Interview With a Board Certified Specialist

Nathan Whittier, PsyD, ABPP

Organizational & Business Consulting Psychology

Q.  What is your practice like?
A.   I am a consulting psychologist and partner with a firm, SKS Consulting Psychologists, that practices applied psychology in business settings. Our primary activity is individual talent assessment, which we utilize to help organizations enhance the quality of decision-making in the critical areas of selection and development of key talent. Often times, our assessment work leads to involvement in other talent management-related projects, such as executive coaching, competency modeling, high potential identification and talent reviews, and succession planning. Our firm has been around for over 30 years, and we have enjoyed numerous long-term partnerships with our clients.

Q.  What motivated you to seek board certification in organizational and business consulting psychology?
A.  My academic training is in clinical psychology, with a heavy emphasis on psychological assessment. Given that my work involves the use of assessments with non-clinical, corporate populations, I felt it was important to have a credential that would indicate competence in the area of business consulting psychology. I have also aspired to obtain the ABPP credential since graduate school. Many of our faculty members, whom I held in high regard, were board certified practitioners.

Q.  What was the most challenging aspect of the board certification process?
A.  With respect to the preparation of the practice sample, I was challenged by my own desire to find one work sample that encompassed all of the practice areas I was targeting. Once I become more open to submitting an additional sample, it was much easier. I also felt a bit intimidated by my interview panel given their strong backgrounds and expertise in the field. However, my actual experience with them was fantastic – it felt much more collegial than antagonistic. Finally, it was difficult to not get feedback from the panel during the interview portion of the exam.

Q.  What have you found most valuable about board certification?
A.  I believe that board certification has set me apart from some of my competition. Many of my client organizations have asked about the ABPP credential, and it has provided me the opportunity the opportunity to highlight my advanced training and experience in the specialty area. Board certification has also allowed me to create a larger, more national network of practicing OBCP specialists. I am confident that I could connect with other specialists for consultation, collaboration, referrals, etc. The group has been very kind and welcoming.

Judith Blanton, PhD, ABPP

Organizational & Business Consulting Psychology

Q. What is your practice like?
A. As an organizational business consultant, my practice is different from that of most psychologists who work more in the mental health or health domains.  I am part of a firm that was one of the pioneers in psychological consulting to business, RHR International.  Our basic premise is that psychology and behavioral science have much to offer to those working in organizations and the organizations themselves.  I work with individuals, teams and systems.  For example, one of our firm’s signature services is the assessment of senior executives for hire or promotion.  Although I do employ a number of psychological tests in this work, I have found that a long interview that focuses on the candidate’s fit with the success factors for the particular organization is particularly useful in understanding the executive’s fit with the organization and its culture.

Another area of work is helping new employees integrate into the organization.  This goes beyond simple orientation or “on-boarding” but involves working with the individual, his/her team and manager to accelerate credibility and performance.  I also get involved in working with teams that are in conflict or that just want to work together more effectively.  A growing part of our firm’s business is working with organizational systems, for example, helping organizations lead change, implement a successful merger with another company, or institute a succession planning program. Much of the satisfaction of my practice involves working with smart, high performing executives.  They are stimulating and often challenging and I learn a lot from them.

Work in the business consulting area also involves a high level of collaboration with colleagues who may work in other parts of the organization and with other professionals inside the organization such as Human Resource managers. I am often asked what a typical day is like and I answer that one of the things I like is that there is not a “typical day”.  The work addresses a wide variety of issues, in different industries, using varied methods in many parts of the country (and even the globe).

Q. What was the most challenging/interesting/surprising aspect of the board certification process?
A.  I had been told that, although it was an evaluative process, the tone was highly “collaborative”.  Despite this description,  I was a bit surprised to learn that this was, indeed, true.  I was certainly challenged to clarify and justify certain aspects of my practice sample, but it was done in a way that stimulated rather than intimidated.

I was further surprised that the session became an opportunity to re-examine my work with knowledgeably colleagues in a thoughtful, constructive manner.  The development of my work sample and the discussion with the examiners provoked me to consider new ways of approaching certain areas and to consider options to my approach.  It was not a time to merely present what I did and what I know, but it became a time to consider the implications of my approach and explore alternatives.   Rather than merely a time to present my ideas, I came away with some new ideas.

I felt that the process affirmed my sense of competence in my chosen field.  Although most business people are unaware of what board certification in psychology is, it has led to conversations about the ABPP initials following my name that have solidified my credibility as a consultant.  In an increasingly competitive field, this recognition by my peers documents the recognition by my profession of my competence.

Q. What advice would you give to a candidate for board certification in Organizational and Business Consulting Psychology?
A. You will be offered a “mentor” to provide you with information about the exam.  Take advantage of this.  It will improve your work sample and, because you will have more understanding of the process, should reduce any stress. Submit work samples that reflect your core work and that you would enjoy discussing with your peers.  Make sure that you provide sufficient background information so that the examiners can understand the context of the work that was done.  Although you will have to protect the identity of the organization with which you worked, do share any unique qualities of the organization that impacted your project.  If the work was done collaboratively or as part of a team, clarify how you worked together and what aspect of the project was yours.  Be prepared to talk about why you chose that intervention as opposed to another and what alternatives you considered.  If possible, it would be useful to provide some follow-up information about what happened since you did the work and any information about impact.  Remember that no project is perfect and a sign of a good consultant is what he or she learns from a project that can be used to improve future work.  It is OK, in fact, it is expected that everything did not work out perfectly, so share the challenges as well as the successes.  The examiners are interested in how you deal with roadblocks and difficulties.

Consider the exam as a time to reflect on how you came to your current ideas and approach, the people, the research and the experiences that have shaped your practice.  One section of the exam deals with ethics.  It is certainly good to review the ethical code but the exam is not a test of you ability to memorize specific points in the code but to get a sense of how you approach the complex and often ambiguous issues that confront psychologists who work in business and organizational setting.

Q. What have you found most valuable or rewarding about board certification?
A.  The most rewarding part of board certification has been the chance to meet and interact with fellow specialists.  I have gotten to know a number of individuals who share my general field but work in a wide variety of settings.  It has been enjoyable and stimulating to learn about their work and to share mine in both professional and social settings.  These colleagues have been resources for me when I had questions about practice or research issues.  I would urge specialists to get involved with the ABOBCP board and also participate as examiners.  These are excellent ways to expand your network of colleagues and to continue to grow as an organizational and business consulting psychologist.