With the down economy, it can be harder for recent grads to find their way in the professional world. If only it was as easy as playing a game.
What if it is?
Those planning on pursuing a career in human resource management have heard of the PHR Exam: a test that certifies professionals in management practices; selection and recruitment; training and development; compensation and benefits; employee/labor relations; and health, safety, and security. Nobody is required to take it, but if you do well on it, it can significantly increase your chances of getting a job.
“It’s growing in importance,” said Rebecca Ellis, adviser for Cal Poly’s Human Resource Management Association. “It’s a small function in any organization, but every organization has to have a HR function.”
Sounds intimidating? Not to worry—that’s what the HR Games are for.
“It’s set up like a game show,” said Rosemary Wild, head of the department of management at Cal Poly. “We try to have at least three undergraduates per team. It’s kind of a fun way to prepare and practice answering questions on the spot.”
The HR Games are set up in a Jeopardy-style format, with each team having a call bell to ring when they know the answer. For example, the board may say “A situation where an employer makes working conditions so disagreeable that a reasonable employee would quit,” and the team or teams that know the answer would ring their call bell and say “What is a constructive discharge?”
The games cover all six areas that the PHR Exam consists of, so it’s typically business students that participate, but they’re open to everyone, Ellis said.
“We actually get students from psychology a lot,” she said.
The HR Games take place every year during the last weekend in February, and 2010 marks Cal Poly’s 11th year in participation.
Cal Poly has made it to the finals twice, Wild said.
“We won first and third in 2003, and in 2006 we got third in state,” she said. “They won a trip to Honolulu.”
The games take place at a different university every year. Any school can volunteer to host them, so long as they have enough people to run the event. During the competition, everybody splits up into different classrooms, each room containing two teams, a timekeeper, a scorekeeper, and a judge. The three officials sit in the first row of the room, and the teams sit in two tables of three.
The winners of the state competition then move on to the regional competition, and the winners of that receive a prize, which is usually money. Up until two years ago they used to have nationals, but stopped because the competition was getting too “cutthroat,” Ellis said.
Ellis is already recruiting for the 2010 HR Games.
“We talk it up at meetings, and in my classes I’ll look for people who are smart,” she said. “I told them I’d give them extra credit in one of my classes.”
Students can even go if they’re not sure yet whether or not they want to compete.
“We bring not just competitors, but people thinking about competing,” Ellis said.
Finding participants isn’t always easy, however.
“We’re always looking for competitors,” Ellis said. “It’s a lot of fun, but it doesn’t sound like it. Everyone who does it goes ‘Man, I wish I’d known how much fun it was gonna be.’ You really bond with your teammates. Everyone keeps in touch.”
Of course, there’s more to it than just having fun.
“HR professionals are judges of the HR Games,” Ellis said. “So that sort of gives us a chance to rub shoulders with them. We get to meet industry people, who hopefully are hiring.”
Because the PHR certification process requires two years of experience in addition to passing the PHR Exam, nobody actually receives job offers at the HR Games, though participants are often given business cards, or other forms of contact information.
“It’s pretty much networking,” Ellis said.
Round one of the 2010 HR Games will take place on February 27th in Bakersfield.