This is a collection of thoughts and statements about things that annoy me. I am a big, angry man. Hear me roar, or piss off and give me peace.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


What is it with recruitment agencies and their love of certifications?

I am keeping an eye on the job market, and keep on seeing positions advertised for random places with a job spec that takes the piss. Not only do they want someone who is skilled in everything, but they're only willing to pay a salary of £20,000 or so for it. Do they really think they'll get decent folk for that for a highly technical job and keep them?

Recently I enquired regarding a simple IT manglement job - apparently it required ITIL and Prince2 certifications... What did people do before certifications? Oh, perhaps read CVs, see what actual real world experience they have, and make a judgement based on that to see if it's worth dragging them in for an interview. These days, it's keyword matching on a CV, and are you certified for... A poor excuse for recruitment.

Do certifications actually prove you're capable of doing the job, let alone a good job?

In my experience, no. (And from a hell of a lot of colleagues and friends on both sides of the Atlantic...)

The last time I interviewed anyone for a job was several years ago - dotcom times. We needed another one or two Unix systems administrators. A whole bunch of folks would be certified out the wazoo (technical certifications), and utterly incompetent at actually administering systems, and probably be a cunt to boot. But we persevered, and got a good guy who stayed with the company until more Venture Capitalist madness ensued, and he was "downsized".

It's worth noting that ITIL was developed by the UK government... Let's just remind ourselves of how many Government IT projects are on time, on budget, and work... (I know that's just asking for some smartarse to post comments about a project for buying toner or some shit like that).

I had the unfortunate luck to do a peasant level Six Sigma course recently (just the white belt). It seemed to embody everything I hate about certifications - it's stuff I did in a first year university half course on management. It's not difficult - and in fact it's mostly common sense. But then we're rather short on common sense these days, aren't we?

The only benefit of (some of) these certifications is that they nail down a common language to describe things. Having said that, it does mean that this common language is really a form of jargon, and pretty much renders the benefit null and void!

What scares me the most is that for a couple of days of course, you'll pay £1000 or more, and it's no guarantee you can do the job - just that you've remembered some answers long enough to pass a test, and maybe got a natty binder and mug for your trouble.

Anyway, back to recruiters being useless... I think the problem is recruiters are recruiters - they don't have a technical background, and as such cannot read a technical CV, see that the person is capable of actual work, since all they are doing is pattern matching... The answer to this problem is take recruiters out, shoot them, and go back to the company hiring their staff yourselves.

And in other news, gissa job... I can do that... Go on, gissa job!


Mike Smith said...

Very true, Steve. I work in HR and our policies state we need to see original certificates. It doesn't mean you can do the job any better but it does save the skin of the recruiters should things go Pete Tong. And bodies such as the Care Commission insist on us doing so (so they can justify their existence)

Anonymous said...

Credentialism is a curse of the modern age.

I think you might find two things lurking at the bottom of this particular problem:

1. Insurance companies. If something goes wrong and the client says "was this person qualified to do this job", you can bet your life that experience and the recruiting manager's gut feel won't get you off the hook; no certs means No, they weren't qualified, and you're paying for whatever went tits-up.

2. Discrimination law. Can you PROVE that this person was the best-qualified for the job and that therefore you were justified in rejecting the chippy minority-entitled person who is now suing you? Why yes, if you have the pieces of paper, you can prove it. Whether they can actually do the job or not doesn't come into you: your ass is covered and that's all that matters.

Anonymous said...

Uh, into IT, not into YOU.

What's this preview thing for, anyway?

Anon MCSE.

Angry Steve said...


How did we ever function before certifications were invented?

I definitely take your point about ass coverage. Again, a curse of the modern age. But then, as a contractor, my own company has insurances for this sort of thing, should they ever arise, it's just prudent management.

Shame about your MCSE.
I'm a Unix guy, as you probably know.

James Higham said...

Not only do they want someone who is skilled in everything, but they're only willing to pay a salary of £20,000 or so for it.

Ain't it true. I'm right in that at the moment and the tick boxes are getting to ridiculous proportions.