Job guides

How to get an entry-level People Operations / Human Resources job?

Role Basics: What is People Ops / Human Resources?

People ops and HR are responsible for handling the management of the workforce, to ensure their productivity happiness and (when relevant) regulatory compliance. 

Flavors of People Ops / Human Resources roles: 

The difference between people ops and human resources is basically branding — people ops is just HR at younger, more tech-oriented companies. Often recruiting will live under HR, but rarely do the same people do both roles, as recruiting is external and focused on velocity (getting a large number of candidates through the hiring pipeline, as in sales), while HR is internal focused and oriented on quality (creating an amazing experience for employees). In larger teams, there is often specialization on different areas, including: 

  • Benefits or Total rewards: managing all of the benefits associated with employment
  • Learning and Development: responsible for training and education
  • Analysis: Though sometimes this work will be done by a biz ops team, a large companies will have a people ops analyst responsible for crunching numbers associated with projects to improve workforce productivity
  • Compliance: Heavily regulated industries (like financial services, or companies that rely heavily on government funding) may have a separate compliance department, but large companies may have compliance specialists within HR
  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Larger companies should have a person or team responsible for diversity, equity and inclusion — when this is focused internally on the workforce this team will typically be part of the people ops organization

Example projects in People Ops / HR: 

  • Develop a performance review system
  • Create a compensation policy
  • Conduct a compensation audit
  • Review a termination script 
  • Develop a strategy to increase employee retention 
  • Interview employees and managers to improve the onboarding process
  • Implement pulse checks and report results to management
  • Develop an incentive plan for management to review

Common activities in People Ops / HR:

  • Onboard and offboard new employees
  • Listen to workplace complaints  
  • Manage a range of projects and initiatives to improve employee productivity and happiness

People Ops / HR Metrics:

  • Employee retention / undesired turnover 
  • Employee satisfaction, and other results from pulse checks or similar surveys
  • Pay equity

People Ops / HR compensation: 

Entry jobs often pay $40-60K, though this can be significantly higher at large tech companies. 

People Ops / HR  career path:

This can be a great career for people motivated by creating a great work environment. While not as high status as product, engineering or design, people ops has a C-level position in many companies and is responsible for many strategic projects, advising the CEO and COO, and overall happiness and productivity of the workforce. It’s also possible to transition between people ops and other operations roles, including biz ops, because of the discrete, strategic nature of the projects you work on, or to develop a consulting or advising practice — especially focused on fast-growing startups that, in the best of times, will have tons of HR issues due to their fast growth. 

How accessible are People Ops / HR jobs?

  • Time to learn. Possible to get entry-level people ops roles straight out of school. 
  • Selectivity. Moderate — it’s harder to prove yourself from independent or side projects, so entry level people ops will tend to rely more on the interview process than roles that can look at extracurricular accomplishments or work samples.
  • Ease of working remote. Lower, but depends on company culture. 

Job Requirements: What you need to be competitive for people ops / human resources?

Key skills for People Ops / HR:

  • Asking questions and listening
  • Great verbal and written communicator
  • Project management
  • Problem-solving 
  • Excel 

Professional background for People Ops / HR:

There are several common paths into people ops: 

Personal characteristics for success in People Ops / HR:

  • Motivated by creating a great experience for a team
  • High Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
  • Process- and detail-oriented

How to prepare for and get a job in People Ops / HR? 

Projects to learn and prove yourself:

  • Improve company onboarding process
  • Implement company pulse check and identify / project manage projects to improve results
  • Train managers in conducting one-on-ones to improve employee experience and organization information architecture
  • Interview people and write a report outlining key elements of different key HR policies: 
    • Compensation policy
    • Benefit policies
    • Performance review policy / system
    • Onboarding policy
    • Offboarding policy
    • Termination process
    • Parental leave policies

Key concepts and resources in People Ops / HR:

By Taylor Thompson

Taylor is a co-founder at Purpose Built Ventures, where he helps launch mission-driven companies. Before Purpose Built, Taylor led growth at Almanac, strategy for Curious Learning, and product at PharmaSecure. His work helps 100,000s of people collaborate at work, 4 million children learn to read, and protects billions of medicines from counterfeiting. He has hired dozens of people, helped raise more than $50 million, and contributed to as a researcher with Clay Christensen. Taylor is an Echoing Green Fellow, and he has degrees from Dartmouth College and Harvard Business School.

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