Are you interested in working in a Human Resources (HR) job? We interviewed an HR Officer in the pharmaceutical industry to find out what it’s like to work in this role.
What is your role, and long have you been doing it?
I’m an HR Officer for around 215 employees who work in a laboratory for pharmaceutical research and development. I’ve been in the role since August 2018, so just over three years.
What made you choose the role of HR Officer?
The content of the role, the part-time hours, and the company, as it is a small family-run company.
What qualifications or experience did you need to get your job?
I needed HR experience in my employer’s sector - working in manufacturing, but also experience in a pharmaceutical company. I also have a degree in Management Science and I’m Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) qualified.
What was your application and interview process like?
I applied for the position through Tate and was asked to attend an interview. During the interview and assessment process we looked at various available jobs, then the consultant remembered they had this position.
So, although it wasn't initially the role that I'd applied for, it was exactly what I was looking for. My application was put forward, I had an interview at the company premises, and I was offered the job.
The personal touch I had with Tate was superior to the other agencies I was registered with.
Can you talk us through what it’s like to be an HR Officer?
My role is very varied. I spend a lot of time putting together job adverts, talking to recruitment agencies who support us in sourcing candidates, setting up interviews, and organising managers’ diaries. Because of COVID-19 we have had to adapt to the new environment, so a lot of our first stage interviews are done remotely by Teams or Zoom. During full lockdown we had a couple of candidates who went all the way through the recruitment process without being on site at all, which is so sad, but it was required at the time, we couldn’t do anything differently.
We can do in-person interviews now, which allow the candidates to get a feel for the company and there’s a lot more we can get from in-person interviews. For example, what they are like and their facial expressions, which is harder to see online. However, the benefit of doing first stage interviews remotely is that you don't have to commit so much time as a candidate or as a manager. Therefore, if there isn’t a fit with the candidate’s technical experience, it saves a lot of time.
As a company we like to have two managers in an interview, but because we're a small company, some departments don't have the ability to do that, so when that's the case, I sit in on the interview.
What are your working hours like, and do you work from home or in an office?
Pre-COVID-19 I was always in the office. Initially, I worked two full days and two half days, with me coming to the office on all days. That was revised to suit me, as I have quite a long journey into work, and I did three full days instead.
Since COVID-19, I've been working from home, and I only go into work as needed, rather than on a regular basis. For example, when we have someone to onboard, or when I need to prepare offer letters.
I like working from home because it's convenient, but I also like going into work, as I miss the teamwork and knowing what's happening in the business. It's about getting the right balance. I probably work longer hours from home, as the technology allows me to do that.
What are the best bits about being an HR Officer?
Working across the business, I get a good feel for the challenges my colleagues face, what is important in the business and what the different departments do. I like organising, meeting different people, and building relationships with suppliers, such as recruitment agencies. There’s a lot of opportunity within the role as it’s quite varied.
What are the least enjoyable bits about being an HR Officer?
I love what I do, I'm very fortunate in that respect, but sometimes the volume of work is high, as there’s only me looking after recruitment in this business, and sometimes it does take over. Also, it can be frustrating when you get close to filling a role, but then it doesn’t work out, and I’m back at square one.
What skills do you think you have developed by being an HR Officer that you wouldn't have gained elsewhere?
Organising, multitasking, prioritising, and recognising when something needs to happen before a certain deadline. Working around COVID-19 has changed things, using Teams and other technologies is quite new to this role.
What is the most important skill you need to succeed in your role?
Being organised and building relationships.
How is your performance measured as an HR Officer? Do you work towards any KPIs?
Because we're a small company, we're not quite so dependent on KPIs. We reflect on how many vacancies there are, how many candidates we've got for the positions, and the time it takes to fill a vacancy.
Do you think the pandemic has had a significant impact on the HR profession?
The company was resistant to make any changes during the pandemic, so we didn't have as much recruitment. Now that we've got through the lockdowns, we've got to move on and learn to work with COVID-19, and to do that we need more staff, so the number of vacancies has exploded.
Do you manage a team?
No, I’m currently stand alone.
Do you have any self-development plans?
I like to keep myself up-to-date with what's happening in the HR sector, for example because of Brexit we have different visa requirements for candidates. Employment law is constantly changing, so there are always opportunities to learn and develop.
What advice would you give to newcomers or those considering this job?
Working in an HR department is very varied, so it’s a good area for development and learning. There is also a lot of opportunity to find out what you enjoy doing, to meet different people, and to work across the different departments in a business.
Would you recommend your job to a friend?
Yes, I would, but because every day is different and it's continually changing, your plans can go out the window the minute you walk into the office. You’re often under quite a lot of pressure, so it might not suit someone who likes routine, or who likes to know what they are going to do each day and follow a plan.
If you’re interested in an exciting and varied role within HR, that offers you the opportunity for self-development, meeting new people and making an impact on a company’s candidate pool, click here to see what HR Officer jobs we have available.
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