Whether you’re just starting out in talent acquisition, or are a seasoned professional, chances are that the topic of recruiting certifications pop up regularly as part of your professional development plan.
There are a lot of recruiting certifications out there, and it can be difficult to sift through your options to find the most reputable organizations and most impactful courses.
This article will help you make sense of all of the different recruiting certification options at your disposal, and offer some alternative paths that you can take if needed.
Let’s get started!
What are recruiting certifications?
As you likely know, most recruiters learn through a combination of experience and targeted training over the course of their career. That’s because recruitment doesn’t really have a standardized education track or academic discipline that you must study to enter the field.
Instead, people often become recruiters either by accident or out of necessity. That is: they’re given an opportunity (or more responsibility) that involves recruitment activities. From there, they may grow to enjoy that profession, and move full-time into talent acquisition.
In short, there are many paths to enter the recruiting profession, and even more options for developing and honing your skills to be successful.
That’s where recruiting certifications come into play.
Types of recruiting certifications
These are your typical online or in-person professional development courses that offer a professional certification from a (hopefully) accredited HR or recruitment institution. They may offer full courses followed, independent study material, an exam, or some combination of the three in order to impart and test your knowledge.
As mentioned there are a lot of recruiting certifications to choose from. The hard part is making sure that the time and money you invest in a certification is going toward a worthwhile course. That means ensuring that the certifying company is legitimate and well-regarded in the industry, and that the training being offered is relevant to you and your career.
We’ll provide some examples of quality recruiting certifications later, but here are some organizations to keep in mind when choosing your next PD course:
- Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCi)
- Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)
- AIRS (powered by ADP)
- National Association of Personnel Services (NAPS)
- The Sourcing Institute
- LinkedIn Learning
This list isn’t exhaustive, but it will give you some direction for where to look for reliable recruiting certifications. We’ll dig into specific courses to look for a bit later.
What are the benefits of being trained as certified as a recruiter?
Professional development and certification is a good idea in almost every profession. But this is especially true for those careers that don't have a clear professional designation like an engineer or a doctor. Without one, it can be difficult for potential employers and clients to determine if a recruiter is legitimate or not. This is where recruiting certifications come into play.
Here are some of the primary benefits of recruiting certifications:
- It helps to prove your competency. As mentioned, recruiting doesn’t have a defined education track or professional designation. So, it can be difficult to determine if someone is really qualified for the job. Certifications help to take guesswork out of the equation, and make it easier to verify that you (and other recruiters) have the skills needed to be successful in the recruiting industry. Because of that, recruiting certifications can help aspiring and existing TA professionals advance in their careers both from a skills-development perspective, and because of the positive impact on a resume.
- They teach you best practices and “tricks of the trade”. Many recruiters likely create their own strategies, processes, and tricks to become successful in hiring at their company, and in their industry. That’s good, it’s also beneficial to learn some industry best practices that may elevate your recruitment game, and can be applied in different companies and industries. Recruiting certifications are a great way to learn how the real recruiting pros do things, including: screening candidates, conducting interviews, writing job descriptions, using the right job boards, implementing scalable processes, using recruiting tech, managing offer letters and negotiations, creating onboarding programs, and managing your employer brand.
- They fast track growth, and look good on a resume. Continued learning shows your current employer (and future ones) that you are dedicated to improvement and career growth. Not only do certifications give you the tools and knowledge needed to be better at your job, they also signal to employers that you are eager and ready to take on more responsibility and leadership.
While recruiting certifications are a great way to move forward in your career, it’s important to remember that they’re not a silver bullet. They don’t guarantee success of their own.
Instead, recruiters need to put the work in day after day to hone their skills. Certifications are designed to give you a shot in the arm of new skills, perspectives, and processes that will help you perform better on the job. The application of that training is up to you.
Examples of recruiting certifications
Now that we’ve covered what recruiting certifications are, and why they’re worthwhile, let’s look at some of the most popular ones out there today.
The SHRM-CP (Certified Professional certification) is a great choice for anyone who has been in the field for at least six to eight years, and is currently in a senior manager position or higher. It’s particularly suited to recruiting professionals who are in charge of strategic decisions, and are ready to take full ownership of HR and its direction on the business overall.
SHRM, as you likely know, is an internationally-recognized HR organization that offers memberships for human resource professionals interested in networking, learning, and gaining certifications.
Cost: $375 - $400 USD
Duration: 4 hour exam
Eligibility: Any of the following: currently in an HR role with at least a Master’s degree, at least one year in HR and at least a Bachelor’s degree, at least three years in HR and a high school diploma.
Curriculum: Business management strategy, HR development, workforce planning and employment, employee labor relations, risk management.
The HCRi-PHR (Professional in Human Resources) is designed for people currently working in HR and who intend to stay and grow into senior management positions. The course concentrates on the tactical and practical aspects of HR, and less on business strategy and management.
Like SHRM, HCRi is a globally-recognized organization that offers eight different certifications for HR professionals.
Cost: $85 - $1200 USD (prep material); $100 USD (application fee); $395 (exam fee)
Duration: 3 hour exam
Eligibility: Any of the following: at least one year in HR and a Master’s degree; at least two years in HR and a Bachelor’s degree; at least four years in HR with a high school diploma.
Curriculum: Workforce planning and employment, employee and labor relations, compensation and benefits, HR development, business management and strategy, risk management.
AIRS is a subset of the HR management software ADP. Founded in 1997, AIRS is a portal that offers training and certifications to recruiters and HR professionals globally.
Their primary content portal is called Recruiter Academy, which grants you access to all of their training materials and certification tracks. With this material, recruiters can target training that’s most relevant to them, improving their effectiveness and efficiency across industries and roles.
Cost: $2,995 USD
Duration: 12 - 24 month access
Curriculum: Learner-led training. Content spans a variety of different areas of recruitment and HR.
LinkedIn Learning is a content and certification platform that offers a plethora of training material on a wide variety of topics. There are more than 100 training courses for HR professionals alone, making it one of the deepest pools of knowledge recruiters on the internet.
Cost: $19.99 per month (paid annually) or $29.99 per month (paid monthly)
Duration: Perpetual with a license
Curriculum: Varies depending on your chosen course and certification. Examples of recruiting certification on LinkedIn Learning include: Finding and retaining Talent, Become a Technical Recruiter, Become a Corporate Recruiter, LinkedIn Certified Professional Recruiter Exam
Recruiter Academy is often called an “MBA class in recruiting” for its in-depth and specialized training programs.
The Recruiter Academy Certified Training Program is a great choice for anyone looking for more in-depth training than what you would typically receive in most boot camps, crash courses, or online training.
Cost: $1,795 USD
Duration: 10x 90-minute webinars
Eligibility: Anyone. Ideal for current and aspiring recruiters.
Curriculum: 10 in-depth webinars that dive into key aspects of recruiting like candidate sourcing, assessments, interviewing, and so on.
This list of recruiting certifications is just a small sample size of the many different options available to you online.
When choosing a certification program, we recommend considering the following:
- Is the organization recognized as a leader in your industry?
- Do you see other recruiters with those same certifications?
- How closely is the curriculum aligned with your PD and growth goals?
- Is the duration and depth of the content suitable for your needs?
- How long is the certification valid? Do you need to re-up your credential every few years?
- Will your employer cover the cost of the certification?
- How much impact is this certification likely to have on my current job?
With so many options available to you, it’s important that you take some time to determine which courses are most applicable and impactful for your current situation and future aspirations.
Don’t strive for the biggest and most impressive certification right away if you’re just starting out in your career. Instead, look for one that helps you improve on your existing skill set.
Likewise, if you’re at a stage in your career where you’re looking to take on more strategic ownership, then a certification from SHRM or HRCi is likely a good path to take.
If you stay in recruitment long enough, it’s likely that you will have the opportunity to take many certification programs. The key is finding and taking the ones that are the most applicable to you at the right times.
Alternatives to recruiting certifications
Of course, professional development in recruitment doesn’t only mean certifications. There are plenty of other - less expensive -ways to learn new skills and processes.
Ideally, you’d pair your recruiting certifications with any of the following activities to create well-rounded PD program:
- Networking events. Attend networking events in your area (or online) and speak with other recruiters from different industries and stages in their careers. Exchange notes, ask for advice, and learn from your more experienced peers. Keep in touch with these new connections, and actively share information and ideas as your progress.
- Workshops. There are plenty of less formal workshops, webinars, and virtual discussion groups that you can attend to learn new techniques and perspectives. These are great opportunities to continually acquire new knowledge, without the time and cost of a full certification.
- Independent learning. There is no shortage of great, free content on the internet that serves as an invaluable resource for any recruiter. Find and read reputable online publications, watch videos, and progress your knowledge independently at no cost.
- Mentoring and shadowing. Find a more senior recruiter in your organization and set up a mentoring or shadowing program with them. Ask them to meet once per week to discuss challenges you’re having. More senior peers are an invaluable resource, helping you learn the ropes from people who have been there, done that.
- Employer-driven learning. Lastly, take advantage of any learning resources offered by your employer. Do you have an LMS? Is there a lunch n’ learn program in place? Take full advantage of those, and find ways to apply that knowledge on the job.
You might also want to consider finding ways to bone up on some of the soft skills you rely on most in recruitment like: sales, people skills, communication, and marketing and branding.
As mentioned earlier, recruiting certifications aren’t a guarantee for success. They are tools that you can use to incrementally hone your skills, build a strong resume, and progress in your career. The application of those skills is up to you.