your medical history.
However, there are times when this information will be necessary to accommodate employees. For example, HR will need documentation if you are seeking accommodations under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) so they can provide you with what you need. Or, if employees request leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), they must have medical certification of their condition.
4. Confidence is great; a huge ego isn’t.
Having confidence in your skills will get you far in life and the interview process. When you speak with confidence, people tend to trust you more and want to be in business with you. However, an overinflated ego could kill your job prospects. If you really want the job, don’t assume you know everything and show a willingness to learn.
5. Your social media and online presence can impact your employment.
Nowadays, people document nearly every moment of their lives online. While social media connects us, it also blurs the lines between your personal and professional life. Therefore, you have to be careful what thoughts, opinions, and pictures you share online.
A good rule to live by is if it’s on the internet, then assume that someone at work will see it. Even when things are set to private, there are no guarantees that your posts won’t be seen by the wrong person. And, you don’t want to sabotage a good opportunity by being careless, especially when you are searching for jobs. So, be mindful of your online presence.
6. Things you disclose to other employees can quickly get back to HR.
Becoming friends with your coworkers can greatly increase your overall job satisfaction. But, it can also create more gray areas in what you consider appropriate in the workplace.
So, practice the same caution with people as you do with social media. You must be careful who you trust and what you tell people. Once again, you never know who could overhear or what they will report back to HR. I’m not saying that you should discourage personal relationships with coworkers; just establish boundaries to protect yourself.
7. It’s wise to always conduct yourself in a thoughtful and professional manner.
In response to the previous point, the best policy is to always conduct yourself with respect and a high level of professionalism. This applies both in and outside the workplace. Even when you are off the clock, don’t assume that what you say and do is above reproach. Be mindful of your words and don’t put yourself in situations where your judgment could be compromised.
8. Human Resources can enact disciplinary plans.
There are several reasons for employee disciplinary plans. And, HR may get involved if there are behavioral issues or a need to improve your performance.
If the department is part of the discussion, they will monitor your activities and progress, share their insights with your supervisors, and contribute during the planning process. Don’t forget that you can discuss any questions or details at any point in the conversation as well.
9. They can discuss any details of your termination with potential employers.
On job applications, you will usually see a question about contacting previous employers. This could be smart if you left on good terms and they will speak highly of you. But if you were terminated, you should probably reconsider this.
Another thing jobseekers should know about HR is if they call, former employers can disclose information about their job performance and reason(s) for leaving. Should you have anything that could hurt your chances of employment, it’s probably best to leave it in the past.
10. They can give misleading information and incomplete responses.
As mentioned above, there are certain legal limitations to the information that Human Resources can share. Although “lying” may be a bit strong, HR often misleads people or omits information. They usually do this to protect the company from liability by keeping information secret until they make formal announcements about promotions, layoffs, mergers, new policies, interpersonal issues, etc.
It is important to remember this last point well. Because in almost every instance, the Human Resources department usually believes that it is better to err on the side of caution rather than tell too much and put the company at risk. While they can be a great resource, you should always act in a professional manner when dealing with HR.
What do you think people should know about HR? Share your thoughts below!
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Jenny Smedra is an avid world traveler, ESL teacher, former archaeologist, and freelance writer. Choosing a life abroad had strengthened her commitment to finding ways to bring people together across language and cultural barriers. While most of her time is dedicated to either working with children, she also enjoys good friends, good food, and new adventures.