Certified vs. non-certified: The face-off

* More on certifications vs. real life work experience

Our topic of certification vs. real-life work experience is being discussed in the print and online editions of Network World this week. David Foote, CEO of Foote Partners and Susan Underhill, vice president of HP Global Certification and Partner Education go head-to-head about whether certifications matter nowadays.

As you know, the recent Foote Partners quarterly skills pay reports has been signaling that the skills pay gap between non-certified and certified skills is closing up. In the Face-Off, Foote says that while some IT certifications – such as PMI’s Project Management Professional, Cisco’s Certified Internetworking Expert, and (ISC)2’s Certified Information Systems Security Professional - can probably still boost a career, the IT profession has reached a position that has outdistanced certifications’ importance. He quotes Marriott CIO Carl Wilson as saying “There [are] no IT projects … only business initiatives that are enabled and shaped by information technology.”

On the other hand, Underhill maintains that certifications are an important measurement tool used by hiring managers to determine a candidate’s skills level. In the Face-Off, she notes: “Many IT professionals indicate they value the training courses because that is where skill is gained; they perceive certification and taking exams as optional. However, employers view the assessment as the real value. I consistently hear, ‘I don’t care what training you’ve slept through. I care about your skill level.’”

We know that many employers use certifications as benchmarks (which job ad specifies only work experience and not certifications as well?), but can we be certain that the hiring people really know what they’re asking for or if they understand what the level of skill or experience the certifications indicate? These are questions that I see in many of the responses I’ve been receiving to this discussion.

Reader Larry S., wrote: “Today, more and more, employees are met by an HR rep who does not understand the business or the job/position or its requirements. It becomes easier to make up a chart of requirements and match up the candidates skill set to the chart … The HR roadblock is often justified by volume. With so many unemployed and underemployed people it is not unusual to find literally thousands of people bidding on a dozen jobs. Everyone is expected to do more with less and managers are not exempt so to have someone else do the preliminary screening is often perceived as a blessing. Unfortunately this requires that the job description and requirements be point form and fit into a table so the items can be checked off buy HR.”

That leads to the age-old question, what do you do to make your resume stand out? What is the answer to getting your resume understood if they are first read by HR professional with little knowledge about technology skills? And as Larry points out, “It is rare to see a job posting that actually relates to how the job fits into the company business and relates to the overall business plan,” – what can you do to ensure you don’t waste your time by applying for positions that are probably not right for you, despite what the ad says? I’m hoping to get these questions answered by a recruiter and will discuss the answers in a follow-up newsletter.

* Interesting read: The IDG News Service has a story about the Yoh Index of Technology Wages, a compensation index that tracks outsourced tech workers. On average, technical consultants received $83.72 per hour, SAP consultants earned $76.67 an hour and hardware engineers earned $75.68 hourly. ETL (extract, transform and load) developers, project managers, clinical research associates and database administrators followed. Read the full story.

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