Why did I write SHRM-CP and how did it go?

Anish asked me to write about why and how I prepared for the SHRM-CP examination so a few HRs who might not know about this certification yet could benefit. I spent some time reflecting on whether I should actually write it or not, and finally, here I’m. If it helps someone, I am happy. If not, that’s still okay 😉


I am an engineer by education and early-career profession. I did my masters in Computer Science and joined Oracle in Bangalore where I spent more than 3 years doing things that I was not contented with, and that I do not consider myself good at. FullContact happened as a you-got-what-you-wished-for opportunity, and I happily accepted the offer to join there as an HR. I always loved the HR job, unlike many other engineers out there!

Well, it goes without saying that I am without an MBA. Did it matter? I will be blunt: it did matter to me, though it didn’t to my employer. I was a beginner in the HR profession, but I was invited to lead the India people division of the organisation, owing to the trust and hope the then leaders had in me. I had to make it up to it, and I did not have an MBA. Did it really matter? Does it, now?

(Image courtesy: www.peoplematters.in)

Hey dude, do you really care about the degrees (and not the skills)?

We as humans tend to see and believe things as binaries—YES or NO! Do degrees really matter? Some say that it doesn’t, and some it does. Certain degrees do really matter, but what matters more is the kind of environment you studied in and the exposure you have attained. I have seen the case studies MBA colleges use to teach the graduate students in the tier-2 colleges and the top B-schools in the country and abroad. I was well aware of the differences in engineering education, but the kind of exposure those top-tier B-schools provide to their MBA students is something unparalleled from my observation. One can’t simply say that degrees do not really matter. What matters is exposure and potential—be it with a degree or not.

One may argue that college degrees cannot provide the quantum of exposure that on-the-job training provides. While this generally true in our country, the quick(kick)start the tier-1 educated graduates get is, still, something. There’s no denying that.

Back to our story: well, I did not have a degree. My ego and self-esteem played, and I thought of doing a distance MBA, joined, fully paid for and found it to be worthless an affair, left it at that. But as time progressed, thanks to the openness and unusually solid support that I got from this organisation (and the HR communities that I am associated with such as NIPM Kerala Chapter), I could learn A LOT while being on the job. I wanted to, however, benchmark myself to see where I stood (read this as self-appraisal. Unless you benchmark yourself, you are not giving yourself feedback. If you do not give feedback often, you are buying the same fish, again).

I heard about the SHRM certification and I was not eligible to write SCP then, hence chose CP; out of the blue, after reading some online reviews. I knew that it would take some effort, but my organisation supported me by spending considerably good amount of money on this learning effort by sponsoring the digital training kit for the examination. That’s one reason why I was fast ready to write the exam.

Tell me more about the exam

There is more than enough articles on what and how the SHRM Certification examinations are, hence I will skip that part except for an excerpt:

  • You can write SHRM-CP if you have 2 (or, 1 for those with PG) years of professional HR experience. If you are senior in terms of service, you could try SHRM-SCP.
  • The test is computer-based. Continuous 4 hours (trust me, my eyes pained). 160 questions. I wrote it at Prometric centre in Trivandrum, Kerala, India.
  • Of the 160, there are 95 knowledge-based questions, 65 judgement questions. They are all multiple choices, but alternatives can be confusing and similar-looking. This page gives you a sample set of questions.
  • How I prepared: There are four books that came along with the digital learning kit that was sponsored by the organisation. I read them. They are quite helpful and one may get tons of revelations of as to how many bad concepts/understanding of HR that one has had (I did). In fact, this was the best outcome of preparing for this certification.
  • You will get to know your provisional results immediately after the test. They will send you the official intimation later.
  • The examination costs you $400 ($300 if you are an SHRM member). The certificate is valid for 3 years (and can be renewed by acquiring certain recertification points by doing online courses, attending seminars, etc.). It is not mandatory that you purchase the digital learning system. This page may be helpful.

(Image courtesy: blog.shrm.org)

Should I do it?

  • Yes, if you want to benchmark yourself, and maybe, study something that you already didn’t know. Or, if you are doing it as a self-confidence booster.
  • No, if you are just doing it for a pay hike. Mostly no organisation—I understand some may still be doing—in India provides with a pay hike for HRs just because they have a certification (but that’s not the case abroad, and some job descriptions specify these certifications as minimum requirements, which is a benchmarking/filtering tactic). However, it can be a distinguishing factor. After all these, I know in person a ton of HR professionals doing much better than me, without an MBA and/or an SHRM Certification. So, it’s just all about what you want.

If you’re not so concerned about the certification, why have you written “SHRM-CP” in your LinkedIn profile name?

I am just being ostentatious.

So, you’re saying that you’re after fancy degrees (or candidates with such degrees)?

Wait there, never did I say that I have high respect for candidates just with fancy degrees. Moreover, I believe in interviews that are based on Behavioral Competencies (from a People standpoint)—BEI as it is called—rather than education texts that fill in white spaces on a resume.

TL;DR: Take an SHRM certification exam (or its competitor HRCI) if you want to benchmark yourself against what is considerably-okay in the industry. You may gain some confidence, too.

Wait, did I write a TL;DR at the bottom? 😉

P.S: Julian has written about how he passed the examination already, my job is reduced by 90% in writing this article and hence not explaining what he has already done.

P.P.S: I would strongly recommend being part of the SHRM community by spending money on their membership. It is really worth it (an online membership would suffice) in terms of strategic/operational documentation that is available on their member-only portal and the community of HRs they have built.

If you have more questions, I am happy to help. Please drop me a message or write in comments (beware: you are going to talk to someone who is known to be incommunicado for longer durations; so please expect the delay).

Also published at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-did-i-write-shrm-cp-how-go-arunanand-t-a-shrm-cp

Work From Home Musings

Here’s the snapshot of my WFH experience (though I’ve done it in the past, not as many continuous days as this time).

Work From Home, Working From Home
Image Courtesy: www.entrepreneur.com
  1. Gained weight. I was on a consultant diet for the last three weeks and had lost 3 kgs. Looks like I eat at leisure while at home and gained 2 kgs over the last one week.
  2. I eat my meals on time, but while at the office I am known to procrastinate meals and eat them all together later. However, I drink less water while at home. And I miss pantry talks.
  3. Missing the office AC. The room where I’ve set up my work from home corner is damn hot. Internet at the office was heavenly, too.
  4. Missing my people around, especially the G&A team of FullContact. Meetings having been moved online, I’ve started missing meeting people in real. Added to it, I am in HR.
  5. I fail to switch to work attire though many on the web suggest doing so.
  6. Productivity swings. At times, I am underproductive while productivity soars up sometimes.
  7. Feeling unnaturally sleepy after lunches (while at the office, it doesn’t happen quite often).
  8. Kid at home & Working at home together is a bad idea.
  9. Last but not the least, I am living two more days in a month. I have a two-hour transit daily, multiply that by 24 and you get 48 hours = 2 days!

Musings of an Engineer-turned-HR: Here’s what the budding HRs should know

It was on a not-so-fine day that Arjun, CEO of Profoundis and my collegemate met me at Lulu Mall in Kochi. I was going back to Bangalore, where I worked at Oracle as a Software Engineer for around 3 years then, and I had no clue what Arjun had to offer. He asked me if I would like to join as the Head of HR of Profoundis, which was about to be acquired by FullContact, Inc.

I personally believed that I had the traits of an HR (though when I look back now, most of those thoughts were out of place ;-)). I had a dilemma during the final year of study of my graduation whether I should pursue MBA or MTech. After a lot of articulation and inner discourse I decided to pursue MTech, which I do NOT regret now. I ended up in IT, as I assumed, but I never felt Software Engineering was my realm. Having these excruciating thoughts to jump out of my engineer role coupled with Arjun’s offer, I didn’t have a second thought. I had my personal reasons to move to Kochi, too.

If I do not say that I was apprehensive, rather confused, about my capacity to be a Head of HR at the very beginning of my HR career itself, I wouldn’t be doing justice to me. I did a lot of reading afterwards, which in fact Arjun asked me not to. He said they wanted an unconventional HR, who doesn’t go by the books, and recommended that I be not distracted and misinformed by the literature. However, I did my fair share of reading before I joined Profoundis.

What followed was a roller-coaster ride. As I write this, I can feel the cold feet I’d when I first entered the Profoundis office. But I’d something in store – an amazing team who believed that people operations is fundamental and pivotal to any business. There started this small journey of my HR career, which is now at the fourth year! The three years have been of immense learning, understanding, mistakes, corrections, unlearning and what not! I would like to scribble down for the budding HR fellows, who might have as bad a cold feet as I’d on my first day, as to what to expect, what to ignore, what to render on an HR job. Here we go:

Prepare to Unlearn and Re-learn

One might have learnt many things about HR and processes in their text book; or they might have been told that this is how the ideal HR function looks like. Be ready to face the fact that HR is different across organisations depending on the nature of business, nature of the workforce, locale and the priorities of the leadership. What you learnt in books could be obsolete by when you join the HR job – so be ready to remember/forget what you learnt and start afresh on many things—let’s preserve and remember what’s still required. Be ready to read and re-read the latest books, trends, researches, blogs, etc. so that you stay up-to-date.

HR is not just about compliance

The general notion that many have is that HR is all about recruitment and compliance – this is a myth. HR has over the last two decades evolved as a business function. While compliance plays an important role in the success of an HR team, treating them as the core function of HR is erroneous. Compliance is an assumed-to-be-required function of HR. It’s very basic. HR’s more to it. But remember—compliance is a culture. Nurture it, but that’s not only what you’re defined by.

Culture is your dad, business is your mom

It’s the business leadership and the HR leadership together that decide the fate of an organisation. If one of this duo fails, either you will end up with a zero or negative business growth or a bunch of unsatisfactory people. The two are complementary to each other—or, rather, co-existent. HRs (should get a chance to) decide the culture of an organisation, while they participate in deciding the business destiny. Gone are those days when HRs come into play when someone needs to be hired, reprimanded or fired. Starting from talent acquisition to talent development to talent retention to talent nurturing to making the workplace a great experience for your members depend on how the HR team is envisaged and functions. Your job exists because the business exists

Find your path to heaven

One may define the success of their career by multi-factors. For some, it could be the happiness of their members, achieving KRIs, promotions and merit increases, and what not! But ultimately, if you ask me, the end result of one’s actions should be such that it makes him/her happy.

Learning is the Key

You need to invest some time to learn. To learn from others, your peers, leaders, fellow HRs, blogs, and what not! Make sure you are part of the communities of your liking. I have learnt a lot from the fellow HRs through NIPM, WhatsApp groups, meetups at Infopark, conferences, etc. Whenever you’re part of such a gathering, make sure you find (rather than it giving you; thanks to Anish for the usage) some takeaway as learning. You may also follow some really good HR blogs like PeopleMatters, RBL, etc.

Learn from marketers

It’s high time HR team learnt from the Marketing teams on various fronts. Starting from employer branding, HR should look at how the marketing team hustles in getting the product into the market and reach the right targets. In my opinion, Marketing teams are the ones who first use all the theories and tools of human interactions, technology, and result-oriented-action-plans in any organisation. They are leaders in many respect – for example, take the case of Conjoint analysis which helps the product organisations decide how their product should be. HRs can very well adopt this (and many organisations have already done so) technique to define the happiness factors of their members—the benefits, the facilities, the factors by which they will leave the organisation, etc. One must look at how the marketing team performs in their organisation and imbibe what can be imbibed into their HR team—be it theories of human interaction or defining success of one’s function.

© Pixabay

Not every grey hair deserves your ears

Keep the thought that every grey-haired man is a mentor out of your minds; it’s the grey matter that matters. You might need a mentor who can lead you through your HR career—since you’re just taking your baby steps—but that doesn’t mean that you should lend ears and years to those who pretend to be mentors. Try a few, leave them it doesn’t work. But trust me, having a good mentor is always worth the effort—but the call is yours.

Do not forget to live

When you strive to have a great work-life balance for your members, do not forget to have a life for yourself. Chill, keep calm and just be yourself. Have an introspection of whether you hate Mondays, or super happy on Fridays—if the answer is a yes, you should consider switching the job. At the end of your life, what matters is whether you have been happy throughout and that happiness is defined by you and you alone.

Also published at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/musings-engineer-turned-hr-heres-what-budding-hrs-t-a-shrm-cp/?published=t


Resume writing  courtesy: workbloom.com
Image courtesy: workbloom.com

This write-up is inspired from what my friend Ranjith posted on his Facebook timeline a few months ago. I thought I should sum up and add my own two cents to it. Things a fresher should ponder while writing his résumé/CV (from the point of view of an HR, who will be viewing it amongst tens of other résumés a day):

  1. Avoid short forms (SMS language). Sad to see fresh graduates stick to that.
  2. No spelling mistakes and obvious structural mistakes which in turn give the opposite meaning. In the era of services like grammarly.com, this should be simpler.
  3. Please send CVs or résumés in PDF formats unless otherwise specified.
  4. Under the heading strengths, graduates tend to give a list of random adjectives, which is an immediate turn-off. Such words without substantiating evidence is substandard.
  5. It is always suggested that one give an overview about him/her, at the start of the document. This will give a quick intro to the reader (who might be flipping through tens of resumes a day) without going into details.
  6. No multi-color résumés unless it is required for the post you are applying for. Maximum of two colors.
  7. If the employer has asked for a covering letter, do add. That’s something people would like to read, rather than going through a résumé. A bad résumé along with a good covering letter might at least keep you on wait-list.
  8. Appropriate fonts and sizes. No bolds and underlines in paragraph text unless really required (only those you want to ‘really’ emphasize)
  9. No photographs on the résumés.
  10. We are not interested in knowing your parents’/spouse’s name and jobs.
  11. Use proper email IDs. No cooldude and rockingjohnnies.
  12. Keep a subject, if you are sending it as an email. Keep it meaningful

~ Arunanand T A

Originally posted at my personal blog: TAAism