How to Become an HR Consultant (With Steps, Duties and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 12 October 2022

Published 22 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

HR consultants are human resource professionals hired by companies to offer HR services. These services can range from recruitment to organisational change. If you're interested in pursuing a career in HR, learning more about this role may help you decide if it's right for you. In this article, we discuss how to become an HR consultant, explore what services they can provide for companies and explain how you can grow your HR consulting career.

How to become an HR consultant

Here's a guide showing how to become an HR consultant:

1. Obtain relevant educational qualifications

There's no requirement for a specific bachelor's degree to enter the HR industry, but HR consultants usually have degrees in fields such as human resource management or business administration. If you're pursuing a general degree, you may want to take up an HR-related specialisation to add relevance to your CV. You may take courses in business, management or administration to help you develop your relevant skills.

2. Accumulate work experience

HR consultants typically have years of related experience. If you're still in school, you may want to consider taking up internships in HR departments to gain a better understanding of the HR field. If you're new to the workforce, entry-level HR jobs can give you the exposure needed to grow your skills and expertise. When you've accumulated enough experience, you can then venture into becoming an HR consultant.

3. Decide between being a generalist or specialist

HR professionals who are considering career advancement may decide if they want to be a generalist or to focus on a specific HR function. A generalist performs a variety of HR-related functions in many areas, such as employee recruitment, performance appraisals or training and development. A specialist focuses on a particular area, such as an HR payroll specialist. Think through your options and preferences before you decide between the two.

Related: How to Write a Payroll Specialist Resume Objective

4. Pursue certification courses

There are several HR certification courses available from institutions such as universities, polytechnics and HR professional bodies. An HR certification is a useful addition to your CV. It signals to potential employers or clients that you're committed to enhancing your skills and knowledge. It also means that you've earned the accreditation to offer professional HR services.

5. Start building a client list

If you're ready to become an HR consultant, you can start targeting a list of potential clients. Attend networking events and seek recommendations from your contacts. Join professional organisations which may present opportunities to meet new clients.

6. Devise a business plan

A sound business plan identifies your target client segment and outlines the steps to succeed in your HR consulting career. It also identifies your positioning, strengths and offerings. As your career develops, revise the business plan as needed.

Related: What Is Human Resources? Definition and Examples

What services do HR consultants provide for companies?

Companies hire HR consultants for a few reasons. Some companies may not have the in-house expertise to deal with particular HR issues and thus require external help. They may also seek HR consultants to provide an independent viewpoint and offer fresh perspectives to handle HR-related problems.

HR consultants either operate on their own or are part of a consulting business. They may pitch their services independently or work as part of a larger consulting team that provides comprehensive solutions to companies. HR consultants also have different focus areas. Some are specialists and focus on a particular HR function such as management recruitment. Others are generalists and provide an entire suite of HR-related services. Here are some functions which HR consultants may provide services in:

  • Recruiting: HR consultants may be in charge of reviewing candidates and assessing their suitability. They help to determine if potential candidates are a good fit for their clients' organisations.

  • Training and development: HR consultants may manage and provide training to employees. They help their clients assess training needs and source training providers.

  • Payroll and benefits: Companies may engage HR consultants to review their payroll and benefits programmes or to run the related administrative processes.

  • Performance appraisal: HR consultants may review a client's performance appraisal framework to make sure the processes are fair.

Related: Becoming an HR Generalist: Role, Salary and Skills

Job duties of an HR consultant

The job scope of an HR consultant depends on the needs of individual clients. HR consultants may be engaged to provide services not covered by the in-house HR team. If there's no in-house HR, they may cover a wider work scope.

Here are some of the general job duties of HR consultants:

  • attend client meetings to find out their HR needs

  • review clients' current HR practices and make recommendations for improvement

  • devise appropriate HR plans and policies to meet clients' expectations

  • assist to implement HR programmes that align with clients' HR goals

  • analyse feedback and tweak programmes and policies according to feedback

  • provide HR training to clients' in-house HR team or management

Related: What Does Human Resources Do? 11 HR Roles and Responsibilities

Skills to become an HR consultant

HR consultants make decisions and recommendations which have a direct impact on employees. They play a key role in influencing employee productivity and satisfaction. Daily, they interact with people to communicate their ideas. Successful HR consultants are not only competent in their knowledge of HR principles and best practices but also possess the soft skills to be effective.

Here are some skills required to become an HR consultant:

  • Communication: HR consultants use their communication skills to find out what clients need. They then present and communicate solutions to help solve HR-related problems.

  • Interpersonal: HR consultants with good interpersonal skills know when to be assertive and when to negotiate. They can navigate complex organisational structures to obtain acceptance from clients.

  • Problem-solving: Problem-solving is a key aspect of an HR consultant's job. Successful HR consultants apply their problem-solving skills to deal with difficult situations while balancing the needs of different stakeholders.

  • Empathy: HR policies can affect productivity and work satisfaction. Being empathetic means understanding how different segments of employees may react to HR-related policies.

  • Organisational: HR consultants typically manage and oversee HR projects for clients from beginning to end. This requires attention to detail and excellent organisational skills.

Related: What Does a Human Resources Manager Do? (With Skills)

Salary of an HR consultant

The average salary for an HR consultant is $3,032 per month. Salaries depend on several factors, such as educational qualifications and experience. Those with higher qualifications, such as a Master's degree, command higher salaries. HR consultants who have a proven track record and excellent portfolio are also more sought-after and may earn a higher salary.

Tips to grow your HR consulting career

Whether you're working as an independent HR consultant or as part of a consulting business, you may face challenges as you advance in your career. For instance, the industry may become more competitive over time or client demands may evolve faster than you can keep up. There are some steps you can take to deal with these challenges.

Here are some tips on how to grow your HR consulting career:

Update your portfolio

As you gain more experience and work on more projects, be sure to update your portfolio. Potential clients usually want to see proven results of how you tackled HR-related issues. A comprehensive portfolio signals a well-rounded consulting experience and is useful when seeking new clients.

Build relationships through networking

Work on building relationships with current clients and others in the field, as these contacts may offer you referrals to new businesses. Networking is a good way to source for new potential clients. You may also gain new industry insights to attract new clients by attending networking events.

Be open to different projects

Consider branching out and taking on new projects outside your focus areas to grow your HR consulting business. This can open up new sources of clients and add to a more diverse portfolio. The experience earned from working on different types of projects can also expand your options and maintain a sustainable pipeline of clients.

Earn more qualifications

Whether you are a generalist or a specialist, investing in education and training is a step towards career development. Generalists may decide to explore new subfields, while specialists may undergo more training in their specialisation. You may consider taking up HR certification courses offered by professional bodies or educational institutions.

Related: How To Become a Management Consultant in 6 Steps

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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