November 2011 | Commentary | In Perspective

Are You Certifiable?

Tags: Education & Careers, Certifications, Industry Associations

Deciding what role supply chain and logistics certifications and designations play in the hiring process is enough to drive you crazy.

Many fields quantify professional qualifications through industry-accepted designations earned by passing a certification or licensing exam. The logistics and supply chain management sector is blessed—or cursed—with a multitude of such certifications.

The abundance of certifications can be very confusing for recruiters and human resources (HR) professionals; they might be certifiable for treatment after trying to make sense of it all. But, it isn't necessarily any easier for hiring managers trying to find the right supply chain skills and talent for a specific position.

In my first article about careers in logistics and supply chain management, back more years than I care to remember, I marveled at the diverse backgrounds of logistics professionals holding the top jobs. They had earned degrees in everything from geology to advertising, and everything in between—or they had no degree at all. But one thing they had in common was that they had not started out pursuing a logistics, transportation, or distribution career. They came to the field almost by accident, became fascinated, and stayed.

Over the years, I've heard repeated the three characteristics that make a good supply chain management professional. Analytical skills, problem solving, and communication are the skills most senior supply chain managers are seeking in middle- and entry-level hires.

If hiring managers have studied supply chain management or obtained a professional certification, they can use their personal experience to gauge the qualifications of job applicants. If I have a CPIM certification from the Association for Operations Management, for instance, I know the content and rigor of the curriculum and exam.

But, what does it mean when an applicant has earned a CPSM certification from the Institute for Supply Management? How do I advise HR to screen applicants when both professional certifications enhance a job applicant's qualifications? And what happens if I mention CPIM certification to HR but neglect to mention CPSM? Do I miss interviewing some highly qualified applicants?

There is another challenge when hiring for a supply chain position: the university experience. Which university, which degree, which program? And what about that talented applicant with a degree in an unrelated discipline who has some logistics experience?

It's human nature to go with what we know. And, if I share with the HR department my perception of the top logistics schools or degree programs, who am I excluding?

And now there's a new kid on the block: the SCPro certification just announced by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals. Don't look for it to appear on resumes yet, but its developers say they have worked to make the certification multi-discipline and relevant.

As a military veteran, I would be remiss if I didn't add the challenge of translating military experience into civilian equivalents—or just adding some positive weight to a veteran's application.

Despite the rise of supply chain management degree programs, indications are that the profession is facing a talent shortage. The need is more critical on some levels and in some specialties than others. Schools, colleges, universities, and professional associations are working hard to provide resources.

You can help guide that process. Tell me your biggest concerns or solutions, and let's get the dialog started.