I’ve been brainstorming a bit lately with a long-time cert industry colleague, Anne Martinez, whose terrific Website (GoCertify.com) I have mentioned in 25 of my 400-plus blogs here (for my most recent accolades to that magnum opus see my August 1, 2011 blog entitled “Hats Off to GoCertify.com“). We’ve been talking a lot about what IT professionals, hiring managers, and technical recruiters need to know about IT certifications to make them intelligible, understandable, and sensible to all parties.
This turns out to be a little trickier than it might appear upon first consideration. To some extent, this stems from the different interests of the three different constituencies involved in looking for and pondering IT certification information. As far as we can tell EVERYBODY wants to know the following:
- How much demand is there for this cert? Is the demand trend rising or falling?
- How much is this certification worth?
- How do similar certifications compare with one another?
- How many people hold a particular credential?
- How many job postings online have recently mentioned that credential?
- How current is the knowledge base likely to be for someone who holds this credential?
Beyond that interests diverge pretty widely and wildly. IT professionals (and prospective certification holders) want to know lots of nuts and bolts details about each credential, including:
- How long does it take to prepare for and earn this cert?
- What is the passing ratio for this cert’s exam(s)? How likely is a re-take for one or more exams?
- How much does it cost to earn this cert?
- Is self-study an option? Is taking a classroom or online course required to earn the cert? Do community colleges or technical schools offer courses on the credential?
- What kinds of study materials are available? Study guides? Exam Crams? Practice tests? Flashcards? …
- What kinds of infrastructure surrounds the credential? Resource sites? Online forums? Online or physical study groups?
Hiring managers, on the other hand, are more interested in answers to the following questions:
- How relevant is this certification to my company’s current and planned technologies and platforms? What happens if we adopt new or different technologies or platforms?
- Does hiring a certified professional make them more likely to leave or stay at my company when the economy is booming?
- How often must an employee recertify to stay current on this credential? What costs are involved?
- What is the return on investing in certified employees? How do outlays to maintain certifications stack up against cost savings from having certified employees on staff?
- How does IT certification figure into staff development and retention plans and goals?
And finally, technical recruiters (and in house placement and HR professionals) have their own specific interests, too:
- What does holding a particular certification say about some candidate’s skills, knowledge, and motivation?
- What is the employer’s attitude toward IT certification in general, and specific certifications in particular?
- How likely is an employer seeking to fill a particular position to be interested in some specific certification? (Easy to answer when certs figure into job requirements or “nice-to-have” elements; tricker when absent.)
- What are the long-term retention or mobility characteristics for holders of this certification, and how to they compare to otherwise similar professionals who lack this certification?
- What kinds of career tracks or ladders do holders of this certification typically follow?
I am sure there are lots of other questions of interest to these constituencies, too, but I’m scratching my head and trying to come up with them. If you have ideas or suggestions to share, please post a comment to this blog, or drop me an email at email@example.com. I’d love to flesh this list out more fully, in large part to help Anne how to add to and grow her already terrific database of IT certification programs and credentials, and to help her better contextualize that information.