Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Value of Certifications

After reading a very spirited, informative discussion on this topic over at SecurityFocus I decided to throw my own hat into the ring. I want to expand on several relevant topics. 1 - Certifications are a joke - A certification alone, without experience is typically not worth that much in the real world. It proves that the candidate can pass a test, often with having the questions in advance( see Testking/ActualTests). All it really guarantees, is that the candidate has some basic knowledge of the subject. Even the certs with experience requirements are pitiful, due to the fact that they do not audit every candidate. And if they did, there's always a chance they lied, like most people do on their resume. 2 - Certifcations are necessary - until the HR machine is overhauled, you cannot afford to not have certifications. Unless you have a good contact in the company, most non-certified individuals will be screened out by the non-technical HR employee, who basically knows keywords. I think also if your very specialized, like on a certain product or field, having one of the more advanced certs could be very rewarding financially. Also on the opposite spectrum, having certs in several different areas, like various OSes, networking, security, etc can show that your pretty versatile. 3 - Experience is still king - despite the fact that you have a lot of "enhanced" resumes out there, experience is still the most important factor in deciding whether or not a candidate will be successfull. A good track record of completing projects, troubleshooting, implementing, etc along with personal references from those jobs are still the best indicator that I've seen. Granted you need to do a fair amount of vetting via the technical interview, I still think its what employers should put more emphasis on versus certifications. In conclusion, I would like to state that I don't think its possibile for anyone to argue that the current certification system we have is not broke on multiple levels. We have hiring managers without a clue. We have money grubbing, so called experts selling us mediocre certifications. In short, we all have to take responsibility for fixing it. Whether its done by educating people of the dangers of paper only certified employees or by designing a new system, something needs to be done.