Will That Certification Actually Get You a Job?

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Those willing to spend the time and money to earn a certification must feel that it will boost their careers. But experience often trumps certification, according to IT career experts.

With the IT unemployment rate at just 3 percent, many companies aren’t putting many limitations on the candidate pool, according to John Reed, senior executive director for staffing firm Robert Half Technology: “A lot of things that might have been ‘must haves’ are becoming ‘nice-to-haves’ now.”

While hiring managers usually value experience over certification alone, many companies want both, and some see no value at all in certifications. Having all its IT staff certified does offer a company some advantages, not the least of which is the ability to charge clients more, suggested Randy Russell, director of certification for Red Hat.

Fortunately, a little bit of research can quickly show how much importance particular employers place on certification.

Setting Yourself Apart

Having a certification on your resume can be a way to differentiate yourself from the crowd. Linux advocate Shawn Powers recalls being hired to run the database department at a college, even though it was 100 percent a Microsoft shop. “I asked my boss about that later. He told me that they thought, ‘If this guy knows Linux, he can do anything we need,’” he said. “As a Linux system administrator or a Linux professional, you’re forced to think outside the box. … If you’re an outside-the-box thinker, you’re going to be a better employee in any situation.”

Certification is actually most helpful, he believes, to those on the active hunt for a job. “A lot of the interviewing team is not necessarily going to have a way to measure your expertise,” he said. “Having the certification gives you some evidence that you’ve gone that extra step and you really do know what you’re talking about.”

Companies often look at certification in making hiring decisions, but it’s not the sole factor, Russell added: “If I’m a hiring manager looking at my pile of resumes, I’m not going to be able to interview everybody. I may not even be able to do a phone screen with everybody. So I’ve got to sort that pile.” Certification is a useful way to sort the pile—provided the recruiter believes in the certification.

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In Context of Experience

Yes, employers can be wary when they see a certification on your resume, according to Stephen Van Vreede, a Rochester, N.Y.-based resume writer and career strategist at ITTechExec.com. There are many certifications out there and employers aren’t familiar with all of them.

“You have all these people who have the certification, but they don’t have the real-life experience,” he said. “So go into an interview and show, ‘Hey, this wasn’t just a theoretical training and certification program I went through. I have some skills that have been applied and here’s an example of how I put them into action.’”

It’s best to put the certification in the context of your experience: either what you learned while gaining that cert, or how you’ve put it to work since.

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14 Responses to “Will That Certification Actually Get You a Job?”

  1. jelabarre

    > …With the IT unemployment rate at just 3 percent,…

    Gee, that must mean there are parts of the country where IT unemployment is at *0%*, because here in the Hudson Valley it’s WAY over that number.

    • This are always the same companies they offer every week the same jobs.

      The want just see what happens.

      A lot guys ‘H1B-Candidates’ doing the test and get the certification in groups.
      They do this online with copied answers from guys who already passed certification or there are solving the online test together in groups. How easy is this… 😉

      I knew a lot people which learned ONLY to pass the test.

  2. Sorry, I don’t buy the “certifications don’t matter” line. Been in IT professionally for over 30 years, and I’ve started job hunting lately. For every job I’ve applied to that have a CCNA/CCDA to which I’ve gotten a reply, I’ve been specifically turned down BECAUSE of that missing cert. I’ve been doing the work for decades, but without the piece of paper I can’t even get consideration.

    • The reason and! he problem are the hiring people/companies (consultant companies)
      This consultant companies have no clue what there are looking for the only want make easy pickings.If you talk with them the first time you feeling like you talking with an call center.
      They only see the requirements from the companies where are looking for experts.
      You have to explain them what CCNA/CCDA is and that you have already practice for years.
      Best way is to avoid this kind of consultant companies.

  3. When I see someone with a certification – I have no need to look any further on the resume – straight to the trash.

    I have learned this over a long career – it may be unfair, but it’s reality

      • No, you are completely wrong.

        Certifications means ONLY the person pass the test, but you don’t know how.

        It says absolute nothing about his experience.

        In America most time education is just a business to make money for the schools/organization.

        • I am considering getting my Comp TIA A+ certificate and PMP. I even have gone to the school and sat in the class I will be certified through. The professor teaching the class served in the military and has experience in IT teaching from TAMPA… To me it is a lot of hands on which I enjoy.
          In my opinion, a certification can only help to show an employer the candidate has some type of experience. If one is concerned about their experience or teaching further I would at least test them with questions since you have them in front of you anyway, or test over the phone. I mean how does one get experience without someone training them or they read a book and do it themselves? My question is at what level is personal experience good and at what level is a certification good to get the job and hold it? Some times I think we can learn wrong things if were not careful. The test should at least prove something though.

  4. bob burgess

    Most people that complain about certifications, don’t have them.
    Most people hiring don’t know what they mean and are intimidated this guy on the resume is smarter the him.

    If the Certs were that easy everyone would have them, not make excuses.

    I think it is a part of managing your career.

    Plus there is just too many people out there.

  5. I am interested in getting certified as a medical billing specialist or a dental assistant by the U.S. Career Institute. However, I decided to look at what I would be up against when I have obtained that certification… all I see on job postings for those jobs under requirements are certification and 1-3 years experience minimum. I don’t understand. You gotta start ‘somewhere’. How would I ever find work?