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Hiring for HR? Remove some of the guesswork

Monday July 28, 2008

Like any profession, not all HR people are of equal competence and expertise, and deciphering who’s qualified can be a challenge for many employers. Unlike accounting, law, engineering and other recognized professions, HR has no mandated license to practice, or demonstrate competency. It’s ironic that hair stylists must possess a license to cut hair, but anyone can call themselves an HR director or HR consultant, regardless of their background, expertise, experience and training. Unfortunately, without mandated standards, the field is peppered with a mixed bag of people, with a variety of competency levels. Although some HR people are extremely skilled and knowledgeable, others don’t pass muster. Accordingly, when hiring for an HR position, employers are often challenged to separate the wheat from the chaff.

The Society For Human Resource Management [SHRM] has the answer, at least in part. HR people can earn the title of professional when they have sufficient experience, commitment, and expertise to become certified as either a SPHR [senior professional] or PHR [professional]. Although most certified HR people earn the PHR or SPHR certification, the GPHR certification [global professional] is also available for those with HR responsibilities crossing into different countries.

Persons who attain the SPHR certification usually have broader experience and expertise than those with the PHR, but to take either of the tests, the HR person must have a minimum of two years exempt level experience, and pass a 4-hour proctored test comprising of 225 questions. The test covers the entire HR body of knowledge, including strategic management, employment laws and regulations, workforce planning and employment, compensation and benefits, labor relations and collective bargaining, and risk management. The test is challenging and comprehensive, so even people with extensive HR experience must study for the exam, either on their own, or through coursework offered through some colleges.

Simply taking the certification test doesn’t guarantee passing. The pass rate in 2007 for the SPHR exam was only 58 percent, and the PHR was just a little bit better at 61 percent. The failure rate proves the difficulty of the test, and competency of those who pass. Once the HR person earns the designation, it must be recertified every three years. This assures that the professional remains current in this ever-changing field.

HR touches all parts of an organization, and accordingly is in a unique position to influence the workplace, positively or negatively. Hiring a competent and experienced HR person heads the company on the right path. Conversely, hiring someone who’s not qualified can put the company at risk. Therefore, when sorting through the stack of resumes for your next HR person, consider putting applicant’s with the SPHR and PHR credentials at the top. Possessing a HR certification won’t necessarily guarantee job success, but it’s a good indicator that the person has the experience, knowledge and competencies to handle the job and its challenges.

Jim Evans is President of JK Evans & Associates LLC, a Zanesville-based human resource-consulting firm serving throughout Ohio. Evans can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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