Rely on Experience When Taking the PHR/SPHR Exams

By Sandra M. Reed

Both the PHR and SPHR exams are based on experience performance, not rote memorization. As a result, it’s unreasonable to expect that any one exam preparation system will completely prepare you to take these tests. View the core knowledge requirements (CKR) areas through the filter based on your experience. If you lack in any area, you should focus on resources to fill the gap.

For example, look at this example

  • Functional area: Workforce Planning and Employment

  • Exam Objective: 05. Influence and establish criteria for hiring, retaining, and promoting based on job descriptions and required competencies.

  • Knowledge of: 13. Recruitment sources — for example, employee referral, social networking/social media — for targeting passive, semi-active, and active candidates.

  • Work experience application: In this case, the objective is asking you to use job descriptions to find qualified applicants, hire new employees, and establish the performance criteria necessary to promote them. The knowledge of component tells you what resources you may tap to complete the tasks described in the objective. For this example, think about how you have used social media in the past to recruit and hire. What websites did you use and what were the results? Were there challenges associated with the recruiting source or risks at hiring that needed to be mitigated? Consider the legal implications such as privacy laws. Screen your experience by the results. Who did you find on websites such as LinkedIn versus a website such as Instagram? Where did you find working baby boomers or the newly educated?

If a particular concept or relationship is muddy, reach out to a mentor and ask. For this example, every HR professional probably knows someone who is in the staffing industry. If you don’t, find your local HR association and reach out to a board member. Ask about how she uses social media and what works versus what doesn’t. This commitment to your studying can help you master the experience component of both exams.