Does the CIPD Level 7 alone cut the ice or longevity ultimately works and gets the job?

I often read posts here about HR Administrators who are frustrated because they have many years of experience in HR and all the necessary qualifications, yet still can't move up to an HR Advisor level role.

However, is either part of or the main reason primarily due to the fact that they are not currently working as or have never previously worked as an HR Advisor, so although they may hold the CIPD Level 7, are purely relying on that alone but still do not have the relevant and necessary level of matching experience?

Thus, and more to the point, even if they obtained such a role, could they actually do the job from a capability standpoint, which is perhaps a key concern in the mind of employers?

There is an age old saying that 'if you want a job in Dubai, you already need to be in Dubai.' It is ten times more difficult trying to do and set it up from the UK via a Skype interview. 

And the same in this case. If you want to become an HR Advisor or an HRBP, you already essentially need to currently be one, working as one and also hold a demonstrated track record of experience as one for many years. You are either one or not.  

Very few Junior or Trainee HR Advisor or HRBP roles exist, as they all presume as a certain prerequisite x amount of years of experience behind you. Chances are that people are also directly competing with Senior HR Advisors and Senior HRBP's for these roles as well. 

A course, however good, is still not the same or a direct compensatory substitute for experience. At the end of the day it is not a job. 

Thus, it may be a very complex and rigid system, but is the fact of the matter here that there is no real easy answer or solution to this, which is another 'catch 22' and 'chicken and egg' scenario. You either by hook or crook somehow 'bridge the experience gap' or not. 

However, can what ultimately do it and indeed break the ice is that if you pay your dues, put in the time and clock up some 5-10 years experience as an HR Administrator, the sheer longevity of a decade's worth of time served behind you mean that you should automatically translate and evolve into default into becoming one? 

You are not presently working as one, but you are sitting in that environment on a daily basis with your eyes and ears open and hence exposed to all the conversations going on around you by them. 

Any thoughts?



  • My view is a big NO.....longevity ultimately wont bridge the gap. In fact in many ways it could be seen as an additional barrier to progress - ie if X has been an administrator for 10 years why haven't they progressed already? Do they have what it takes? Its an extra question mark to address particularly when applying externally.

    People can and do progress - ultimately any successful person has moved through the ranks in some shape or form. Its a combination of talent, demonstrable achievements, qualifications and experience plus hard work and a little luck.

    For what its worth I don't think the system is rigid I think its incredibly flexible. I have seen people progress very fast and others stagnate in roles. Most organisations have different paths and different decision making processes.

    On the other point - CIPD L7 is a qualification / assessment that alongside suitable experience and the skills/personal qualities allows you to operate at a certain level. Having a L7 at an Administrator level is a mismatch that both confuses potential recruiters and also questions if the full benefit has been achieved. Its shows the candidate may have achieved an academic qualification without the experience or understanding to operate at that level.

  • In reply to Keith:

    My personal and professional experiences have been and taught me that: (1) the level of job role that you ultimately end up in never exactly correlates to the respective level of your formal education, and (2) as the labour market is what it is, extremely tight, extremely competitive with often 250 candidates applying for the same role, you need to have more on paper and what the role may actually require in order to get the job.

    Nowadays, you often need a BA or an MA to get a GCSE level role once commonly reserved for school leavers. Most Baristas at Starbucks and Book Sellers at Waterstones who serve you your latte on the morning commute or order your best seller are MBAs or PhD's as that's all what they can get.

    * Although I am not an HRD or an HRBP, perhaps the CIPD Level 7 at least broke me into HR and got me a role as an HR Administrator, and without that level of qualification, I would not have got into HR at all. I can therefore at least say that I broke into and worked in a highly popular profession, and are used to working in jobs where I have far more on paper than the job may actually need.

  • In reply to Andre:

    "Most Baristas at Starbucks and Book Sellers at Waterstones who serve you your latte on the morning commute or order your best seller are MBAs or PhD's as that's all what they can get."

    Sorry this simply isn't true. Most baristas are not MBAs or PhDs. Some will hold first degrees and it maybe true that a higher proportion of staff in high end book shops hold degrees but thats about doing something they love.
  • In reply to Keith:

    What is your personal / professional take then on why I can get the HR qualifications but can't get the HR jobs? Time and volume of applications has clearly demonstrated and shown that it doesn't work for me and happen in my case. It is blocked and I can clearly see that. I feel that I am in the right profession as I have an interest in it, but is perhaps the main issue here 'just one of those things' that there are really no exact, scientific or easy answers to it. The CIPD Level 7 either works, happens or delivers for someone or it does not, and I was the person who it was not meant to be.

    There are never any absolute guarantees after all in terms of job outcomes with education, and I have had a consistent experience and track record of getting the paper but not being able to get the job, or get a job because I had the paper but did not really need or require the paper. Education is a business and a gamble. It pays off for some and not for others.  

    Perhaps however I am not a practitioner and HR academia is more up my street. 

  • In reply to Andre:

    My guess is that you don't present well at interview and / or you struggle to demonstrate real, tangible added value in the roles you have held. Generally speaking (and it is a generality I accept) people who add value get recognised and ultimately promoted, maybe in the first instance to a "Senior" role, then project work and then to the next level.

    This hasn't happened for you so (without knowing anything other than what you have written on your posts here) I assume there is either something that doesn't resonate about how you come across or the organisations you have worked for haven't recognised the talent you believe you have.

    You are extremely well qualified both in HR and in general academic qualifications. This is both a blessing and a curse. It confuses people and leads to questions about your status and what you are looking for (I think we had this conversation six months ago on here).

    HR is both an art and a science. My guess is that you are far stronger in one side of this equation than the other and that is partly holding you back.

    There was a really interesting article that I cant lay my hands on at the moment saying that for future success emotional intelligence will be by far the biggest factor. Its probably even more important in HR than in other fields.

    Is HR the career for you? I don't know. You have received huge amounts of advice and support, how much of this have you put into practice? You will not break down the doors to a higher level HR career simply by amassing an armoury of bigger and better HR and other qualifications. You will do it by demonstrating in the role/roles you have real added value and building a reputation as Andre the HR person who delivers.
  • In reply to Keith:

    In in a fine nutshell, I can't get the job and have in a sense come to recognise that, despite trying all the various avenues. I am also what I am and came to HR later than most, at age 40. Although I am not old, it's not an issue for me and are happy to work into my 80s, circumstances permitting, I don't know how the employers take or view it. I have the CIPD 7, are 45, work as an HR Administrator and have at least 40 years of working life ahead of me. I also can't compare myself with people who are already HRD's at my age as in order to now have that position at my age, they would have already had to have entered HR in their 20s which I did not.

    Personally, I left it too late, missed the boat, got left behind on the labour market in the process and are now playing catch up that puts me at a certain disadvantage.

    The people management, development and leadership side I am not so strong on or that it comes entirely naturally. I struggle to build and manage human relationships as I don't have the experience.

    However, changing careers yet again at 45 and trying to break into something like Marketing, Communications or PR? Near impossible and I simply would not get in / they would not take me, or if they did, I would have to do unpaid internships for many years which is not an option.

    If the reality however is coasting along as an HR Administrator, I am at least grateful that I have a job and it's always better to be in work than out of work. However, at the same time I don't or can't go any deeper or further into the profession.

    In addition, at an interview, I cannot say that I am something when I am not. I do the job and perform the role I do within the parameters of and scope of authority laid down by the JD and PS. I am not an HRD but an HR Administrator.

    I would say that I have come up against both an impenetrable impasse and one of the most complex issues in life there is. The unspoken reason(s) behind closed doors of why one does or does not get the role.
  • In reply to Andre:

    In a (my) nutshell

    • You struggle to articulate the added value you create in the roles you are in (regardless of level)
    • You (in your own words) struggle to build and manage human relationships - a key skill in any HR career
    • You haven't been spotted as promotable / talent in the roles you have been in - why?
    • You seem to be a very logical person rather than balancing logic and emotions / judgement
    • Personally I don't think the reason you are still a HR Administrator is the age you entered the profession at but at how you perform and present at interviews / in work 

    I wish you all the very best - but its vital you reflect on the real underlying reasons you are not progressing and then move on with a plan. Be it being satisfied as an HR Adviser or working out what the future holds career wise for you

  • Hi Andre,

    IMHO I would disagree. Yes the right qualifications and years of experience can help you get a foot in the door in terms of an interview, but ultimately its the person the company will hire.

    I have a non HR related degree (Chemistry) and after working in a laboratory and in recruitment at 30 I changed career paths and moved into HR with no relevant qualifications. I've been working in HR for 7 years, my first role was as a HR Officer, I then moved into a HR advisor role than as a standalone HR Manager for a SME. I only gained my CIPD qualification whilst i was working as a HR Manager and not having a qualification up until that point hasn't hampered my progress. I've worked in a number of industry's public sector, rail, communications and localisation.

    So while on paper I've potential looked like a weak candidate, I've always made sure my CV highlights my strength, transferable skills and value I've added to the team or business. I've always been proactive in my career advancement and fortunately this has worked well in interview as I've demonstrated skills that my past employers have been looking for.

    I agree with Keith, if you're getting interview but not progressing further i would focus on trying to improve your interview skills and techniques.
  • In reply to Keith:

    Could self employment be the answer? I know and understand enough at least.
  • In reply to Sarah Mackie:

    Could trying to set up my own Peninsula HR Consulting type and style of business be a solution here?
  • In reply to Andre:

    Hi Andre

    I agree with Keith’s very sound and measured responses above and I doubt self employment is the answer - it’s really not that easy.

    You would still need a portfolio of experience at management level if you hope to make any regular, ‘real’ money by getting project work and/or retainer fees; otherwise how do you propose to persuade a client to appoint you to work on their behalf? Also, you have to be prepared to market and network yourself, eg; connecting with local employment lawyers, professional services organisations, etc.

    Perhaps seeking out some voluntary project work might help boost your CV but, unfortunately you find yourself in the unfortunate position of being “over qualified” and “under experienced” so you need to play up the experience you do have and highlight to real benefits you offer.
  • In reply to Jayne:

    I have HR experience. It is however HR Administrator experience and not HR Director experience. Are people however 'looking down' on my job title despite being professionally qualified?
  • In reply to Andre:

    No one is looking down on you.

    However people don’t tend to hire self employed / interim / consultant HR Administrators or even HR Advisers. They tend to want to hire people who have experience at operating at HRBP / Specialist / HRD Level to solve particular challenges based on their previous experience.

    Your challenge will be persuading potential clients to employ you based not on your experience but on your qualifications alone. Most people have the option of hiring an interim with both ( and many interims tend to have both experience and qualifications at a higher level than some of the roles they take on ).
  • In reply to Andre:

    I can only comment on what I think, not others and I’m not looking down on your job title. I’m not that hung up on what you call yourself.

    Your Admin role isn’t the same as another admin role if you work in a different sector, size of business, team, etc.

    Perhaps you carry out tasks that are “above” your job title?

    Ultimately, I want you to have proven experience at the level I’m looking to employ you at, so you need to “sell” your experience and the outcomes (value) of the work you do.

    Also, I haven’t read all of your previous posts, so forgive me for asking what you’re doing in your current role to stretch yourself? Have you exhausted all the opportunities you have available to you? What development goals have you agreed with your Manager, what projects have you volunteered for or suggested, which senior people have you asked to shadow, etc?
  • In reply to Jayne:

    It is a strict job description with clearly defined parameters of duties, responsibilities and a scope of authority, with a clear demarcation line and hierarchy in terms of acting in or outside of your pay grade. The fact of the matter is that you focus on the job that you are employed and paid to do, as there is also a clear distinction between management and non management employees.

    That has actually been the same in all of the jobs that I have held which may partly explain this as:

    (1) They did not promote from within;

    (2) They always filled higher level vacancies with external candidates;

    (3) Only Managers work on projects and attend meetings;

    (4) They don't have or accommodate shadowing. You are meant to be at your desk doing your own job instead.