I’m Certified !!

Three years ago, I went through one of the most harrowing professional experiences that you can have in HR !!  I sat for my SPHR certification.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with this trial, let me explain . . .

To get your certification in HR (either your PHR, SPHR or GPHR) from the HR Certification Institute (HRCI), you need to pass an exam which takes up to 4 hours to complete.  It is monstrous !!  When I went to take my exam, I entered a testing facility where you had to empty your pockets and put any personal items in a small locker before entering a room full of computer monitors.

The certification test is multiple choice, and you’re thinking, “Multiple choice?  That’s cake.  I loved those types of tests in school.  If all else fails, guess ‘B’ ” Remember?  Not the same by a long shot.  They have study classes that last 8 to 10 weeks just to get you prepared to take this test !!  I remember taking the practice exams between 40 to 50 times just to learn material.  (And those were old tests whose questions didn’t appear on the one I took !!)

The test allows you to skip questions, go back to them, line out answers you think are wrong, and then choose what you think is “right.”  Most of the questions have at least two of the four choices that could be right.  When you see “All of the Above” as an option, you start to get the shakes !!  How could ALL of the answers be right?

I finished the test with about 45 minutes to spare.  I reviewed my answers and made sure I was ready to “submit.”  Then in classic SHRM/HRCI style, when I hit submit a survey popped up asking me what I thought of the process and the exam.  I was ticked !!  All I wanted to see was pass or fail.  I rapidly hit “5” for everything was awesome, now please give me my results.  Then when I submitted the survey, the screen went blank.  BLANK !!  I thought I was going to pass out !!

Then . . . it said I passed.  I received my SPHR !!  I wanted to scream, but I thought the test proctor would taze me.  So, I hurried out of the room and burst into tears.  The proctor looked up and said, “You must be one of those HR folks.  Congratulations.”  Through my sobs, I thanked her, gathered my belongings from the locker and went home.

This week I recertified which means that I had enough professional development to retain my certification for three more years.  So, what does this story have to do with anything?

One of the keys that CEO’s, who were interviewed by SHRM, said was needed from HR in their organizations was that HR was knowledgeable in what the field does.  This was more than the administrative necessities of the job.  It meant that Senior Management expects us to be experts in what HR is, does and contributes.

When we yearn to be “part of the business,” the first thing we need to do is be experts in all things HR.  Being well versed in what HR does, and then gaining professional development to keep current and relevant is critical !!

It’s time for YOU to take that step that I honestly avoided for too many years of my career.  Getting your certification shows you have credibility and allows you to be in a position to take that step into a senior role when it arrives.

Harrowing or not – it has been the best thing I’ve done professionally and I encourage you to do the same !!

15 thoughts on “I’m Certified !!”

  1. Congrats, Steve! Your experience mirrored mine – only I was quietly sobbing at the testing station. Recertifying is just as much, if not more, work than prepping for the test. Thanks for putting so much effort into being a leader in the field. 🙂

  2. Steve,
    I have had my PHR for 10 years and went for the SPHR on June 1st….it is just as you describe…the survey at the end seems to last forever as your heart rate begins to race because all you want to see is “PASSED”…I also took many practice tests along with 3 months of study…VERY HAPPY to have met this personal goal despite the stress of test taking.

  3. I have yet to sit for the certification. I am currently looking at which prep route will be the most beneficial to me. No matter what though, I plan to take the SPHR by year end 2013.

  4. My only comment is that my stamp says: “Certifiable” but the good news is that I was in the last group to be able to attain “Life Time” certification after re-certifying 3 times. Enjoyed the post my friend and an AMEN to your advise.

  5. 🙂 I remember it well, my own, not yours. Congratulations to all who have passed and good luck for future test takers!

  6. Steve, I am right there with you! The SPHR exam was the hardest test I have ever taken! I too, had a rush of emotions! My experience was almost exactly like yours! However, it was all worth it because I know that I possess the body of knowledgeable necessary to be successful in my chosen profession! The profession I am so passionate about! The SPHR certification means a lot to me! Thanks for sharing!

  7. I was recently asked to share one of my biggest professional accomplishments and my first response was passing my SPHR exam. It probably sounded pathetic to someone who has not taken the test, so I’m glad to hear that you are as proud as I am to be certified!

  8. I enjoyed reading this. My experience was similar. During part of the testing I felt angry that they even asked some of the questions that seemed to have nothing to do with HR. I had the headphones smashing my brain, how in the world am I going to remember every case, strategy, and detail of the body of knowledge. The importance of passing had my emotions running high. I too cried when I saw “passed”.

  9. If everyone cries when they pass I’m afraid to find out what happens when you don’t pass! Steve, I’ve been thinking and thinking about getting the SPHR myself. I would love to discuss the specifics of making it happen as I really don’t know how to initiate the process.


  10. Hi there,

    Planning to take the SPHR next testing cycle – May/June. With the new certification in place – does anyone have any suggestions? Is it still worth it to go through the pain for obtaining the SPHR? For the one who say yes and have passed the exam – please share which material did you use to prepare and where can I find questions only geared towards the SPHR exam? Thank you for time and help in advance!

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