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.

The Power of Networking

By: John Hutchins, Vice President of Client Services.


If you know me, you know that I love to network and I encourage everyone else to network – whether you are selling, recruiting, looking for a job, or whatever – networking is never a bad thing!  You never know where it will lead or what it will turn into.

The other day I was training a junior sales person.  She was shadowing me on a sales call with a client manager I had never met before.  She asked the question, “How did you connect with this person?”  As I thought about my answer, I began to laugh.  The seeds for the meeting in April 2016 were planted back in 2001.

One night in 2001, my wife and I invited some new neighbors (Cheryl and Dan) over for a friendly game of cards and a few beers.  I learned that Cheryl was an administrative assistant at a small insurance company.  She agreed to introduce me to the CIO of her company (Tim).  I met with Tim a couple of times and he introduced me to his manager of software development (James).  Shortly thereafter Tim was laid off, but luckily I had developed a good relationship with James.

James ended up hiring a bunch of contractors from me over the next two years.  I was meeting one of those contractors (Martha) for lunch and asked her what her husband did for a living.  Lucky me!  Her husband (Karl) was an IT manager for a government contractor.  She agreed to introduce me.  I met with Karl who introduced me to their manager of software development (Bob).  Shortly thereafter Karl left the company, but luckily I had developed a good relationship with Bob.

Bob and his team ended up hiring more than three dozen contractors from me over the next few years.  After a while, Bob and I got to be friends.  The other day I was having lunch with Bob and he asked if I would be willing to network with his wife’s, sister’s husband (Brent).  Being the networking addict that I am, I readily agreed.

Brent and I met for coffee a couple of times.  He had been laid off from his job as a CTO and was looking for a new gig.  I was able to introduce him to a few people, but unfortunately wasn’t able to directly help him find a job.  Looking for a new job, especially when you’re unemployed, can be mentally and emotionally exhausting.  I experienced it many years ago when I was changing careers and swore to myself that I would always be open to helping others.

Brent ended up landing a job.  We met for coffee after he got situated and he offered to introduce me to the software development manager at his new company (Susan).  You guessed it, Susan is the manager, the junior sales person and I were scheduled to meet in April 2016.  The meeting went really well, by the way.  I’m looking forward to how it turns out and who I’ll meet as a result.

What a crazy, wonderful world full of possible networking opportunities we live in!

Never, Ever Pay Someone To Write Your Resume

By: Elias Cobb, Quantix Recruiting Manager

In my opinion as an IT recruiter with almost 15 years of experience, you should never pay anyone to write your resume (Laszlo Bock, SVP of People Operations at Google agrees, in a recent blog). I suppose there could be some reason where it would make sense….but the vast majority of the time, don’t do it! You’d probably be better off buying lottery tickets. The Powerball jackpot is pretty high right now, I believe.

There are a few reasons why. Most people (in my experience) who pay someone to write their resume are unemployed and have been unemployed long enough to be getting desperate. Generally speaking, those folks probably have less disposable income than others and really shouldn’t spend it on a service they can easily get for free.

I’ve helped probably thousands of people with resumes in my career, and almost without fail, the ones that are the worst came from resume writing services. It’s not necessarily that the resume itself was THAT bad. It’s that the resumes from services are generally far out of touch with what hiring managers want to see.

What’s so wrong with these resumes, you may ask?

First, virtually all resumes from resume services tend to be in “functional” format. This is the format where all the candidate’s experiences are grouped under sub-headings at the top of the resume and their job history is listed out in one line entries below, with no mention of actual job duties at each position. IT hiring managers (at least the ones I’ve worked with) hate those kinds of resumes and I suspect many others in other industries do as well. Inevitably if we submit a functional resume, the manager asks us for a chronological version, one in which the candidate’s duties and experiences are listed (bullet points are best) under each job where they were performed. Managers want to see what you did at each job so they know when you last used a skill. A functional resume leads managers to believe that you may be trying to mask that you haven’t recently worked with the relevant skills for their position.

Image Credit: MyOptimalCareer

Image Credit: MyOptimalCareer

Second, and slightly related to the first point, the functional resumes often leave out the technical skills, accomplishments and quantifiable information that managers like to see. Hiring managers like numbers. They want to see the size of environment you worked in, how many people you managed, how large of a budget you managed, etc.

Third, I still see resumes from services where someone with 10+ years of experience has everything crammed onto one page. The days of one page resumes are dead and gone. They were dead and gone when Y2K came and went. Stop trying to get 15 years of experience onto one page. You’ll leave way too much out.

Fourth, and finally, as we’re all aware, many companies use online application systems where you have to manually enter your skills and jobs into the system (see my blog lamenting the loss of the human touch in hiring). I’ve yet to see one that is set up “functionally.” That is, one that would allow you to free-form enter all your skills at the top and then enter a bunch of one line entries for your employment history. More often, at least in the ones I’ve seen, they ask for your employer, title, date of employment and then have a text section when you enter what you did for that employer. If your resume is in functional format, you will have to basically reinvent your chronological resume when filling out that sort of application system.

So, for all of you who need help with your resume; what do you do? You need a good, solid chronological resume that can be easily manipulated for each job for which you apply. You want your core skills, main experiences and greatest accomplishments on there. Then, you want to be able to quickly add in relevant skills (no one can put everything they’ve ever done in a resume) each time you apply for a different job. Customize your skills summaries and emphasize the things that are most prominently mentioned in the job. Still struggling with it, or want some feedback? Find a few recruiters who specialize in your specific area (IT, finance & accounting, legal, etc.), form a relationship with some you trust and ask them for help. A good recruiter will help you craft a solid resume. If they blow you off, they’re not a good recruiter. They may not reply instantly that day, but good recruiters understand the value of making connections, and even if they can’t place you, recruiters with the long view will have no problem helping you out.

And it’ll be free.

Yes, you can email me, and I will help you with your resume. It’s what I do. 🙂

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.

Job Search Challenge For IT Executives

By: John Hutchins, Quantix Vice President, Client Services 

Unemployment among information technology (IT) professionals is extremely low. In the IT staffing business, it is reminiscent of 1998 and 1999 in terms of there being plentiful job orders, but a scarcity of talent. Unfortunately, unemployed IT executives are still having a difficult time finding their next management position. Why is this? And, more importantly, how does an IT executive find a job?

IT executives have trouble finding a job, even in a hot IT job market, for a variety of reasons with the biggest reason probably being the evolution of the IT industry itself. In the 1990’s and even into the early 2000’s, IT was separate from business. Today, it is an integral part of every business, every sector, every industry. It used to be that IT executives came up through the technical ranks, starting their careers as developers or in infrastructure support. Today, every MBA program includes a significant technology training component to their curriculum. As a result, nearly every graduate is technology savvy and, in theory, capable of moving into an IT executive role. Add to this the fact that most employed business executives, even if they graduated decades ago, have been forced to add technology to their repertoire. With the increased pool of viable IT executive candidates, it can be very difficult to set yourself apart from the crowd and get that interview, let alone that job.

The IT industry has evolved, but for IT executives, finding a job means returning to the tried and true methods of yesteryear. Technology has made it easier to apply for jobs, but it also has made it much easier for recruiters and human resource professionals to screen out candidates. Since IT executives are soft skills focused, rather than hard skills focused, as an IT executive it is nearly impossible to set yourself apart from the crowd using merely a resume and the Internet. You need to get out there, shake some hands, kiss some babies – you need to network! 

Image Credit: Degroote

Image Credit: McMaster University

Don’t waste your time submitting resumes via the job boards or applying through a corporate website. Instead spend your time improving your network. Get out there and meet people. Begin by meeting with former coworkers, vendors and business associates. Ask for suggestions on other people you should meet and then meet with those people. Along the way, broadcast your experience and your employment goals. Develop a target list of possible employers. Send periodic emails to your growing network, asking for introductions or leads into these companies. It takes time, but eventually you will hear about opportunities before they’re posted on job boards. Instead of being part of the crowd, you’ll be an insider. Even better, a position may be created with you in mind!

Technology maybe the basis of your previous success, but don’t lull yourself into a false sense of job search productivity if all you’re doing is applying to jobs on the Internet. Use your creativity, as well as those leadership and communication skills you’ve so carefully honed over the years to find your next successful position.