Hiring the right person for the right job is not always easy and there are a variety of different factors that need to be considered. Here we look at the impact certification, experience and cultural fit can have when it comes to hiring candidates for the technology market.
Today there are hundreds of IT certifications available through a wide variety of independent organisations and IT vendors including Amazon, Cisco, CompTIA and Microsoft. With the average cost of an MCSA standing at around $495, one would be forgiven for assuming that such an accolade does indeed hold some sway when it comes to getting that perfect technology role. The jury is however out.
There have been several studies undertaken to suggest that hiring individuals with professional certifications will be beneficial for hiring managers.
A New Horizon learning article posted in 2017 stated that individuals with CompTIA certifications are 85% more confident in their own ability and 25% better at retaining information than those without. In addition, CompTIA certified staff with less than one year of experience demonstrate more domain knowledge than non-certified staff with three years’ experience.
Furthermore, Bowers (2016) argues that there are several facts that prove IT certifications work. These include employees with certifications being 90% more productive when compared to non-certified peers. In addition, proof of certification has allowed hiring managers to fill positions 25% sooner, which can be considered a brilliant outcome for all concerned, including recruiters.
Despite the arguments outlined above, there are several reasons why IT certifications are not an effective indicator of potential employer performance.
The first of these is that the technology industry moves in such a rapid manner, that a certification achieved in the year previous can become almost obsolete a year later due to the changing nature of the market. Furthermore, the credibility of certifications has been questioned time and time again, as anyone can set up a certification business and issue certificates.
Over the last few years, the professional certification industry has been struggling to resolve issues of cheating, validation of test scores and other problems that question whether a certification is, in fact, a reflection of the candidate’s ability at all.
Now let's consider the issue of experience. Surely, whilst certifications are of course useful, there is no substitue for on-the-job experience?
A survey conducted by Foote Partners shows that non-certified IT professionals receive higher bonuses than their less experienced, more certified peers – suggesting that experience considerably outweighs certifications. Experience allows a hiring manager to grasp how well a candidate can execute skills that have been acquired in a work setting.
Highlighting real-world examples demonstrates that individuals can apply their technical knowledge in practice.
In contrast to the argument above, there are also downsides to focussing on experience. Work experience can train an individual to perform certain tasks, yet it doesn't necessarily mean an individual has gained any kind of knowledge.
When considering programming an application, an IT professional who has simply learnt on the job cannot tell whether the processes learned at an organisation are ‘best practice’ – they can simply complete the task. As a result, those who have learnt on the job will add less value as they may not be able to identify areas of improvement which those with knowledge and certifications may be able to, and in turn generate increased efficiency for the organisation.
The final dimension to be considered here is cultural fit. After all, hiring managers are likely to spend considerable amounts of time with the employee, so the way in which they interract and the impression they make during the interview process is important. Indeed, some argue that cultural fit is infact the most important factor as skills can be learned, but personalities cannot be changed.
According to LinkedIn, workers on average know the ins and outs of a new position after three months. By contrast, personal qualities are much more ingrained and cannot be changed – or if they can, it would take more than three months to do so.
An applicant’s work ethic, honesty and willingness to learn is sometimes considered as more important than any technical knowledge they may have acquired. For example, if a solutions provider is looking for a new hire into their pre-sales team, would they rather hire an outgoing, positive thinker with a great personality to win business or a pre-sales veteran with 15 years experience who is so bored by the industry that he has a hard time forcing a smile when presenting to potential new clients?
Furthermore, the right team formations within organisations can make all the difference, as few jobs are done in total isolation. As a result, teamwork is considered vital for providing high levels of consumer satisfaction.
Despite this, many suggest that determining an individual's fit for a role based on personality is highly flawed. It usually takes several minutes for hiring managers to get a good sense of someone’s personality. Hiring based on appointing ‘like-minded’ individuals can have many negative implications. ‘Good fit’ within organisations can turn into ‘the same as’ which leads to hiring managers bringing individuals into IT teams because they will get along with everyone, rather than the potential technical benefit that they can provide to the team.
The evidence appears to suggest that there are both benefits and drawbacks of hiring based exclusively on certifications, experience or personality. Following the research conducted for this article, I believe it would be naive to suggest that there is one ‘best-fit’ approach when it comes to hiring.
A hiring manager will place greater importance on each of the three dimensions depending on several factors.
1) the seniority of the hire in mind: when considering a potential candidate for a junior support role, a hiring manager will place considerable value on the personality of the candidate. They will look for an individual who is willing to learn, open to new ideas and has a strong desire for technological improvement.
2) the length of the role: by comparison, the same hiring manager will place significantly less importance on personality when hiring for a temporary senior engineer to implement specific technology. This time they will place more importance on the experience the individual has gained in his/her career to date.
To further complicate the matter, many hiring managers in modern markets simply will not consider candidates for a role if they do not possess certain certifications, therefore arguing that the two factors discussed above are completely irrelevant if they do not hold the required certification.
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