Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Are You Certifiable?

What difference does it make?  I know my stuff, I don't need to get any credentials.  It won't really matter when I'm trying for my next job...will it?

Will You Be Ready
As tens of thousand of baby-boomers retire in the coming years the number of leadership opportunities will grow dramatically.  For those HR leaders that are paying attention and are hungry to take the next step in their career it is important to understand what will separate you from the pack vying for those positions. Certification.  Yes, experience, skills, knowledge and high energy are also important; but for the shrewd HR pro who presents with one (or even two) credentials, the future will be bright.  Period.

Something for Everyone
The Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) has done a great job putting together a series of certification options including the PHR, SPHR, GPHR, and California versions of both the PHR and SPHR.  Maybe you've been thinking about stepping up. Maybe you have a friend in the industry who has recently passed an exam. Maybe you tried and didn't quite pass the first time (as many others do too).  Don't give up...get going and try again.  The exams are difficult because they are supposed to be.  They force us to study, and study, and study, because that's what legitimate certification exams require.  When was the last time you heard of an accountant who didn't prepare for the CPA exam?  That's right, never.

How About You
Are you willing to reach out to your your local SHRM Chapter for support?  Are you willing to get back up on that horse and take the exam again?  Are you willing to separate yourself from the pack?  Or, is it easier to justify why it's all just a bunch of letters after your name?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of marriottschool


  1. hardest test i've ever taken... but glad i did it... and, thusly, i'll never let the cert lapse.


  2. Couldn't agree more William.

  3. This is one I disagree with. Had I buckled down and took it earlier in my career it would have been better but after almost twenty years as a practitioner, I don't see value studying to the test. I've heard from more people who have taken it that it doesn't really provide a benefit to them unless they do not have the experience in the field yet. That said, I spend my time learning and taking courses more about finance and communication. If I were to more formally spend time on something, it would be on an MBA (in addition to the MA in HR I have). I see the MBA having a greater impact on the ability of a HR pro to progress instead of the PHR. At least that's the advice I'd give to someone entering the HR industry. Just my two cents. I'd love to hear how others weigh in.

  4. Thanks for the comment Trish. It's probably important to ensure we don't put the years of work and thousands of dollars necessary to achieve an MBA on the same plane with one of these certifications. Since the exams cover the tremendous breadth of HR, I'm sure most practitioners will not find daily examples of how their certification impacts their practice. However, I do believe that having an accepted body of professional knowledge, and an appropriate and rigorous process to test for it, supports HR as a "legitimate" profession versus being a necessary transactional evil.

    I love the debate! Curious about others points of view.

  5. Hey, Jay! I'm always hot on this one. I did a video at one point to cover my thoughts on it. Feel free to continue the convo here after you check it out.

  6. Great video Ben...thanks for sharing. There is no doubt it's an apples to oranges comparison. IF (that's a big if) money and time are not issues...go for both!

  7. This is always an interesting debate. Trish brought up an interesting point. Here's my take: do what you need to do to get you where you want to go. Whether its certification, or an advanced degree, do what makes sense for you. I think the key is to continue learning and growing, and there is no shortage of formal programs to help.

    In a super-scientific survey, I went to a job board and looked at the first 5 VP of HR postings that were listed. Only one required an advanced degree, and only one required SPHR certification. 4 of the 5 preferred both. All of them had specific requirements for previous experience.

    Not everyone wants to be a VP of HR (and there is good reason for that), but hopefully everyone has specific career goals and a plan to achieve them. Having said all of that, I do support professional certification, especially for the more talented in our profession. Taking the time and putting the effort into certifying lends credibility to the credentials for everyone.

  8. Many thanks for the comment William. Your follow up on the job board further illustrates that HR has not positioned itself effectively yet in the world of credentials and certification. There is no doubt an MBA is a terrific path to follow; but in addition, the appropriate HR certification is also valuable in a different way.