Are Recruiting & HR Certifications Worth It?
Are Recruiting & HR Certifications Worth It?

Are Recruiting & HR Certifications Worth It?

There’s no Harvard of Recruiting

If you’re trying to get ahead and stay up to date in the HR and recruiting industry, you might be wondering if getting a recruiting certification is worth it. If you’re confused, you’re not alone. Recruiting is one of the few professional industries out there with no real standardized “track” or academic discipline that prepares someone for success in the field. There isn’t one school you need to attend, one “be all, end all” certification you need to have, or even one way to get into the industry. As far as recruiting goes, there are probably as many paths into the profession as there are people in it.

With dozens of certifying organizations offering sometimes more than 3 different certifications, the landscape is vast. Read on and we’ll break it down and help you decide if a recruiting certification program is right for you.

So What Are Recruiting Certifications?

Recruiting certifications come in all sizes, shapes, and colors and there are more than a few places you can get them from. The largest and most well-known organizations are the HRCi (Human Resources Certification Institute) and SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management). The options for recruiting certifications programs can be overwhelming with options including:

  • aPHR
  • PHR
  • PHRca
  • SPHR
  • GPHR
  • PHRi
  • SPHRi
  • SHRM-CP
  • SHRM-SCP
Throw in certification programs from AIRS, NAPS, Social Talent, The People Sourcing Certification, The Sourcing Institute AND Linkedin, and you’ve got yourself quite a headache! Recruiting certifications help you gain the skills and knowledge you need to do your job. And let’s face it, they also give you the rights to put those fun three and four letter acronyms on your resume that help you get a better job and better pay. Here, we’ll cover some of the best-known recruiting certifications.

The PHR from the HRCi

Generally speaking, the PHR is great for people already working in HR (you need to have at least one year of experience) who intend on staying in and focusing on human resources. The exam is concentrated on the tactical, practical aspects of HR and less on business strategy and management. If you want to stay in HR and see yourself doing that for at least the next 5 years or so, the PHR is your best bet. If you see yourself branching out to expand to other areas of the business or if you have an interest in designing HR policy and influencing business strategy, the SPHR might be a better match.

The PHR certification is weighted more heavily towards the tactical aspects of HR and less on overall business and strategy. It focuses on:

  • Workforce planning and employment (25%)
  • Employee and labor relations (20%)
  • Compensation and benefits (19%)
  • HR development (18%)
  • Business management and strategy (11%)
  • Risk management (8%)

To be eligible for the PHR certificate, you need to either:

  • Have at least one year of experience in HR and at least a Master’s degree
  • Have at least two years of experience and a Bachelor’s
  • Have at least four years of experience and a HS diploma
The PHR exam takes 3 hours and has 150 multiple choice questions and 25 pretest questions.

There are a few other human resources certifications you can get from the HRCi, depending on where you want to focus:

  • aPHR (Associate Professional in Human Resources)
  • PHR (Professional in Human Resources)
  • PHRca (Professional in Human Resources – California)
  • SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources)
  • GPHR (Global Professional in Human Resources)
  • PHRi (Professional in Human Resources – International)
  • SPHRi (Senior Professional in Human Resources – International)

The SHRM-CP

The SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP are issued by the SHRM and they are a great choice if you’ve been in the field for a while and are currently in a director level role or higher. You’re a great candidate for the SHRM certifications if you have six to eight years under your belt and you’re focused on strategic decisions like designing HR policy. You’ve learned the ropes already and you are ready to take on ownership of HR and influence the direction of the business overall. The SHRM certifications are offered at a CP (Certified Professional) and SCP (Senior Certified Professional) level.

Many people considering the SHRM recruiting certifications are also weighing the pros and cons of going for an MBA instead. Both the MBA and the SHRM are focused heavily on business strategy, but the SHRM focuses more heavily on human resources. If you see yourself evolving out of an HR role or you’d like to switch paths in the future, an MBA could be a better fit in the long term. If you’ve found your home in HR and don’t see a career change in the future, the SHRM certification is the way to go.

The SHRM-CP covers:

  • Business management and strategy (30%)
  • HR development (19%)
  • Workforce planning and employment (17%)
  • Employee and labor relations (14%)
  • Risk management (7%)
To be eligible for the SHRM-CP certificate, you need to either:
  • Currently be in an HR role and have at least a Master’s degree
  • Have at least one year of experience in HR and at least a Bachelor’s
  • Have at least three years of experience and a HS diploma
The SHRM-CP exam takes 4 hours and has 160 questions (95 knowledge questions and 65 situational judgement questions).

Great! So now what? Do I go HRCi, or SHRM?

As if you weren’t confused enough, now you have to choose from two organizations to get your certification. Never fear. We’ll keep it simple.

The HRCi’s test is a bit more practical and tactical, so it’s good for someone who is good at memorizing facts, figures and practical knowledge.

SHRM’s test is more complex and uses a bit more of the critical thinking side of the brain where you’ll use your knowledge and apply it to solve problems. Think about it this way – either certification will show you’re serious about your career. Just pick the one that fits you and where you want to go!

Wow, that’s a lot of work. Why do people get certifications?

There are many reasons people consider getting a human resources certification, but most of the reasons fall into a few buckets:

  1. To get a job or stand out in the job market
  2. To make more money now
  3. To make more money in the future
  4. To stay relevant in the recruiting industry
  5. To get a promotion or a higher level job

When you’re early on in your career, sometimes a recruiting certification will help you stand out next to another candidate. Recruiters who are early in their careers are less likely to have years of experience, so a recruiting certification can show how serious you are about your job. Later on as you get more experience, a human resources certification might be less important than the on-the-job skills you’ve gained.

Still, all things being equal, it’s safe to say that getting a certification is worth it because it can give you an edge up on other people in your field who have similar experience and are competing for the same jobs. Certified recruiting specialists also make more money than non-certified recruiters. On average, they can make anywhere between $15,000 to $20,000 more per year. At that point, within a few years you can make your tuition back and more.

If you’re looking to climb the ladder in your career, score a senior level position or become a Director of HR, a human resources certification or graduate degree can definitely give you a leg up and make sure you get a job. Some recruiters won’t even take a second look at your resume if you don’t have a certification listed on your resume.

So What Are the Main Benefits?

In short, starting a recruiting or HR certification program and getting your recruiting or HR certification will give you a strong base of knowledge to work from, and can help make sure you stay competitive while pursuing a career in the industry. You’ll learn things like:

  • How to conduct interviews and screen candidates
  • How to write job descriptions and identify core competencies needed for roles being filled
  • What job boards to use when posting positions to get maximum reach
  • How to implement candidate selection processes and how to deploy recruiting technology (e.g., applicant tracking systems, recruiting software, reference and background checking)
  • How to administer offer letters, complete the I-9 verification process, coordinate relocations and immigration
  • How to implement an onboarding process and training programs for new hires
  • Strategies for reducing employee churn
  • How to make sure your workforce planning and HR activities are ethical and compliant
  • How to manage and implement compensation and benefits programs
  • How to ensure workplace health, safety, security and privacy activities are compliant with federal laws

Recruiting is a unique field that draws many types of people in, and the vast majority of people in the field aren’t certified. Getting your human resources certification will help you stand out in your field – and if you’re serious about staying with it, it’ll help make sure you have a long, happy road ahead of you.

Certification Alternatives

Still not convinced? There’s definitely a few other things you can do if you don’t want to go the recruiting or HR certification program route. Along with the many other forms of certification you can get online, you can also strengthen your skills by taking classes, reading up online, building your network, and building your professional brand on social media.

Aside from that, you can also work on some of the soft skills necessary to be a good recruiter. Some of the top skills and personality traits you need are sales skills, people skills, communication skills, e-recruiting software savviness (ATS, anyone?), positivity, and persistence. You can always strengthen these skills by taking up related jobs before getting into recruiting – and then you can showcase your skills at interviews once you’re ready to go.

Certification may not be for everyone, especially if you’re still hesitant about investing long term in recruiting as a career. But if recruiting is your gig and you’re looking to stay, we say go for it!


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