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.

Never Memorize What You Can Look Up

By: Elias Cobb, National Recruiting Manager

Never memorize what you can look up…one of my best consultants said that to me one day.  We were discussing interviews, and the questions that come up in many of them.  His basic point, as I took it, was that as a software developer, one cannot truly memorize everything one would ever utilize.  There are going to be things to look up, and the important part of development is in problem solving, and basically using one’s brain power on tackling difficult issues, not rote memorization of something that could be looked up in three seconds.  And that software development has as much artistry to it as it does rigid rules, which means there is often more than one right way to solve a coding problem.

It also took me back to my teaching days, when, on one of my first days, my chemistry students asked if I was going to make them memorize the periodic table, as teachers in the past had done.  I turned around and looked at the gigantic periodic table hanging behind me, then turned back around to the class.  “Why would you have to memorize it?  It’s right here!”  I then made the point – someone doing actual chemistry is not going to rely on their memory of the periodic table for the atomic weight of an element for a calculation; they’re going to look it up to make sure they have it correct.  They will, however, know why the periodic table is organized the way it is, and how to use it in doing chemistry.

So, to get the point…why would one ask “book” questions, things that can be easily looked up, in a job interview?    Is memorizing something like that truly indicative of one’s overall skill as a developer?  I would argue that it isn’t.  I suspect it has more to do with having an “objective” interview process, but I can tell you, you’re missing out on great candidates if you rely on these types of questions.

Here’s another quick, real-life example for you.  I had a consultant several years ago, a COBOL developer, about whom our client raved.  They said they would assign him tasks that took other developers two weeks, and he would finish them in three days.  He had a couple of other clients who loved him as well, and would basically go back and forth between these employers on contract because of the outstanding work he did.  Well, we submitted him to a different client as he had some downtime.  This client gave him a technical test, and let us know that he failed.  He got back to us and said “I could have aced that test right after I graduated, but it mostly covered things out of a book that I never use in actually coding.”  I’ve never forgotten that example, as that client likely missed out on a consultant who could have helped them greatly.

I want to be clear; I’m not advocating not asking technical questions in an interview.  I am, however, advocating making it more of a discussion than a “right or wrong” proposition.  And don’t base your entire decision about a candidate on a technical test.  Perhaps some of the factors mentioned above are in play, or maybe the person is a terrible test taker, but a crack developer.  That’s certainly something I’ve seen as well, and again, you don’t want to miss out on someone who could be a great asset to your team.

Have you seen my feedback?

By: Jill Reynolds, President and CEO of Quantix, Inc.

This week, Quantix hosted a group of C-level candidates, yes, candidates.  These executives are members of a highly effective networking group exclusively for IT executive job seekers.  These are highly accomplished individuals and strategic thinkers.  They find themselves as job seeker for various reasons, but many have “success-ed” themselves into the job seeker role.   They may have completed a turnaround or have accomplished all they can in their current role and need to find their next challenge.  This dynamic group is now sitting on the other side of the desk in an interview.


There was plenty of discussion about the entire networking and interviewing process but the recurring theme was feedback, or rather the lack thereof.   They certainly see the value of feedback from a different perspective now.  They were surprised and frustrated by the sparse communication after an interview, even when they were well advanced in the process.  Whether an executive or mid-level candidate, this is frustrating and baffling for the candidate and one of a recruiter’s biggest challenges when all goes dark.  Timely feedback, whether positive, negative or only a “maybe”, sets the appropriate expectation with the candidate and the recruiter.  And, let’s face it, it’s just good manners. When this happens, it leaves me scratching my head.  If there was enough interest in the candidate to make time for an interview wouldn’t you think communicating the outcome or next steps would be a given?  Detailed feedback is a gem, but even a short email is better lets us know you’re still there.


From a candidate’s perspective, the lack of feedback tells them the employer is not interested.  Unfortunately, it also infers a lack of respect for the candidate and their time.  We’ve seen situations when after a long period of silence, the employer will finally express interest or extend an offer, but the candidate has become so irritated with the process they aren’t interested in moving forward. 


For the recruiter, silence from a client is wearisome. The majority of clients are responsive, but with the prevalence of VMS’s, getting feedback to the candidates can be even more challenging.   You’ve asked us to help you find a candidate, but help us help you.  If clients don’t move promptly through the interview process, a quality candidate is long gone and not easily replaced.  We understand there might be a stall in the process, but a simple “good, bad or I’m on the fence” provides a little something to pass along to the candidate. 


Below is a recent exchange between one of our recruiters and the candidate:


From: Quantix Recruiter
Sent: Thursday, May 05, 2016 9:48 AM
To: Candidate
Subject: FW: Manager of Technical Services at Company XYZ



I wanted to reach out and let you know we haven’t heard anything from Company XYZ regarding the Manager position.  Last we heard the hiring manager was reviewing resumes and nothing since.


If anything changes and we do hear something I will reach out and see if you are still interested.


Sent: Thursday, May 05, 2016 11:30 AM

To: Quantix Recruiter

Subject: RE: Manager of Technical Services at Company XYZ


Thanks, XXX. I appreciate the follow up. Most folks don’t bother—what a wonderful surprise. J


Hmmmm, very interesting the candidate found it a “wonderful surprise” to get any response at all, even when the response was to tell them there was no response.  Candidates, if you want a responsive recruiter, think Quantix.  We can’t always deliver an informed message, but we’re here.   Clients, we’re here to make the hiring process as efficient as possible, it’s a partnership and we’re here to help.

Hiring Under-Experienced Employees

By: Jill Reynolds, Quantix President and CEO

In a previous post, I addressed the topic of employers holding out for the perfect candidate and how unlikely it is they will find perfection. But what about hiring an underqualified candidate? Certainly there are pros and cons and it isn’t an option in every case but an underqualified candidate might be your preferred candidate. 

Have you ever tried to fill a position that “required” a specific skill set? If so, you probably interviewed candidates you really liked and would be a great cultural fit for your organization, but they just weren’t experienced enough. Did you know that only 11% of new employees fail due to lack of functional experience? Out of the remaining 89%, how can you identify an underqualified candidate that will succeed? Look for candidates who participate in ongoing education or learning opportunities, even if the education or training is non-work-related. It could also be a candidate who significantly changed their career path at some point and was successful in making the switch. These personality traits should transfer nicely in situations where “teachability” is key.

Image Credit: WMC

Image Credit: WMC

There are definite advantages to hiring underqualified candidates, but your organization should be committed to training and mentorship. Recent surveys indicate that nearly half of employers struggle to fill their positions with skilled employees. “More experience” is not always an asset since processes and technologies can change quickly. According to Dr. John Sullivan, “The dramatic pace of change rapidly renders experience, knowledge and answers obsolete and hiring managers should factor this in when weighing the relative value of each candidate’s background.” If you have solid training programs in place you have the opportunity to mold an under qualified candidate into an employee that meets your organization’s unique needs. An employee who is successful in learning and building new skills is also more likely to be adaptable to changing work environments and what work environment doesn’t experience change!

With job hopping as the norm in today’s workforce, especially in the IT sector, employers are constantly looking for ways to improve retention. Hiring and training a lesser experienced employee may build loyalty you might not find in hiring a more experienced candidate and may provide potential for a more long-term relationship. In addition, hiring an underqualified employee is certainly a greater investment in the short-term but with opportunity for a larger return in the long-term.

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.

Quantix RPO – Rethink Recruiting

By: John Hutchins, Quantix Vice President, Client Services

Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) is an option that has been widely used by Fortune 500 corporations for many years. In its simplest form, it entails hiring an outside company to handle candidate sourcing, interviewing and onboarding. Done right, it can dramatically increase hiring efficiencies and costs half as much as traditional contingency staffing services. Up until now, this option has only been available to large corporations hiring hundreds of new employees on a regular basis. Quantix RPO is now offering this same option to smaller- and medium-sized organizations.

Quantix_LOGO_Motivated ye

Are you hiring for at least three positions per month? Are you having difficulty finding quality talent? Do you lose good candidates because of inefficiencies in your internal processes? Is the contingency staffing model just too expensive?

If you answered yes to any of these four questions, then you should consider Quantix RPO. The benefits include:

  • Professional and experienced recruiters who are dedicated to your organization. They adopt, implement and facilitate your unique interviewing and onboarding process. In addition to sourcing and screening candidates, they champion the internal hiring process to ensure efficient interviewing while navigating internal obstacles and bottlenecks.
  • The flexibility to ramp up or ramp down quickly. Your hiring needs change throughout the year. You may need a dedicated recruiting resource some of the time, but not all of the time. With Quantix RPO, you’ll have the flexibility and control to increase or decrease the number of dedicated recruiters on short notice while maintaining the integrity of your process.
  • Experienced support and oversight by recruiting industry experts. Quantix management has more than 55 years combined recruiter training and management experience. We’ll provide the oversight and you’ll reap the benefits by hiring quality candidates efficiently.
  • Ownership of all candidates sourced and screened. Unlike the contingency staffing model, any candidates found by the recruiters assigned to your company are your candidates. This enables you to build a database of talent from which you can pull for years to come.
  • Up to a 50% savings over comparable recruiting models. Rather than pay large fees for each start, you pay a substantially lower monthly management fee that covers the cost of the entire program.

The RPO model has been successfully utilized by Fortune 500 corporations for many years. Now, through Quantix RPO, small- to medium-sized companies have the opportunity to experience the efficiencies and cost savings it provides while finding quality talent and successfully filling positions. For more information, call Quantix RPO at 720-493-8980.

Beware Of The Dreaded Staffing Agency

By: Elias Cobb, Quantix Recruiting Manager

I say that, tongue planted firmly in cheek, because I work for an agency, and have always worked for an agency throughout my entire recruiting career.

You (hiring manager OR candidate) may not believe me when I say that working with some select agencies is a good thing. Yes, I know. Of course I would say that. I want your business. But believe it or not, there are some actual recruiters out there who truly care about both their clients and their candidates. It’s not ALL about commission checks and fees.

First off, if you’re a hiring manager, why would you want to work with us? We cost you a large chunk of money, right off the top. Shouldn’t your corporate recruiters or HR people be able to find these candidates? Isn’t that what you’re paying them for? First, let’s immediately stop blaming HR. Their job isn’t all about recruiting. They have a thousand other things to do, and digging up a JavaScript developer with Angular.js skills isn’t going to leave them with much time to do anything else. And corporate recruiters? From having spoken with many corporate recruiters, my understanding is that they juggle 30-50 open jobs (or more) at any given time. I’ll tell you right now, in IT, it is 100% impossible to actively recruit on that many positions at the same time. And with the market as tight as it is, companies aren’t receiving the same quantity, and more importantly, quality of candidates applying to their jobs. IT folks simply don’t have to apply for jobs right now. Recruiters have to go out and find them. And if you’re giving your corporate recruiters that many positions, they don’t have the time to find those candidates. OK, you might say, I’ll hire more recruiters. Fine, but you’ll have to let them go when your hiring cycle winds down. Oh, and good luck finding top notch recruiters on the market right now as well – they’re in extremely high demand too.

And a good agency can actually save you money. Yes there’s a fee. But what are the indirect costs in lost productivity by that position staying open for 6 months? Or the lost productivity in time the manager spends reviewing hundreds of resumes, or interviewing unqualified candidates? A good agency can get you candidates quickly and allow you to make a hire in days or weeks rather than months.

Image Credit: Some Interesting Facts

Image Credit: Some Interesting Facts

There is a caveat here. Not all agencies are created equally. In fact, there are a lot of bad ones out there. I’ve heard, time and time again, from hiring managers that some of their vendors will submit candidates to them without ever speaking to the candidate. Why would you ever continue working with that agency? They don’t care at all about your time. You may review resumes and request interviews, and you don’t even know if the candidate is available or interested in your company! Fire that agency immediately! However, there are some of us who thoroughly interview candidates. I personally try and visit as many of our clients as I can to make sure we understand our client’s culture. This allows us to have a meaningful discussion with candidates about the client, and actually submit candidates who want to work there. We can also help educate our clients on the state of the market, salary ranges, candidate availability based on skills, and more. If you choose to partner wisely, an agency can be a wealth of information for you.

From a candidate perspective, it makes a lot of sense to work with an agency. Why wouldn’t you? It costs you nothing. You can gain access to companies you never would have found on your own. And they can help you with the interview process – not in giving out interview questions, but in at least preparing you for the people with whom you’ll meet, interview style, etc. Again, as above, you need to make sure you only work with reputable agencies. Don’t allow anyone to submit your resume without telling you who the client is, and the position for which you are being submitted. No reputable agency would withhold that information. And if you find a good recruiter, they can and will help you with your resume. For free! And they may be able to make introductions into companies you are targeting, even if they won’t make a fee on it. I know, it’s hard to believe, but there are a lot of recruiters out there who will help you without getting paid.

I read more and more these days about the state of recruiting, and how the human touch has gone out of hiring. I agree, it’s happening more and more. But by working with a couple of really good, reputable agencies, you can put the human element back into hiring.