How do you combat work experience vs. certifications when clients are needing the most up to date skills?

Friday, August 8th, 2008 - CV Writing

Thomas asks: How do you combat work experience vs. certifications when clients are needing the most up to date skills? As a consultant, training and certifications are not something that is offered, vs a full time employee who is permitted training on “the company dollar”. How would you combat less experienced professionals with up to date certifications against your own work experience, when new employment opportunities arise?

In answer:
For an operational manager, then experience counts more than certificates. For an HR manager, often experience needs to be balanced with adequate proven certification – they like to see ownership of personal development, through both career path as well as education. It is the HR manager who signs off the final job description, as they are legally responsible for employing suitably qualified employees – and its that later agenda item which plays to the risk/safety manager or finance director who is in charge of procuring and sourcing the companies insurance.

For the contractor, its is most often true that they have more experience than certificates – its a common problem. However, in the modern era, particularly as formalised training is a good way for the HR department of getting the best and weeding out the worst, the traditional contractor career needs to be balanced with adequate certified verification of gained experience. There is also the issue of bleeding edge technology – if you have been involved in such leading edge projects, then often the companies will certify via a letter over formal qualification.

I would suggest that your first action Thomas is to note down your work and project experiences, in some form of a work diary or portfolio – what the project brief was, how long it took, skills you deployed, team in which you worked, and the outcome from both a delivery and times scale/financial view point. You may find from that that if you have worked with certified workers of a particular technology, that if they or the person you worked for verify your work experience, the technology company will issue you with a certificate of qualification or experience.

Secondly, when compiling your CV/Resume, focus on delivered projects briefs for named companies and associated systems integration, over the formalised skills required. Focus on delivery and the skills you were required in the successful completion – that way, you have both the skills implied and shown in delivery, as well as the program management skills of career development.

Thirdly, when you apply for jobs and are refused, then ask for feedback and react in your CV/Resume to it. A rejection is a “not now” learning experience, not a total rejection – recruiters and HR managers will react to engaging candidates, and if you are not right for one job you will be in their mind for another soon.

Finally, when you do get an interview, take along your portfolio – “OK, I haven’t got XYZ qualification, but I have a got a letter of recommendation from XYZ company where I deployed that technology into their system!” This will stop the HR managers mind of erring towards caution or the need to undertake lots of work verifying your skills, and means you are more likely to get the job.

Skills are what count commercially, particularly when you can show Thomas successful commercial delivery. In the long term, look to formalise your experience in the form of certificates and formalisation, but if you can get independent verification then there should not be any problems in successfully gaining employment. If you have the bona-fide experience and aren’t getting the interviews or offers, then have someone review your CV/Resume to see if you are getting the right information across. Do a “role play” interview with someone else to see if you need to fine tune your presentation.

Good Luck, and if I can help further, please – just ask!

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