Looking for advice while I search for a new role. Level 5 qualified, with 8 years experience as Standalone Generalist.

Hello all

I am really hoping someone in the community might have some pearls of wisdom. I have been a standalone HR generalist role for 8 years in the charity sector. I am unashamedly people focused and strongly believe people are a organisations biggest asset, look after your team and the organisation will reap rewards. I believe in "prevention, not intervention" when it comes to employee wellbeing and mental health. I believe in good employee engagement, diversity and inclusion. But finding a organisation where I fit the bill is proving impossible. 

I took the opportunity and a big leap of faith by volunteering for redundancy when the charity I worked for faced financial hardship. I believe it is a real opportunity to join a new organisation, experience a different sector and hopefully be part of a wider HR team so I can learn and grow in my career. 

I am aware I have much to learn and have looked at lots of different HR roles. 

Though my success rate at being invited to interview is high, sadly getting over the line in a interview is just not working out for me.  

I have asked for feedback each time so I can get some insights, learn and develop my technique. I have completed CPD training and joined webinars where I knew I had gaps. Still no luck. I am very aware that at times it is just down to personality and fit. 

My feedback has been varied; no global experience, no experience in the sector I applied for (even though I got to interview), I am too people focused, I am too nice and the organisation has very strong managers, I am aiming to low, I am stretching too far, I wont be content and will move on, I am a perfect culture fit but... 

As every interview I have had is with HR professionals I thought I would ask if any of you can give me some advice and guidance.. What are people looking for? 

Thank you for taking the time to read.. 

  • Good luck in your career search

    I am sure no one here (or very few people) would argue with much/anything in your first paragraph. But....the key is how you say it. It maybe just me but it almost came across as too much and too passionate (and yes you can be in an interview) and that is probably where the feedback on being "too nice" or "tough managers" or even too "people focused" comes from.

    Whilst we all believe (to a greater or lesser degree) in all those things an interview isn't always the time to be declaring our personal manifesto from the rooftops. A more balanced and nuanced approach of balancing needs of employee with needs of business, with managing difficult situations, with understanding that sometimes pragmatism as well as vision is needed may get you further in some processes.

    You will have some challenges moving from third sector as well. Its possible but not always easy - so even more reason to ensure you aren't playing to a potential stereotype of third sector HR managers.

    Having said that you need to be you and there will be a role out there for you if you keep going. But finessing your message may open up more doors rather than trying to bash them down with your passion.
  • Hi Claire

    It's really hard, isn't it? The problem is that we are all looking for different things. You're clearly very knowledgeable about your style of HR and what your values are. However I think you also need to make sure that you come across at interview as adaptable enough to fit in with the organisation's values. You might need to do a bit of work to intuit what their culture is and you think they might need from a HR professional and show that you fit that bill. I think I'm saying a very similar thing to Keith, in a slightly different way. ;-)

    I know when I went for an interview at a construction company, I had to be very realistic that their HR needs were very different from the public and third sector organisations I had worked in. Ultimately they weren't the right fit for me longer term, but as the role was a maternity cover role, I was able to do a good job for them, but also politely decline the permanent role they offered me.

    I wish you lots and lots of luck in your job search.

  • In reply to Keith:

    Agree with Keith, and remember the guidance offered many times on these pages, that anyone who describes themselves as a "people person" probably has the wrong idea about what HR is. This may not be what you mean, but make clear you understand the function, and also that you understand that businesses may need to make tough decisions which you will have to support and drive - being "unashamedly people focused" might not give your employer confidence if they're having to make redundancies for example.
  • Hi Claire,

    I think I'm going to say a similar thing to other posters but I wonder whether you're frightening interviewers into thinking that they're going to have to implement a load of new policies and procedures and that all this people lark might be a bit too much like hard work! If it's not relevant to them or what they're looking for, then it might lead them to a no. Perhaps you could head this off by asking about what they view their people challenges to be and then you could speak to those much more specifically by providing a practical workable answer (rather than a more idealistic one perhaps). If, for example, their problem is high levels of sickness absence, they might be looking for practical steps you'd take to deal with the immediate problem while waiting for the wider 'prevention not intervention' approach to kick in.

    Jacqueline's post made me think that also perhaps (if it works for you) looking at maternity covers might be a good opportunity to look to a different industry - they might be willing to be more flexible as it's a temporary appointment? (I do appreciate that the flip side might also be true but no harm in exploring it as a possibility!).
  • I missed part of your final question...what are people looking for

    The key thing I am looking for in interviewing HR bods is the ability to answer the "So What?" question - its amazing how many people can't. People are very good at saying they did X,Y or Z - although usually without many metrics or success criteria. But if you ask them "So what?" they flounder.

    We often think in HR in terms of something being "good" therefore we should do it. A PDP process, or a wellbeing initiative or an engagement survey. Why would any one question these or want more. But in your answer and in your follow up demonstrate that you understand doing stuff, no matter how worthy, in and of itself is not enough. There has to be a demonstrable and meaningful impact on something and the organisation (either old or new) must want this result.

    So did the PDP process enable you to fill more of your senior hires with internal candidates saving time and costs? Did the wellbeing initiatives reduce sickness absence? If so by how much and is it sustainable? Etc etc

    Move away from apple pie statements and towards harder more meaningful metrics and deliverables and at least with me you would have far more of a chance

  • In reply to Keith:

    I completely agree.

    What are people looking for? Someone who gets things done - the things they want done, for the reasons they want them done.