Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Will This Certification Get Me A Job?

Will the Network+ Certification Get Me a Job?

Here's a question I often receive from people: "Will this certification get me a job?" It's sometimes worded a little differently. Here are a few variations.

Here's the Short Answer


Long Answer

A certification helps you land an interview but is only a small part of a larger picture. Most companies are looking for someone that will be a good fit in the job within the company but they are interested in much more than just what tests you can pass. However, if you can't pass the test, you often never get the interview.
Here's the typical process for someone pursuing and being offered a job
  • An organization advertises for a job
  • You submit a resume (with or without a cover letter)
  • Your resume is picked as a possible candidate
  • You might be asked to complete one or more tests
  • You are asked to do one or more interviews
  • You are given an offer
  • You start your new job
Your certification and the underlying knowledge is important when your resume is reviewed, when you complete some technical pre-interview tests, and when you're interviewed. However, it is isn't the only important element.
Get Certified Get Ahead - Certification Get Me A Job

Rare Exception

With very few exceptions, you need more than a certification to get a job. Here's an example of a rare exception.

Imagine someone named Joe who recently left the U.S. military with a security clearance. Joe has very little IT experience but decides to pursue the A+ certification and earns it.

A contractor (called Acme of Wiley E. Coyote and Road Runner fame) has a contract with the U.S. DoD. One position recently opened up. It requires someone with an A+ certification and a security clearance. Normally, Acme gets $50 an hour for every hour a person is working in this position and they pay $30 an hour to someone working in it. Acme is losing $20 an hour (or about $800 a week) for every hour this position remains unfilled.

If Joe applies and can prove he has an A+ certification, the clearance, and a pulse, he has the job.

Your goals

When pursuing a new job, you often have two short-term goals.
  • Get an interview. The first goal is to get an interview. You have the best chance of success here if your resume has the certifications and the knowledge/skillset required for the job. A cover letter (or email introduction) also helps.
  • Shine during the interview to get an offer. You need to demonstrate that have the knowledge/skillset required by the job and you are a good fit on the organization's team. This is often much more than your technical ability.
If you're not getting interviews, improve your resume and introduction process.

Check out this article: Skills mismatch hinders the hiring of new graduates, survey finds. It mentions that "Forty-nine percent of human resource officials polled by the professional organization said this year’s college graduates lack basic English skills in grammar and spelling."  This is often reflected in applicant's resumes. A single typo can get your resume thrown in the rejection pile.

If you're not getting jobs after interviews, improve your interview techniques. Check out this article for five tips to help you during your next interview.

Elimination Phases

Hiring managers often have a very short time to look at a resume. When a job requires a certification, resumes without the certification are quickly eliminated. A hiring manager might have 100 resumes to fill a single job and this job requires a specific certification. He looks through them and sees that only about 10 include the certification. The rest are tossed aside.

If you have the certification they require, you'll make it to the next phase. However, just having this on your resume won't be enough.

Here's a resume tip I recently posted on the Get Certified Get Ahead Facebook page.

~~~ Resume Tip ~~~ Take the time to target your resume for every new position. Ensure each resume includes the key words of the position you’re applying for, so that it has a better chance of being noticed. Many employers and head hunters accept resumes online and put them into a database. They then search the databases with specific keywords. If you use a one-size-fits-all resume, you have less of a chance to get the interview and ultimately the job.

Testing  Phases

Some jobs require candidates to take one or more tests. Some tests are strictly technical asking you multiple-choice technical questions. You aren't expected to ace them, but they often give the hiring managers an idea of your technical knowledge.

Other tests are deeper. Organizations sometimes use psychological tests to gauge how someone might interact with customers or how they might respond in a highly stressful environment. Again, perfect answers aren't expected, but they do give the hiring managers some insight.

One test that will surely eliminate you is a drug test. Many companies require you to submit to drug testing to see if you are a drug user.

Background Check Phase

It's common for an organization to do a background check on a potential employee at just about any point in the hiring process. A background check typically includes legal and financial checks.

Legal checks often include local, state, and national sources to see if a potential employee has any legal issues that might impact their employment. Legal issues won't necessarily eliminate a person from a job. As an example, it probably won't matter if a person with a recent speeding ticket is applying for a technical job that doesn't require driving.  On the other hand, if a person is asked and they lie about it, it will matter. 

Financial checks are used in many different ways. I remember a student in a class telling me that insurance companies frequently use financial checks when pricing insurance policies. A poor credit score typically results in a higher priced policy. Similarly, hiring managers might equate a poor credit score with a lower level of responsibility and use this as an elimination factor.

Interview Phases

During the interview phase, you have an opportunity to shine. You can expect to be asked about your knowledge and skill set related to the job and you should be able to easily talk about anything you've included on your resume.

If you list a Security+ certification, you might be asked about the certification, or content that someone that passed the certification would be expected to know. If your answers indicate that your resume claim is incorrect, expect to be eliminated. As an example, if your resume indicates you have a certification but you admit during the interview that you don't have it, expect to be eliminated.

You can also expect to be asked questions that will bring out your personality. These types of questions are rarely direct. However, how you respond, especially to questions you aren't prepared to answer, help people understand you better. You won't hear questions like the following list, but interviewers are often curious about the answers to them just the same.
  • Are you a goal-setting achiever? Or are you are a quitter?
  • Do you enjoy participating in a team to help the company succeed? Or are you out for yourself only.
  • Are you friendly and look for the best in people? Or do you carry a chip on your shoulder looking for the worst in others?

Summary - Certifications Make you Marketable

In summary, a certification can certainly make you marketable, but it isn't the only consideration for any job. You cannot expect any certification to get you a job. You can expect a certification to make you more marketable and help you land an interview. After that, it's up to you.