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.

Building Strong Relationships

By: John Hutchins, VP of Client Services

When training new sales people or recruiters, I often harp on the importance of building relationships with both client managers and candidates.  It recently occurred to me that “building relationships” may not mean the same thing to everyone.  Some people don’t actually build what I would consider to be a relationship.  They end up building something less than that – something more like a “solid acquaintance.”  Three main elements to relationship building include: (1) direct contact; (2) altruism; and (3) time.


  • I don’t believe you can develop a true relationship with someone unless you have direct contact with them on a regular basis. In-person contact is the best and quickest way to begin developing a relationship, but in today’s email /social media / text driven world, I’m willing to acquiesce that in-person contact is not the only means to developing a relationship.  I do think in-person contact helps build that sense of trust that is critical to any relationship.  There is something about meeting someone in-person, eyeball to eyeball, that helps initiate and solidify the relationship.


  • Altruism is the second element to building relationships. This is really the difference between building a true relationship with someone or, as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, building a solid acquaintance.  Building a true relationship means approaching the other person with a sense of selflessness.  This means being truly interested in them and what is going on in their life.  It also means helping them when there won’t be anything in it for you.  Believe it or not, the best sales people have altruistic relationships with their best clients.  If it is truly a solid relationship, each person is approaching the other person in an altruistic way.  The sales person is feeling that they really want to do what is best for the client manager.  The client manager is feeling that they really want the sales person to succeed and prosper.  Sales shouldn’t be an adversarial relationship like it so often becomes, where each person is trying to get the most out of the other person, while providing the least.  In the best business relationships, each party is honestly looking out for the best interests of the other party.  Rare – yes, impossible to achieve – no.


  • Finally, as I’ve learned firsthand over many years, time is an essential element to many things in life, including relationship building. Time is necessary for building trust and a major aspect of trust is stability.  You can’t have a solid relationship with someone who isn’t willing to have direct contact with you on a regular basis or who is altruistic one moment and selfish the next.  Stability over time builds trust and trust is one key to building solid relationships.


I would love to provide short cuts and silver bullets to my new sales people and recruiters when it comes to relationship building, but unfortunately short cuts and silver bullets are in the same category as unicorns and dragons, they don’t exist.  Success requires purposeful and consistent hard work.  With regard to relationship building, that means direct contact, altruism and time.

Hiring Managers: LinkedIn Profiles are Not Resumes!

By: Elias Cobb, National Recruiting Manager

I want to briefly address an issue I have seen from a variety of companies; this comes from direct observation and from feedback from candidates.

Here’s the issue: A candidate submits a resume to an employer.  Employer sees resumes, looks at the candidate’s LinkedIn profile, and for some reason decides the information on LinkedIn is more accurate or relevant than the information on the resume.  Employer rejects candidate based on assumptions gleaned from LinkedIn profile (not enough experience in X, etc), or because the LinkedIn profile doesn’t match the resume.

So, to any hiring manager who might do this, please keep in mind:  LinkedIn profiles are not resumes!!  People cannot put EVERYTHING they have ever done on their profile.  What people do is put out a general idea of what they have done, and the projects they have covered.  Many people do a terrible job of updating their profile when they switch jobs.  They might not have end dates.  They might not have their most recent title change.  But that doesn’t mean they’re being dishonest.  They put their most recent info in their resume, where it belongs.  They probably tailored the resume to fit the job for which they were applying, which might not be exactly the same as LinkedIn.  That doesn’t mean they’re lying; it actually shows more attention to detail and interest in your job and company!  They took the time to highlight specific skills and duties in the resume they sent to you!  Wouldn’t you think that’s a good thing, instead of something to punish?

In fact, even if there are employers missing on LinkedIn that are present on the resume, or the dates don’t match, I wouldn’t use that to reject the candidate.  Why not bring it up in the interview?  See what the candidate says, and then determine how you feel.  Again, a resume is designed to tell you about the candidate and their skills, and LinkedIn is for networking.

Consultant Checklist – Holding Recruiters to a Higher Standard

By: John Hutchins, VP of Client Relations 

Does this sound familiar?  You’re driving your kids somewhere and get an unexpected call from a recruiter:


Recruiter: “Hi, this is Beth from XYZ Consulting Group.  I found your resume on Dice and thought you might be interested in a software development opportunity that just opened up.”

“Sure, tell me about it.”

Recruiter: “Well, I don’t have much detail.  It’s with a company in Denver and they need someone with three skills – Java, J2EE and Agile.  Does that fit your skill set?”

“Yes, it does.”

Recruiter: “Great!  I’ll submit you immediately. Does $75 per hour sound fair?”

“Yeah, that works.”

Recruiter: “Great! Talk to you later. Bye.”

You’re busy, you possess a skill set that is in high demand and recruiters are calling you all of the time with opportunities that rarely come to fruition.  I get it that many recruiters don’t do a good job and, as a result, you don’t want to spend much time talking with them, but a lack of curiosity on the part of consultants only contributes to the problem and may very well come back to bite you!  Here’s a checklist of the minimum information you should require of a recruiter before giving them permission to represent you:

  • Client Name: It is amazing to me how many consultants give permission to be represented by a recruiter without knowing the name of the end client.  If you don’t know the name of the client, how do you keep track of where you’re being submitted?  Many clients are unwilling to consider you if they receive your resume from multiple recruiters.  If a recruiter is unwilling to divulge the name of the client, something is wrong.  Maybe the recruiter doesn’t have permission to recruit for that client.  Plain and simple – don’t give permission to be submitted without knowing where you’re being submitted.
  • Project Details: The recruiter may not be able to answer all of your questions or know intimate details, but they should be able to provide the basics regarding the opportunity.  What does the client do?  What will I be working on?  How big is the team?  Why are they filling this position?  These are basic questions the recruiter should be able to answer.  If they can’t answer these questions or are unable / unwilling to get the answers, I recommend thinking twice before letting them represent you.  They obviously either don’t have a good relationship with the client or don’t know what they’re doing.
  • You would think this is so basic that it goes without mentioning, but there are candidates out there who agree to be submitted to a client without fully understanding where they will be working or whether they’ll be reimbursed for relocation and travel expenses.  It’s a waste of time for everyone if you go through the process and get an offer, only to find out that the lodging expense is far higher than you imagined.  Be sure to work out the location details in advance and do your homework so that you know what you’re getting yourself into.
  • Employment Status: Recruiters are sometimes able to work with you in a variety of ways, such as a W2 employee or 1099 subcontractor or 1099 corp to corp.  If you’re planning to be their employee, they may have options with regard to the benefits they offer.  Before letting a recruiter submit you to a client, be sure to understand what your employment status will be and the benefits or perks to which you’ll be entitled.  It’s better to nail this down up front when you have some negotiating power, rather than waiting until after you’ve gone through the interview process and the offer is on the table.
  • I’ve never actually run across a consultant who has agreed to be submitted without discussing rate in some fashion.  I, however, have talked with consultants who weren’t provided a specific rate, but a rate range.  Don’t settle for a “rate range.”  The recruiter will likely be thinking the low end of the range and you’ll likely be thinking the top end of the range.  Allowing the recruiter to submit you to their client based on a rate range will only create the potential for chaos at the end of the process.  Agreeing to a specific rate up front will make the offer and acceptance stage more enjoyable and less stressful.

The moral to this story is to take responsibility for yourself, demand quality information from the recruiters with whom you work and be organized in your approach to consulting.  Once you start requiring recruiters to act like the professionals they claim to be, the good recruiters will rise to the challenge and you’ll find they can add value by helping you find quality consulting gigs.

So many staffing companies, so many cold calls.

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

Recently, I met with a long time client.  In the 1 hour span of our meeting, his Caller ID displayed the numbers of 3 different staffing companies.  Recruiting agencies provide a valuable service, but are all agencies valuable?  In theory, all agencies provide the same basic recruiting service: find candidates to fill the client’s open jobs.  Sounds simple, right?   Unfortunately it is not simple, if it were, there would be no need for agencies at all. 

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity for a number of strategy sessions at the executive and C-level with prospective clients regarding hiring and staffing needs.  Almost always, I’m asked “what makes Quantix different from other recruiting firms?”.  That’s not an easy questions to answer but below are a few key points; these points have been the result of feedback by our clients over the years.

Relationship:  Recruiting is a “relationship business”, both on the candidate and client side.  On the candidate side, you need to understand the personal criteria of the candidate to be sure the role you are recruiting for truly meets their criteria.  That information is not something you find in a resume or in a key word search.  On the client’s side the same is true, but with the number of VMS’s in place, understanding the wishlist of an individual hiring manager can be a challenge.  In addition to the technical skills, what about team culture and dynamics?  Is this a head’s down role or one that requires interaction with coworkers and internal or external customers. If this is a backfill, why didn’t the previous employee or contractor succeed?

Efficiency:  As recruiters, our primary role is to solve a problem for our clients: finding the right candidate.  We aren’t there just to recruit, but to provide a solution and efficiencies around their recruiting needs.  Often, in recruiting there is too much value placed on quick turn around and resume submittals and not enough emphasis on the end game, which is a successful hire for the client.  Sourcing and submitting resumes is only part of the process.  With a solution’s based approach, the focus stays on the end result, which is a hire, rather than the process. 

Candidate management: How many times have you had to deliver unexpected bad news to the hiring manager about a candidate?  The candidate went dark and you can’t get them to respond, they took another offer, their salary expectation just went off the charts, the commute is too far so they changed their minds.  Many of these things can be managed through the relational aspects mentioned previously, but not always.  Rapport building and regular communication with the candidate are a good hedge against these surprises.

Client expectations: We can’t fill every position and frank discussion about what can reasonably be delivered is so important.  This includes discussion about realistic salaries, market competition, candidate pool, etc.  And here comes the hard part, discussion about candidate feedback.  Without a commitment from the client to review and respond to the candidate submittals in a timely manner, a lot of the work we’ve put into recruiting is at risk.  While we are there to work for our clients, their participation in the process directly impacts productivity.

These are some of the key factors that I feel distinguish one staffing company from another and build real value in the service we provide to our candidates and clients.  These are the company traits at Quantix that we strive to build and maintain. As a hiring manager, the next time you get a call from a recruiter, wouldn’t it peak your interest to hear more about helping you solve your hiring problems instead of the usual line: “do you have any open jobs I can work on?”   Hopefully, when you see “Quantix ” on your caller ID, you’ll take the call.

Recruiting, let’s get back to basics.

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

More and more, we live in a world of instantaneous results and most of what you need is just a click away.  Amazon can deliver nearly anything right to your doorstep.  Financial transactions seldom require a physical trip to the bank but handled on your mobile device.  Most any service can be purchased or scheduled on line, you don’t even need to pick up the phone.  But what about recruiting?  Can real recruiting be done by key word searches and email communication?  Only if you view the candidate as a commodity and not a person.

Let’s get back to the basics of recruiting.  Below are the key points to cover with a candidate, some points are straight forward with clear cut answers, others, like cultural fit, can be more ambiguous.

  1. Compensation: Learning about past compensation and benefits helps to lay the proper foundation for what the candidate is looking for in their next position.  While money isn’t everything, it is a driving factor and often a deal breaker.

  2. Personal criteria:  I refer to this as the candidate’s “wish-list” for a new position.  Some candidates can be very specific about their requirements for a new role, others find it easier to tell you what they don’t want or what was lacking with a previous employer or position.  Either way, this is a key component for the proper job match.

  3. Geography:  For the majority of candidates, location is important.  Unless the position is truly their dream job, candidates usually want a similar or easier commute than they currently have.  Be cautious and have in depth conversation if the candidate will be taking on an arduous commute with their new job.  This can also be a red flag for the potential employer.

  4. Management Style: Try to learn as much as you can about the management style the candidate feels they need or want.  Ask them about previous roles that they were most and least productive in and ask them describe the corresponding management style in each of the scenarios.  This will help you learn about the optimal management environment.  This conversation can also help you learn about their strengths and weaknesses.

  5. Work-Life Balance:  This one is tricky since this means something different to each candidate and employer.  The more information you can collect about your candidate the better chance you have to match the candidate with the right manager and company.

  6. Past and Future Performance:  If this is the right candidate for the job, as a recruiter, you should be able to confidently endorse the candidate and support your endorsement based on past job performance, relevant experience and aptitude.  Of course, past performance is not a guarantee of future performance and success.

  7. Competing Interviews:  Being informed about the candidates parallel interviews and potential offers is critical.  This is not to try to coerce the candidate to cease other interview activity but to help you and the client keep the right pace with the interview process and offer stage.  One of the biggest disappointments in recruiting is to lose a candidate to another offer you knew nothing about.

  8. Confirming the Compensation:  Hand in hand with understanding the interview competition is regular confirmation regarding the candidate’s salary expectations.  Even if there was a comprehensive discussion early on about compensation, that figure can change based on what the candidate is hearing in other interviews.

  9. Culture Fit:  This is important but often hard to identify.  This requires not only an understanding of your candidate, but also your client.  Discussions with the candidate about other topics such as work-life balance, the candidate’s career wish-list and management style can be insightful about culture fit.  Often though, it is the client who is the decision maker regarding culture fit.

To truly know your candidate and cover the “basics”, there is no substitute for a quality conversation.  The right candidate won’t be “just a click away”, but a conversation away.