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Is Becoming PHR or SPHR Certified Critical?

Editors Note: Today’s guest post is brought to you by Rich DeMatteo. He is a Philadelphia area HR/Staffing professional with experience in both agency and corporate recruiting. Rich runs Corn On The Job, a job search, recruiting, and HR blog. Connect with him through Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, or subscribe to his blog.

Why is it necessary for HR professionals to attain their PHR/SPHR Certification?

A) To gain promotion beyond entry level HR positions with their current company

B) To gain an advantage over other job seekers

C) Proof of having the knowledge, experience, and expertise needed to perform a high-level HR role

D) It isn’t

Just like in most questions found on the PHR/SPHR exam, the one above agonizingly provides more than one great answer. Strong cases can be made for A, B, and C, while D is most likely crossed out by test-takers. Lets analyze the answers a bit further and see what happens.

D) It isn’t

Many see this as the one certain wrong answer, but a handful of people feel strongly about the certifications lack of importance. The VP of HR at my previous company would select “D” as the best answer if I were to ask him. He believes the PHR/SPHR does very little in proving someone has the necessary skills to be a high performing HR professional. Even if this is true, I feel there are other reasons certifications can be important for HR folks.

My answer is not “D”.

C) Proof of having the knowledge and expertise needed to perform a high-level HR role

Studying/preparing for one of these bad boys is far from a joke. Even HR pro’s with 10+ years of experience could always use a refresher course, and it appears that most people DO sign up for some form of preparation. A very popular method is buying and reading the SHRM Learning System books, or taking a prep-course that uses these books.

Unless new information is applied in their every day job, I would assume that most new knowledge isn’t retained for long. Therefore, I don’t believe that passing the PHR or SPHR is proof of expertise. No offense to the certified experts out there. What I’m trying to say is that anyone can go through a prep course and cram/retain the information long enough to help them pass the exam. I’m sure total bozo’s have breezed through the exam and have turned out to be a bust in the workplace.

My answer is not “C”.

B) To gain an advantage over other job seekers

Times are tough and competition for work is extremely high. Job seekers need to gain an advantage wherever they can, and a certification may just be the trick. Also, more and more job descriptions prefer or require candidates to already possess the certification. This means PHR/SPHR certified job seekers boost their chances and hop over some of their competition.

Nothing replaces solid connections through networking, relevant experience, and solid interviewing skills, but when hiring managers won’t be complaining when they notice the candidate is certified.

I’m not quite ready to make my choice, but “B” is looking strong!

A) To gain promotion beyond entry level HR positions with their current company

From what I’ve seen and experienced, when a worker is a solid performer, the company is willing to bend a few rules and qualifications to get them promoted. Maybe some organizations are strict on their requirements, but I just don’t see that happening everywhere.

I’m sure some people might answer “A”, but I’m not.

What is my answer?

I’m going with “B” as my final answer. I feel that the main reason people should look to become certified is to distinguish themselves as better candidates. Like I’ve mentioned, I don’t see a PHR/SPHR certification as proof that someone is an expert, but with so many positions making it a requirement, it seems like HR professionals can be expected to feel forced into handed over a great deal of time and money in exchange for a shiny new certification.

What is your answer?

You may disagree with me, and if so, I want to hear your reasons. If you’ve become PHR or SPHR certified, how has it helped you in your career?

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