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Open the Door to Certification

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  1. Prepared by Dr. Cris Wildermuth, SPHR Director of Certification Iowa SHRM State Council Assistant Professor, Drake University Master of Science, Adult Learning & Organizational Performance Open the Door to Certification The Why, the How, and the Tips for Success

  2. Navigation In the spirit of “not reinventing the wheel” I included in this presentation several links to great resources (including the exact locations of key information on the HRCI page). You will get the most of this presentation if you follow the links provided!

  3. Welcome! Obtaining my SPHR certification was one of the most rewarding steps I took in my career. Yes, it was hard work – but it was definitely worth the ride! I hope the Linked:HR members interested in obtaining the PHR/SPHR/GPHR certifications find this presentation useful. TIP: Read this in “presentation” view to use the navigation hyperlinks.

  4. More Navigation

  5. Disclaimers and all that kind of stuff Some of the information contained in this presentation comes from the HRCI (Human Resources Certification Institute) page. This presentation is not intended as a substitute for the great information contained in the HRCI page but as a “road map” to make your life easier. Always confirm details such as dates, prices, and eligibility at the HRCI page. Links will be provided as you go along. I am not connected with or responsible for any of the preparation books or exams recommended here. Links are provided for the benefit of the community only. Your comments regarding these resources are welcome! This presentation was last updated on November 29, 2011.


  7. Why? • I asked members of Iowa SHRM chapters for their testimonials. • Further, a survey on the value of the certification was sent to the members of Linked:HR, a very large (500,000+) HR community on LinkedIn. Linked:HR preliminary* results Iowa SHRM Member Testimonials

  8. Iowa SHRM Testimonials  Jill LaBarre, SPHR “I earned my PHR in 2004 and after gaining strategic experience, I felt compelled to sit for the SPHR in 2011.  I first became aware of the HR certification program through my employer in 2004. I was encouraged to sit for the exam to build a stronger body of knowledge, bring additional credibility to my role as a generalist and demonstrate a higher sense of professional commitment to my field.  Now, as a manager in human resources, I feel it’s a testament to the level of commitment you have as an HR professional and strongly encourage others to gain their certification to advance their HR career.”

  9. Iowa SHRM Testimonials Amy Larsen, PHR, HR Manager, Goodwill Industries of Northeast Iowa “As the State Council Director in Iowa, I truly see the power of certification and what it can mean for our members, our employers and our chapters in Iowa.  The preparation and testing itself provide a Human Resources professional with increased or reinforced knowledge of our ever-changing field.  By receiving this great certification, a person has the opportunity to show themselves, their employer and their chapter that they are an expert in their HR field.  An employer who prefers or requires one of the certification for their HR positions is adding a great value to their HR department and their company as a whole.”

  10. Iowa SHRM Testimonials Karen Rieck, SPHR Vice President of HR Iowa Bankers Association Click on the sound button below to listen to an interview with Karen Rieck, SPHR, as she weights in on the benefits of a certification.

  11. Iowa SHRM Testimonials Ginger Pingel, SPHRGateway HR Association Communications/Web Master Chair Mary Greiner, SPHR Associate VP - HR University of Iowa Foundation Nancy Conway, SPHR Field Services Director North Central Region SHRM Click on the image above to find the video with the testimonials

  12. Survey Respondents

  13. Size of the Organization

  14. Certifications Held

  15. Benefits • Participants were asked the following question: If you already have an HR certification, what have been the benefits for you of obtaining it? Please use the following code: • 1 = not important • 2 = somewhat important • 3 = important • 4 = very important • 5 = of considerable importance, vital Click on the NEXT arrow to see the results.

  16. Benefits

  17. Other Benefits • The next slides summarize the main “themes” identified in the data. The comments included are representative of the participants’ responses.

  18. Credibility • “As a consultant it provides credibility and a 'kite' mark for proven experience, particularly as Fellowship level.” • “Gives credibility to our profession in the eyes of the general public by ensuring a uniform minimum standard of ethics and knowledge.”

  19. Demonstrate Commitment • “It shows that I am serious about my profession.” • “The commitment and drive needed to prepare for and pass PHR certification is what gives HR professionals greater value when in possession of a PHR certification. It is not a test just anyone can show up to and pass. It requires real working knowledge of a broad range of HR subject matter.”

  20. Personal Satisfaction • “Passing the SPHR not only gave me more credibility, it also added greatly to my self-esteem as an HR professional. It has been very important in establishing an HR consulting practice.” • “The accomplishment of taking the test and passing was a great feeling. I am proud to tell people I have my PHR.”

  21. Continuing Learning • “Having the certification pushes you to keep the certification. That pushes you to attend training and participate in other activities that help you stay up-to-date with your knowledge and skills.” • “The greatest benefit for me is what happens AFTER the certification. It's not just take a test and be done - because you have to re-certify every three years. So it is a continuous improvement model for me.”

  22. Gain Broader Knowledge • “Gaining a broader HR knowledge – going beyond my specialty.” • “Certification is a wonderful learning experience. It helped me delve into areas of HR that I was barely aware of.” • “It gives you an overall understanding of the field, and it gives you other career options within your field that you may not have thought about until you went through the process of certification.”

  23. Facilitate Job Search • “The certification made it easier to keep my job.” • “Certification is often a requirement during job searches.” • “I've noticed many job posting for HR positions that require a certification.”

  24. Networking • “Creation of a network of like-minded HR professionals.” • “Interacting with fellow HR Professionals on subjects of mutual interest.” • “The study process help me build a network of HR professionals and provide me the opportunity to benchmark.” • “A huge benefit to me of studying for my HR certification were the people I studied with who have become a valuable resource for their variety of experiences and huge knowledge pool.”

  25. How?

  26. Requirements • The PHR/SPHR/GPHR exams are designed for experienced HR professionals. You must, therefore, demonstrate a certain level of experience in HR before you can take the exam. For instance: • PHR Eligibility: 2 years of demonstrated professional HR experience with a Bachelor’s degree • SPHR Eligibility: 5 years of demonstrated professional HR experience with a Bachelor’s degree

  27. Requirements • The eligibility requirements for each of the exams are located HERE. Take a look and then come back to this presentation! • If you are a student (or recent graduate) and do not yet have the experience, you may be interested in the “SHRM Assurance of Learning” exam. CLICK HERE for information.

  28. Position Codes • In order to be eligible to complete the exam, you must spend more than 51% of your time on HR duties. • The HRCI provides a list of pre-approved “job position titles” – CLICK HERE to review the list. If your title matches one of the titles on the list, you’re good to go.

  29. My title does not match! • If your title DOES NOT match the ones indicated on the list, you need to submit additional documentation. • A supporting WORK DOCUMENTATION FORM • An official job description that demonstrates that more than 51% of your time is spent on HR duties • Documentation of the appropriate number of years of experience

  30. Exam Dates • The exams are offered during two “windows” of time each year. These “windows” take place in the spring and in the winter months. • CLICK HERE for registration deadlines and exam dates.

  31. Registration • Once you find an appropriate date, SUBMIT AN APPLICATION to complete the exam. • In the application, you must attest that you read the CERTIFICATION HANDBOOK. Tip: Read it now. • Once your application is approved, REGISTER RIGHT AWAY!

  32. Study • Whether you choose the PHR, the SPHR, or the GPHR, preparation is key. • Here are some information provided by the HRCI that may interest you: • Exam content • Pass/fail statistics

  33. Study • SHRM publishes a highly comprehensive set of exam preparation materials (The SHRM Learning System). The system includes a set of reading materials and access to online questions. • Keep in mind, however, that SHRM and the HRCI are independent – completing the SHRM Learning System is probably a good move, but may not be enough. Go to the TIPS section of this presentation for additional recommendations of resources.

  34. Test Day • More tips for success • Before the exam date, familiarize yourself with the surroundings. You don’t want to “waste” stress on finding a parking spot! • Click HERE for additional tips (at the HRCI site) for stress management.

  35. Tips • This section includes a series of tips for your success. Click on the pictures or boxes below for the beginning of each specific section:

  36. Before the Exam

  37. Specialists • What happens if you are a specialist? Can you actually study for the exam? • The exams are designed for professionals with generalist experience. • With that said, it’s possible for specialists to prepare for the exam (HRCI does not prevent specialists from completing the exam, and specialist “position codes” are accepted).

  38. The Specialist • Having worked in HRD most of my professional life I had very little knowledge of other areas within the HR field. As a result, the exam preparation was a long haul. Knowledge most of my colleagues take for granted had to be painfully acquired through lots of studying. I complemented my studies with conversations with colleagues, questions on Linked:HR (an online HR group on LinkedIn), and group study sessions.

  39. PHR or SPHR? • Should I complete the PHR or the SPHR? • That really depends on your level of experience, the scope of your work, and your career goals. The SPHR is designed for senior HR professionals who work with “big picture” processes and make strategic decisions. The PHR is designed for HR professionals with operational/tactical responsibilities.

  40. Changing your Mind • Something to keep in mind… • If you register for one test and change your mind later, you will need to pay a “change of level fee” (which, as of the last update of this presentation was $125).

  41. How early should I register? • Don’t delay. There are limited seats at the test sites and these seats fill out quickly. • Also notice that you must register 4 months prior to the opening of the “window” in order to avoid late fees (even with a late fee, you must register more than a month before the exam!) • Avoid the temptation to register for the exam the last possible date of the “window.” If you have an emergency, you may not be able to reschedule – and may forfeit your application fee!

  42. A long way from home • Even though the “window” was open until the end of January, there were no seats open in my city (Des Moines) – I had to drive two hours to take the exam. • Moral of the story: Plan ahead!

  43. I hate exams! • I hate taking exams… what can I do? • Practice, practice, practice. A chunk of your study time should be dedicated to practicing the style and format of the exams. • In particular, practice completing 225 questions in one sitting! • The online exams offered by the HRCI and the questions in the SHRM Learning System are quite good. However, don’t stop there – most preparation books include practice questions.

  44. Do I need to study? • As an experienced professional do I need to study? • Even if you are highly experienced, you may need to review specialty areas. Also, do not underestimate the difficulty of completing 225 questions!

  45. HRCI Prep Questions • I particularly liked the HRCI exam preparation questions – they were a bit pricey but were the closest to the actual types of questions I found on the exam. Complete the pre-test early in the process to gauge how much you need to prepare.

  46. Study Buddies • I studied with a “buddy” off and on for a year. Our studies became more intensive about 3 months away from the exam (and very intensive in the last month). During those last 3 months we met weekly for about 3 hours and studied individually between meetings.

  47. Field Trip • I visited the exam site the day before and talked to the attendant. That was a good move – I learned about the rules of the site, asked questions on breaks, etc. That made me more comfortable on the exam day!

  48. Books & More

  49. HRCI Resources • CLICK HERE for a list of resources suggested by the HRCI. • Notice that the HRCI does not endorse any particular book or method (not even the SHRM Learning System!). Instead, the HRCI recommends that candidates “use multiple reference materials when studying for the exams” ( • Click on the NEXT button for additional resources.

  50. Other Resources In January of 2011, Linked:HR members were asked to recommend books and other preparation resources. The following books/resources were mentioned (books linked to • Anne Bogardus, PHR/SPHR Professional in Human ResourcesCertificationStudyGuide • Larry Phillips, SPHR Exam Prep • CathyLee Gibson, PHR ExamPrep • Smith & Mazin, The HR Answer Book • Yasgoor& Bresler, Kaplan Human Resource Certification • Certgearpractice tests