Why IT certifications matter in the hiring process

September 10, 2014

It's a debate that's nearly as old as the IT field itself: are certifications more important than work experience when it comes to hiring new employees? Some experienced IT professionals who have forgone certifications point to their own success as an indicator that certifications aren't necessary to get a good job in IT. But while many people have built an impressive career on nothing but a foundation of relevant work experience, hiring managers today tend to see certifications as a key differentiator between candidates when filling a job vacancy. 

Certifications and Commitment
Mark Aiello, a commentator at InformationWeek, says that the main reason why certifications make a candidate more attractive is that it shows commitment to the field. A hiring manager looking through resumes has no way to measure a candidate's dedication – unless they see some certifications that prove it. Hiring managers look for certifications "to see which applicants are committed enough that they're willing to spend free time studying and doing homework, often paying for the privilege out of their own pockets," Aiello says. 

Obtaining a certification is also a way for a candidate to show their discipline and work ethic. Many certificates can only be obtained after an arduous, difficult load of coursework. A candidate who has shown the fortitude and diligence to be certified will stand out to an employer. The rigors of the certification process and the workplace are similar and those intangibles can set a candidate apart from his or her competition. In fact, some resume "spiders" or "crawlers" – programs that search a document for specific keywords or phrases – used by hiring managers search for those certification letters and give an advantage to a resume that can boast those qualifications.

Individual Certifications are a Company Asset
Many companies lack the technical staff to implement powerful IT solutions, so they turn to an IT consulting firm. This is a hugely important decision for them, as it involves trusting an outside agency with their most sensitive information. 

Individual certifications become a huge asset to the company as a whole when a salesperson can point to the fact that the consultants in their firm have obtained the latest certifications. A consulting firm must be able to constantly sell its services to potential clients, and their offering is much more appealing to a prospective client when there is an officially recognized form of competence in a certain area. Just as certifications can make an individual stand out to a company, having a team of certified IT consultants can make a firm stand out to their potential clients.