Are Certifications Really Necessary?

By: John Hutchins, Vice President of Client Relations

If you’re an IT professional, chances are you either have a certification or have thought about obtaining a certification at some point in your career.  These days you can find a certification for almost any skill, methodology or job title in the IT industry.  Are certifications really necessary to succeed as a technical professional?

I’ve been in the IT staffing business for more than 18 years.  I’ve placed more than a thousand technical professionals – some with certifications and some without.  I’ve talked with hiring managers about certifications, asking them why a certification is required, or even a degree for that matter, when a candidate obviously has a ton of real life experience and a successful track record.  Often times, certifications don’t help that much.  However, there are two instances when certifications make a real difference: (1) when you don’t have much experience and you’re trying to prove yourself; and (2) when it’s market driven.

If you’re a recent college graduate or a seasoned professional wanting to change your area of expertise, certifications may help you land that first or next job.  Certifications will show that you’re serious about your career choice – after all they are typically expensive and time consuming.  In addition, it provides some external, objective measure of your abilities.  You’ll still have to successfully make it past the interview stage, but you may not have even made it that far without the certification.  Finally, it provides agency recruiters with a reason to present you to a position when they otherwise may have rejected you outright.  Most recruiters are not technical.  They rely on your honesty and such things as certifications when deciding whether or not to present you to their client.  A certification may just tip the scales in your favor.

Even if you’re not a recent college graduate or changing your career trajectory, certifications can become necessary as a result of market conditions.  In this context, I’m referring to market conditions in two ways – the overall employment market for IT professionals and what the market requires of a particular type of professional.  With regard to the employment market, currently it’s a candidate driven market – experienced candidates with good interpersonal skills can write their own ticket in many instances.  In this type of market, certifications are not as important.  If, however, the market were to change for the worse, as happened in 2001 and then again in 2008, HR and hiring managers would be inundated with candidates and need some way to differentiate them.  One easy, although imperfect, way to differentiate candidates is based on education, which includes certifications.

With regard to the market for particular professionals, there are skill sets / job titles that appear to demand certifications.  Examples of this include the PMP certification for project managers and the CISSP certification for IT security engineers.  Certifications, like hair styles, seem to come and go.  A few years back it seemed like every project management position required a PMP certification.  Today, less than a majority of them do.  Now the big fad is ScrumMaster certification.  The point is that if hiring managers have bought into the certification and you want a job with them, you may need to bite the bullet and get the certification.

From my experience, certifications are typically not necessary.  They can be helpful when you need to prove your abilities or when the market requires it, but nothing can take the place of good old-fashion experience and the school of hard-knocks.

How to Find Top IT Talent in a “Candidates” Market – Consider Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) as a Supplemental Hiring Strategy

By Patricia Kmezich, Director of Recruitment Process Outsourcing

Anyone trying to hire qualified IT resources, today, is well aware of the recruiting challenges facing corporate recruiters and IT Managers; virtually 0% IT unemployment, difficulty finding the technical skill sets needed, multiple job opportunities simultaneously, etc.

Internal corporate recruiters confront an additional layer of complexity since they are typically tasked with recruiting for a wide variety of positions needed within their organization.  It is quite natural that they will gravitate to the easier positions to fill or, perhaps, the positions that are not as complex in an ever-changing IT world.  The end result is that many recruiters will work on “low hanging fruit” (easier to fill positions) and this will lead to many IT openings not getting the laser focused attention that is required in this extremely competitive IT marketplace.

Image Credit:

Image Credit:

Many organizations, therefore, are turning to different recruiting strategies and Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) is a model that is gaining in popularity and generating new IT recruiting successes.  The RPO model can be structured to recruit for all positions in a company or just the IT openings can be “carved out” and moved to the RPO unit.  By only transitioning the IT positions, a company can “ease” into the RPO concept and not have such a dramatic impact on the internal recruiting department.  The corporate recruiters will then be freed up to completely focus on all non-IT types of hiring needs.

Simultaneously, the RPO unit will be required to concentrate on all open IT positions due to the contractual Service Level Agreements (SLA’s).  The dedicated recruiters are extremely experienced in searching for the highly technical IT skill sets and are required to continue the search until qualified candidates are identified for each open IT position.

In the event that the IT hiring needs are not being met within an organization, it would be worthwhile to consider a “blended” recruiting strategy – institute an RPO model for all IT positions while leveraging the internal corporate recruiters for all other open positions.

Please call Quantix Consulting, Inc. for assistance with your IT recruiting needs:  (720) 457-7409.

I’m Waiting To Hire The Perfect Candidate

By: Jill Reynolds, Quantix President and CEO

“I’m holding out for the perfect candidate.” We hear this phrase or something similar on a regular basis from clients and prospects. Is the “perfect” candidate really out there and if so, how long does it make sense to hold out for perfection? Honestly, the perfect candidate is not likely to cross your path with record lows in IT unemployment. In fact, your perfect candidate is likely working for someone else. By leaving a position unfilled for an extended period of time, the unintended message being sent is the position is not real and the employer is merely testing the market or the hiring manager is just too picky and impossible to please.

In the recruiting industry, we call the unrealistic search for the perfect candidate a “Purple Squirrel.” It is called that for a reason, Purple Squirrels don’t exist.  Harvard Business Review had the following to say: 

Let’s imagine a fictitious future where all job openings had to be filled in no more than 60 days. In this future, if you miss getting someone hired or you wait too long, you lose the position for good and your business has to adapt. What would change? Those purple squirrels would disappear. Very few companies could fill jobs in a timely manner while also chasing the scant possibility of snatching one of these rare creatures.

Image Credit: Elite Personnel Inc.

Image Credit: Elite Personnel Inc.

I can guarantee that a senior software engineer with seven years of experience in all of your programming languages is not going to walk through your door and say they are willing to work for your desired salary. Purple squirrels aren’t measures of success. At the very best, they are a measurement of luck and at the very least, they are the sad result of a poor understanding of the employment market and a company’s recruiting capabilities and consequences.

While employers are holding out for the perfect hire, they are missing out on high-quality candidates that are a solid fit for their organization. What about considering a “strong” candidate? I’m not suggesting that you compromise on quality, but rather adjust your expectations to a more realistic level. Typically when an employer is describing the “perfect” candidate, they are focusing only on their technical skills and experience and not on the candidate’s soft skills and personality traits. If you indeed found and hired the perfect candidate, only to find out their ego was compromising the productivity of your team, ultimately you’ve determined they weren’t the perfect candidate after all. Have you prioritized the skill sets and experience the position requires? If 10 different skills are included on your job description, but the bulk of the responsibilities could be handled by meeting six of the requirements, perhaps the other four skills should be viewed as “nice to have.” As you consider candidates, explore their ability to integrate with the team’s culture and their capacity to learn new skills. These are high value traits in an employee, but often not evaluated and considered in the hiring process.

It is important to find the right skills for the job but more important to find the right person for the job. This exercise is about is planning and preparing for realistic hiring outcomes. Even if you are still hoping to find the “perfect” candidate, perhaps you will consider adjusting your aim for more realistic candidate expectations.

How To Screw Up A Perfectly Good Job Offer

By: Elias Cobb, Quantix Recruiting Manager

The IT job market can best be described as “odd” right now. The market for candidates is extremely tight with lots of opportunities for job seekers in most technical areas. On the flip side, companies seem to be moving more slowly than ever in making their hiring decisions and we’re barely into the holiday season.

Here are some of my best (or worst) ways to screw things up at the offer stage of the process. As always, these are based on real-life observations.

1. Company: Waiting around to make an offer. If you like a candidate, move quickly. Good candidates have a lot of opportunity right now. Trust me.

2. Company: Waiting around AGAIN, after the offer has been accepted to schedule a start date. All this does is make the candidate nervous that the job isn’t going to be there. It’s very easy for another company to swoop in and make your candidate a competing offer with an immediate start date, and you have to start your entire hiring process over. I’ve heard various reasons for this: Procuring a work station, orientation classes only offered on certain days, won’t have the person’s project ready, etc. Seriously, isn’t there something you could have this person do in the meantime? Maybe they could review code and familiarize themselves with the applications. Maybe there are some training webinars they could attend. Be creative! Isn’t that what you expect from your employees?

3. Candidate: Asking for things that aren’t deal breakers. Introducing doubt into the process will only give the company pause in pulling the trigger. For example, if a company-subsidized mass-transit pass won’t decide the job for you, don’t ask for it. Consider it a nice perk if the company offers it once you start.

Image Credit: Raffles Medical Group

Image Credit: Raffles Medical Group

4. Company: Lowballing the candidate on salary, especially over a small amount of money. For example, why would you offer someone $2,000 less than they asked for? That’s $166/month to the company. That means A LOT more to an individual than it does a company. Even if the candidate accepts the job, it starts them off with a bad taste in their mouth. Why not offer them $500 MORE than they asked? That’s only $41/month more to the company, but is going to make the candidate feel like you really want them on board. I do understand there are caveats here – if the salary band is too low, or if you simply can’t afford the salary by $10,000 or something. But is $2,000 really make or break?

5. Candidate: Getting greedy. Don’t provide a salary range, then ask for more money after you get an offer. Just as in #3 above, even if the company gives in, you really don’t want to start off with the company already thinking you are less than professional.

6. HR / Company: Please push to get rid of ridiculous policies like limiting the salary you will offer a candidate based on their last salary. You’re seriously telling me you wouldn’t offer a market salary to a perfect candidate, THE SAME SALARY YOU ARE PAYING SOMEONE ELSE IN THE SAME JOB, just because they were underpaid at their last company? How does that make any sense? You’re just going to lose this person to another company who doesn’t have ludicrous policies. The market determines salaries for specific skills, not a specific company.

7. Candidate: Being less than forthright. Please disclose things that will show up on your background report at the beginning of the process, if there is a background check to be performed. It’s going to show up. You won’t get the job if you don’t disclose it. Sometimes, and yes I’ve seen it, you WILL get the job if you’re honest up front.

8. Candidate: Accepting a counter offer. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t know not to accept a counter offer? I guess there have been examples of it working out, but I haven’t seen them. Usually it’s about money. And if it takes you threatening to quit to get a raise, is that really a place you want to work? Any other reasons you were leaving your last job rear their ugly head again, no matter how much money they offer you to stay. And now the company knows you were willing to quit. Whose head will be on the chopping block first come layoff time?

I could probably go on and on with more specific examples of how I have seen job offers swirl down the toilet, but these are the most oft-repeated mistakes that I see.

When It Comes To Hiring, Is 50 Really The New 30?

By: Jill Reynolds, Quantix President and CEO 

In a recent staff meeting we were discussing job orders from various clients and relevant candidates. One of our recruiters mentioned they screened a qualified candidate but they were concerned the candidate was “too old” for the youthful, cutting-edge culture of a particular client. When exploring the situation further, I learned the candidate was 50-ish. With “match making” being an important element in the recruiting process, there were concerns because the hiring manager could be as much as 20 years younger than the candidate. Would this be the right dynamic for a successful interview and hire? What happened to all the chatter about 50 being the new 30? 

Are there benefits to hiring a mature employee? Absolutely! Building a multi-generational team has pluses for a variety of reasons, retention being one of them. In a recent post I addressed the subject of job hopping. Frequent job changes are almost expected with employees in their 20s and 30s. The average tenure in this age group within the IT sector is less than three years. Seasoned employees tend to offer a more sustainable return on your hiring investment. At this phase of their career, their mindset tends to be more about growing a business than growing their career path.

John Giaimo recently wrote an article for The Staffing Stream about the advantages of hiring from the 50+ workforce. 

Image Credit: Indeco Group

Image Credit: Indeco Group

Accumulated Wisdom. With a 25+ year work history, these veterans are bringing with them a great resource of their successes AND their failures. The latter is particularly important as it will demonstrate to an organization what pitfalls to avoid and how to bounce back from challenges.

Greater Flexibility. They’ve matured through their career and felt the growing pains that younger employees may not yet understand as being crucial to improved business. Besides acquiring technical abilities, these employees have perfected the soft skills like communication, abilities to handle stress and confidence to collaborate with management in a way that supports organizational goals and projects. They will also be more likely to be flexible in their compensation with former insurance and savings plans already put in place.

An Extended Network. Their list of contacts, business relationships, and friends in the field will be well developed with their career record. In a recent study employers said this group of employees have stronger professional and client networks compared to their younger coworkers resulting in a better referrals for business prospects and potential employees. 

A Fresh Perspective. When trying to cut new ground and stay modern, an older employee can actually revitalize your business by providing a different perspective. You will definitely profit from an employee who is familiar with traditional business models and how to apply them anew.

So, is 50 the new 30 when it comes to hiring? Hopefully, it is. A multi-generational team can provide balance to an organization and the opportunity to gain perspective from coworkers of all ages. As an employer, I’ve learned that you can teach skill, but you cannot teach experience. Experience typically comes with time.

Job Hopping: A Career Beauty Or Beast?

By: Jill Reynolds, Quantix President and CEO

The common school of thought is that too many positions (job hopping) in a relatively short period of time are equal to a bad hire or a discontent employee. But is that really the case or is this a dated theory? More and more, people are reinventing their career paths during their professional lifetime.

There can be distinct advantages to job hopping. As a candidate, is it possible that frequent job changes can advance or enhance your career? Yes, but there should be strategy associated with the job changes. Money is a big motivator; a pay increase associated with a voluntary job change is usually more than a raise associated with an annual or merit increase from a current employer. Job changes can also provide a way to build a bigger and better network faster, provided your network development is done in a professional and credible manner. If you carefully plot your career path, job hopping can accelerate your experience and develop skills to help you achieve the ultimate goal of your “dream job.”

Image Credit: Gozaik Blog

Image Credit: Gozaik Blog

As published in Forbes:
“As it turns out, job hopping can be extremely advantageous for certain types of people—if they do it for the right reasons. For those in technology, for example, it allows them the opportunity to gain valuable technical knowledge in different environments and cultures. This can be more common for those specializing in development, mobile and Project Management. While job hopping has a negative connotation; this is more about a resource providing value to a company, and then realizing there is nothing more to learn in that environment. In order to keep their skills fresh, it is necessary for technologists to remain current in a highly competitive market. Job hopping is more common with employees that are less tenured, and feel confident in their skills to be able to move on without burning a bridge and can add value immediately in a new opportunity. With employers being more open to hiring job hoppers, we expect the trend to continue.”

What does the employer think of job hoppers? It is becoming more accepted and almost expected in the workforce under the age of 35, especially in the technology sector. If you are over 40 with a track record of job hopping, a potential employer will expect you to present solid reasoning behind your job changes. In a recent report from CareerBuilder, 43% of employers polled said they would not hire a candidate with short-term employment with several employers. However, 55% of the same group said they hired someone who fell into the category of a job hopper.

If you are a job hopper or considering making a leap, make sure you have logic and a strategy behind your job changes. There is the possibility that your last position could be your “career identifier,” so understand the risk to your career image. Make sure your “hopping” is defensible and you can provide an account of what you learned with each job change and what you were able to contribute to each employer. There are benefits and shortcomings to job hopping, but if done the right way and for the right reasons the benefits can outweigh the disadvantages.

Candidates: How To Effectively Work With Staffing Agencies

By: Elias Cobb, Quantix Recruiting Manager

If you’re an IT professional, you’ve surely interfaced with a recruiter from a staffing agency at some point in your career. And for those of you who aren’t in IT, you may have run across recruiters as well – there are lots of us out there in many industries! Well, have you ever wondered why you would want to work with a recruiter? Or if there was a better, more efficient way you could work with an agency?

Why would you even want to work with a staffing agency? Don’t they make money if you get the job? YOU don’t get anything extra out of it! Does it really benefit you, the candidate, to work with an agency when it’s the company who pays them??? Well, the answer in most cases is yes, it does benefit the candidate to work with an agency. But you need to ask some basic questions to see if the agency with whom you are working is one that will help you most.

First, many agencies work directly with hiring managers, while others don’t have that kind of access. If your agency DOES work directly with the hiring manager, they can vastly increase your odds of getting the job over you applying directly. When the agency discusses the position with you, they can help you bring out parts of your experience that might pertain directly to this position, including experiences and skills you may not have accentuated on your resume. Had you sent your resume in to the company job board, it would have been screened by a non-technical person and likely rejected. But since you had the recruiter help you with your resume, then put it directly in the hands of the hiring manager, your chances at that job are much greater.

Image Credit: Optimal Sales Search

Image Credit: Optimal Sales Search

Second, did the recruiter take the time to really get to know you and what types of positions you are interested in? If they did, that recruiter is much more likely to stay in touch with you in the future, even if the current role you are working on together doesn’t pan out. That’s another thing a good recruiter can bring to the table – access to positions and companies you never would have found on your own. And if they know you and your desires well, they can bring you these types of positions on an ongoing basis.

So there are two tips on best working with an agency: 1) Ask if they are working directly with the hiring manager for the position and 2) See how in-depth the recruiter gets with you in the screening process.

What else can you do to maximize this process? Well, another point is honesty. A recruiter can’t help you if you aren’t up front and honest about your skills, your desired pay rate and where you are in the job search process. If you misrepresent your skills, you may end up getting embarrassed in the interview with the client, as they will certainly ask you technical questions. If you aren’t honest about how much money you want, you may end up shortchanging yourself or pricing yourself out of the position altogether. Recruiters always have to provide a rate or salary to their clients when presenting a candidate, so trying to hide your salary or not disclosing it will likely keep you out of consideration. And finally, if you don’t keep your recruiter apprised of your other job interviews, they can’t go to bat for you with their client. Remember, if they inform their client that you have interviews or offers coming, they may be able to get the client to move a little faster. And that job might just be the perfect one for you!