Why I Think IT Certifications are Overrated

Published in: Business, Opinion

The keyword here is certifications being overrated but not completely useless.

There was a time, in the early days of our company I used to do a lot of things hands-on, including interviewing potential new hires, specifically entry and mid-level tech hires. I believe I have learned a lot from 100s of these interview experiences.

More specifically:

1 Most CVs are fillers and plain lies.
2 You can learn a lot from just talking about unrelated stuff with potential hires. (Whether they right fit for the job.)
3 Maybe it’s my personal bias, but I have found that the first 5 minutes of the interview is usually good enough to know – whether we should continue the next 20-30 minutes – or try to cut it short.
4 My personal favorite – most IT certifications are overrated. Or more specifically most entry-level certifications are overrated.

Considering that we are an ISP, our interview pre-requisite had a minimum of RSCE, network+, CCNA for entry and midlevel network sysadmin hires. You can verify their certifications online (so you know they are not fake). My personal guesstimation is that 95% of the people who had certification couldn’t answer basic questions on their respective topic.

The ones who could almost always have prior job experience in some other company in the same position. Since we have so many competitors in this sector we usually have to settle for inexperienced hires and train them up over many months. Our training deals with both practicing in simulated labs and dealing with hands-on real-life scenarios. We even send them out to the field with our operations team to learn how last mile connectivity works – something they are not going to learn with their certifications or sitting behind terminals all day (or Googling for that matter), but can often be relevant to their job or trying to identify a problem and then delegating them to the right people.

IT certifications will probably help you weed out the absolutely hopeless to the probably hopeful prospect – and that’s about it. When it comes out to actual job relevance I found certifications to be largely useless. Experience, on the other hand, can be tremendously valuable. I will take someone who knows the ins and outs of a Networking OS (ie, Cisco IOS) and Linux – over someone who has certification any day of the week.

Thankfully, I don’t have to do interviews anymore – but I will occasionally sit on an interview session – and unfortunately, my bias still holds strong.


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