You’ve heard of résumé inflation. But certification inflation is becoming a big issue for tech firms, according to a new TEKsystems survey of more than 300 tech leaders and 900 tech professionals.
The TEKsystems survey found that just 26 percent of respondents always or often verify certifications. Contrast that with the 52 percent of tech professionals who claim they always or often represent their certifications accurately on their résumés, and you can see the potential scope of the issue. If you believe the survey, some tech pros are embellishing their certification history, either by omitting certification expiration or self-certifying their capabilities based on work experience.
Although just 16 percent of tech pros pursue certifications to improve their earning potential, hiring managers and other tech leaders place substantial emphasis on certifications when choosing job candidates.
“Every organization wants to get what they paid for when it comes to hiring talent, and these results indicate that there’s an assumption that the skills are as advertised,” TEKsystems research manager Jason Hayman said in an interview. “When an organization makes a poor hiring decision based on faulty information, it can be a major burden.”
For example, if a company hires a security architect to build the framework for a new mobile application, but the employee doesn’t have the certifications he or she claims, it could result in a subpar system at risk of hacking. While an employee without certifications may have racked up the experience necessary to complete a particular task, a certification is supposed to guarantee that employee really has the necessary knowledge.
With all that in mind, Hayman added, organizations should fully vet the qualifications of all candidates—whether through technical screenings, references, or interviewing. On top of that, tech leaders and professionals need to come to a common understanding on what constitutes the value of a certification and how it contributes to each phase of a tech career.
According to the TEKsystems survey, a majority of tech leaders and professionals think that employers should pay for certifications, with security certifications perceived as the most valuable. For example, there are 65,000 Certified Information Systems Security Professionals (CISSP) in the United States, and roughly 50,000 open job postings that require that certification.
Hayman warned that the speed at which companies need to vet their candidates in a worker-friendly market often results in cut corners. “Organizations might feel pressure to hire the first candidate who, on paper, checks all the requirements of the open position,” he said, “so they might not completely validate the qualifications because they know if they delay, someone else will swoop in with a job offer to the candidate.”
Candidates also feel pressure to try and navigate automated screening processes, so they might be tempted to overstate some of their qualifications in an effort to get to the interview stage. “[Tech] workers should understand where the value of certifications is greatest—in the hiring stage,” Hayman continued. “But, they should also understand that employers are willing to sponsor additional certifications as long as they contribute to overall performance.”
Pointing to the widespread need for CISSP certification, Hayman suggested that many organizations are beginning to look at a “build your own” model, in which they provide employees with certifications training in order to fill skills gaps: “IT professionals should explore the types of career development and training opportunities the employer or recruiting partner provides so they can make the best decision for their career.”
At least some tech companies are aware that competition for the highest-paying jobs can potentially result in certification inflation. Kushagra Bhatia, senior IT infrastructure manager for IDrive, a cloud backup appliance specialist, hasn’t seen much certification inflation among job candidates. Nonetheless, his company takes the time to reach out to certifying organizations to double-check whether a prospective employee actually did what they stated on paper.
“We go through a strict process when vetting new potential IT hires, the obvious of course is reviewing résumés, requesting references, background checks and also reviewing their social media profiles,” Bhatia said in an interview. “Are they connected with other industry folks? That would show credibility.”