Certifications and hiring

Good discussion on the Network World forums regarding the story “How IT pros cheat on certification exams” or as it ran in print “Survey shows increase in cert cheating, software piracy”. They site as one reason the high unemployment and competition for jobs which require certification.

The story brought forth the requisite bashing of certifications in the forums and comments:

  • “lazy HR departments use certification as a means for sorting candidates” and “good people are lost in the automatic scanning”.
  • “The whole certification biz is a well orchestrated racket.”
  • “Certifications for the most part are a sign of an IT worker who can’t cut it on his own merit or handle the rigors of real academic work in the field.”
  • “And individual with an advanced degree and experience is a professional. An individual with an industrial certification is a tradesman. If you want professionalism in the industry, insist on hiring professionals instead of certified monkeys and one-trick ponies.”

There are elements of truth in all the comments. I have an advanced degree and certifications; yet neither mean much in isolation.  Twenty years ago I became a coveted CNE (Certified Netware Engineer) well before I would have hired someone like me to work in a Production environment. I was simply good at rote memorization. A degree obviously takes longer to get and shows more commitment, but that can also be an exercise about memorization, regurgitating all that your professor said. It is probably more difficult to cheat on a continual basis (i.e., four years of exams), but still, that just means you memorize more. Advanced degrees are usually a bit more difficult, requiring thinking and processing beyond memorization. But still, graduate academia is not the corporate world.

As a hiring manager, I always liked EEs. It’s hard to imagine that anyone who went through a good electrical engineering program wouldn’t have the aptitude to handle anything technical that IT could throw at them, as long as they had the desire. Yet I never saw too many EEs come through; I assume they gravitated toward traditional engineering work. So other than that, and maybe the CCIE back when it required real lab work, HR and IT managers have to put in the work and search for and measure experience, work ethic and personality.

How IT pros cheat on certification exams