AKA how to pass the SPHR exam and keep your sanity
If the title doesn’t give it away, I don’t know what will. Recently I took, and passed, the SPHR exam. Today I’m going to talk about the actual testing process and offer some guidance for those taking the exam in the next few weeks. Soon, I plan to write about the actual study process and offer some resources to support those of you who might be interested in pursuing the SPHR at some point. Update: Here’s the link: how to study for the SPHR exam
How hard is the SPHR exam?
Pretty darn hard. :-) More on that below.
How hard is it to pass the SPHR?
Several people I coached for this winter test window had taken it one or more times unsuccessfully in the past. It has a 56% pass rate (based on mid-2014 figures). If you want to visualize that, imagine that you and nine other people walk into the room to test at the same time. At the end of the test period, four or five of the people in that group will walk out with a “fail” printout. That said, most of you already realize how hard the SPHR exam is.
The critical thing for me, Captain Short Attention Span, is focusing on the questions and what they are actually asking. I’m a fast reader, so I am really bad about reading the question, finding an answer, and moving on without reading the others. I had to make myself slow down and read each answer, strike out one or two, and then make a decision. I also marked about 30 questions for review to go back and double check at the end. I ended up changing about 25% of those answers after having a fresh look.
That’s one thing that I definitely recommend. Marking for review just means you plug in a guess and come back later to re-read the question. I’m amazed how many times I have a brain “log jam” when I’m reading it the first time, but puzzling through another question afterward actually shakes loose the concept or idea I’m need to answer the previous question.
Another useful feature: strikeout. Striking out obviously wrong answers helps to narrow your focus and get your attention on the real possibilities. There are often two, but sometimes as many as three, good/possible answers. It’s all about picking the best one.
How to answer SPHR questions
I have to inject some humor here. My friend and I met last weekend to do some last minute studying, and we kept seeing a pattern in the practice questions. Virtually every time you were presented with an action or an opportunity to survey, analyze, or plan, the answer was always to NOT act. So I put this little graphic on The Four A’s of SPHR Exam Prep together to remind you of that. :-)
Seriously, though, there is a strategy to answering questions on the exam. This is critical if you are trying to figure out how to pass the SPHR exam. Here are five keys I used:
This is strategic in nature, meaning that it’s about how HR ties in, and drives, business activities and measures. Write that on your scratch paper when you sit down and every time you read a question glance at that little phrase.
Know how HR activities tie into the business objectives, and look for opportunities to highlight that in an answer everywhere possible
“Strategy,” “company objectives,” and “business needs” are usually the answers when they are options.
Despite my joking about the graphic, it is important to measure, assess, analyze, etc. before actually taking action.
Imagine that you’re not in HR, but that you’re the CEO, especially when the question is focusing on marketing, operations, or another aspect of the business. Answering from that mindset will help to ensure that you’re giving the broad, strategic perspective the test warrants.
How to pass the SPHR exam the first time
As I said, I wrote a full-blown article follow up just about how to study, because there are so many tools, methods, tips, and other ideas that I just can’t capture here. However, just to give you an idea:
I used a 2014 HRCP study guide, read every book cover to cover, read every flashcard, and took the comprehensive practice questions
I used a 2007 SHRM Learning System just for the practice questions, never cracked a book
I used my 2007 Anne Bogardus book to do practice questions and did a simple chapter summary review in the last week
I used various other online resources (all free) to practice my questions and do research on concepts I didn’t know (I’ll discuss my process for this in the second post in this series)
I studied over 115 hours from September to January
I took over 2,000 practice questions to get ready–this is always my number one tip for how to pass the SPHR exam, especially in the final days of studying
One concept that I have relied on for quite some time is specificity. I use it to train for races that I run, and it applies pretty much everywhere else in life as well in terms of preparation. The goal is to make training as much like the actual event as possible.
In running, that means I should run the pace, distance, course, etc. just like I would on race day.
In testing, I need to take practice exams that force my mind and body into the same mode I’ll need when taking the actual test: quiet environment, long periods of focus, no Googling answers, no cell phone, etc.
Remember, this is just the first half of the series on how to pass the SPHR exam. Here is part two on how to study for the SPHR. It’s going to be pretty awesome. Also, I’m almost finished developing a specific SPHR study module based on everything I have learned (and taught) over these past few months.
Anyone else taking the SPHR this window? What are your thoughts? Any questions?
Years ago I worked for a small machine shop owned by my parents. One thing that you might not know about steel is that it can vary wildly from piece to piece. The quality, flexibility, hardness, etc. are all subject to the creation and subsequent treatment processes on that individual piece. Occasionally we would have to send off a piece of steel to be heat-treated at a specialized facility, but there were times when we had a small piece that could actually be treated in our oven by “baking” it for several hours at a specific temperature.
Well, you might imagine where this story is going. One night I came home and saw a very unique-looking piece of steel sitting on the counter.
Being a curious soul, I did what anyone would do after seeing something interesting.
I picked it up.
It’s at this point that I want to remind y0u that steel doesn’t share physical qualities with items like marshmallows, water, or plastic. When it’s heated to 450 degrees, it looks exactly the same as it did when it was room temperature. There are no bubbles, steam, or awful smells to distinguish it from any other hunk of metal.
I burned the fingers on one hand pretty bad from that short (seemed like forever at the time!) moment I held the steel. And that, my friends, leads me to the lesson for today.
What this means for your organization
Yes, there’s a lesson here for all of us. Sometimes things are going on that we can’t always see. There are constant changes, ebbing and flowing throughout the organization. It’s your job to stay tuned into those things as a way to manage the people side of the business.
Whether that comes in the form of a survey, employee focus groups, solid informal relationships with your supervisors, or another channel for employees to bring items to your attention, you need to be aware of what’s going on.
Why? Because more often than not, if it turns out to be a problem, you’ll be the one called in to solve it. I can’t count the number of times being in tune with the “rhythm” of the organization allowed me to head off molehills before they became mountains.
Oh, and next time you see a piece of steel, make sure it’s not hot before you pick it up. The safety tip is free. :-)
It’s a new year, and many of you SHRM chapters and state councils out there will be looking for content to engage your members this year. I’m yet again volunteering on the board of NASHRM, my local chapter, so this is near and dear to my heart. I’ll be hosting a SHRM Chapter Volunteer Leader Series occasionally as a way to give content ideas (as I am today), offer advice on board leadership, and more. I’m working to republish the free Rock Your Chapter eBook, and these are updates I expect to include in the new version. And now, with no further delay, the content…
Note: I’m hooked on The 100. Great sci fi show, if you’re that kind of geek.
A consistent challenge I have observed for the last six years of working as a volunteer board member is finding good content for our members. The Programs team works hard, but they, like virtually all SHRM volunteers, have full time jobs, families, and other responsibilities. So I wanted to pull together 100 programming ideas to consider in the coming year. One of the great things about SHRM chapters is that you don’t always have to bring in world class speakers (but you can if you have the budget, of course). You can pull in a local subject matter expert to share about things they know and are passionate about, and your members will benefit. Keep that thought in mind as you read through these. If any of them strike you, try to think of people you know that could share on the topic. And these are just starter ideas–take them where you wish!
Also, if you’re a SHRM chapter/council volunteer and have requests for the series (or speaking opportunities), email me.
100 SHRM Chapter Seminar Ideas
No, really, please use the 401k: how to drive engagement in retirement plans
Get outta here: how to prepare your employees to retire
Nuke the paper: how to reduce clutter in your HR processes
You want what?!? The role of influence in HR
Small but mighty: how to run a great (small) HR department
Yours is bigger, but mine is better: how to succeed with a small team
Best practices for establishing efficient, yet lawful, HR processes
Just Hand Over the Handbook and Nobody Gets Hurt: moving from static to active HR
10 Things I Hate About Your Career Site
6 tips to “wow” employees with HR communications
How to make succession management a success
Face the Fear: How to Demonstrate Positive HR Practices
20 small ways to revolutionize your leadership
First, Admit You Have a Problem: How to move to proactive HR
Bite me: how to handle aggressive employee behaviors
Open Up: what level of transparency makes sense for your business?
Way to go, Sherlock–How to investigate the workplace
Branding: What it is and Why you need it
Great HR is Invisible (hat tip to Frank Roche)
Oh no you didn’t–how to mediate employee conflict
Did you see what she’s wearing? How to create a common sense dress guideline
Yours, Mine, Ours: how to integrate after a merger or acquisition
Hello, Sweetheart: how to deal with workplace romance
Why does everyone look like me? How to develop a diverse workforce
3 key ways to recruit minority candidates
Top 5 laws that apply to recruiting and selection
Avoid the Noid: how to keep bad candidates from getting in the door
Hands off: supervisor training essentials
4 benefit trends to capitalize on
Oops: 7 ways to ruin your high potentials
In Case of Emergency: how to create crisis plans
The Walking Dead: how to identify and remove disengaged staff
Radio for backup: How to build a team you can depend on
The Lowdown on Leadership Development
10 things marketing can teach us about smarter HR practices
Say it like you mean it: how to deliver great presentations
A vs B: how to compare and contrast vendor options
How to keep people awake in training (without using coffee)
Email: Corporate Comms or Strategic Engagement Driver?
Whoops! How to handle workplace safety issues
Yo Mama! How to recruit a candidate’s family
Congratulations! Key ways to keep new parents engaged
Sigh. How to make your meetings engaging and powerful
13 insights you can get from HR metrics
The Next Generation: Moving from metrics to analytics
He Said What? Why you need to train your supervisors
8 ways to identify high potential employees
3 methods for cutting HR costs
12 points to consider in your change management planning
All together now! Developing strong collaboration practices
How to disengage your employees in 5 stupid ways
Flexibility: What it looks like and how it boosts your business
Agility: how an engineering term can help HR
Close the gap: Knitting together employees and leadership
Don’t motivate, inspire (hat tip to Chris Ferdinandi)
Creating a passionate, productive workforce
Show me the money: calculating the value of your talent practices
Back to the Future: HR practices in 2020
What would HR have looked like 300 years ago?
15 critical HR skills for today’s practitioners
Go Pro: how to become an HR pro in 3 easy steps
4 (not so easy) ways to make candidates love your brand
You Break It, You Buy It: how to handle careless employees
Ah, ah, achoo! Creating Sick Leave Policies that Work
4 Employee Perks that Won’t Cost a Dime
Why Voluntary Benefits are the Best Benefits
Get Well Soon! How to drive wellness initiatives
HR as a Conductor of the Organizational Orchestra
School’s Out for Summer! PTO, Vacation, and Employee Leave Best Practices
3 Reasons You Should Quit Relying on Talent Technology
Once Upon a Time: How storytelling makes your communications better
There’s a Monster In My Closet: dealing with irrational leadership
4 Things Your Assessment Provider Won’t Tell You
3 Questions to Ask Your Talent Acquisition Vendor
6 Ways to Know if An Employee is Lying
Personnel to Human Resources: How to be a strategic business asset
How to manage the email monster and get more done
3 easy ways to turn managers into leaders
Bert and Ernie: How to leverage friendships for engagement
Cookie Monster: How to drive healthy employee behaviors
Oscar the Grouch: How to manage negative employees
Big Bird: How to demonstrate executive presence
How to reward innovation without breaking the bank
7 tips for empowering employees
Culture Shock: Preparing expatriates for new assignments
Anylearning: How to encourage employees by offering non-work related training
Intermittent what? How to manage employees on FMLA leave
A Pile of Shift (Workers): Managing a 24-hour workforce
Make my day: How to negotiate like a pro
5 things HR can learn from finance
How to create a strategic partnership with your CFO
6 things HR does that drives employees crazy
Anything you can do I can do better: Ensuring gender equality in the workplace
8 ideas for revolutionizing your HR service, starting today
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: How to prepare employees for greatness
Say Hello to My Little Friend: Weapons at work, how to handle it, and what’s legal
I’ll Be Back: How to deal with boomerang employees
Life is like a box of chocolates: Predicting employee performance before they’re hired
Frankly My Dear, I… Want to know how to handle profanity at work
ET Phone Home: How to communicate based on employee preferences
I’d love to hear your thoughts on some of these. Which ones would you like to hear? Which ones would bore you to tears? :-) Anything you’d add to the list?
You’ve heard the talk about HR strategy and how it can make your organization better–now it’s time to live it. I want to help you make 2015 the best year yet in that respect, but I need a little help from you to make it happen.
I’m doing a little research on strategic HR, developing an HR strategy, and strategic HR planning, and I’d really appreciate if you would take this two-question survey to help me understand what you want to know more about so I can prepare to teach those topics.
I absolutely love the new year and the feeling of excitement and opportunity that exists. I have been putting together some great plans for 2015 for this blog, for my work, and for my family. I am rearin’ to go! I want to hear from you about what you’re working on, but just as an example, here are a few things I’m looking at in the coming year (more to come in the next few weeks, I promise!):
Longer, more in-depth content
More fun/humorous content
More products/courses, including the World’s Largest HR Book Club, an online course on strategic HR, a guide on leadership, a guide on how to improve your HR game in 30 days or less, and more
Make use of more opportunities to try out things I really enjoy
Be more “out there,” including participating in free monthly webinars (more on that soon) and doing interviews with HR executives
Stop complaining about how some things are done and take responsibility for doing them correctly
More individual one-on-one time with each family member
Daily reading and story telling with the kids, no exceptions
Regular biweekly date nights with my wife, no exceptions
That’s certainly not all, but those are top of mind for me right now.
But what about you? If I told you that tomorrow you could change anything you want about your family, your work, or your hobbies, what sort of things would you change? Please drop a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts. If there’s any way I can help 2015 be your best year yet, I’d love to support you!
This post continues our overarching discussion of the importance of restaurant careers and the opportunities available within the industry. Today the focus will be on the mobility of those employed within the field. Here are a couple key statistics from the infographic below:
9 in 10 restaurant workers 35 or older have moved to higher-paying jobs in the industry after their first job.
Even newbies enjoy the restaurant industry’s upward mobility: 71% of employees 18-24 land a more lucrative gig in the business after their first job.
The abundance of restaurants in nearly every community presents opportunities and experience to land other positions.
From the Eubanks house to yours, we wish you a very merry Christmas!
Whatever reason you have to celebrate this time of the year, enjoy it. I pray that you’re blessed beyond measure and that you take a little time to bless others as well. Any opportunity to bring joy to others in the form of a smile, a gift, or a heartfelt comment is truly worthwhile.