Study cautions employers to check claims of IT certifications

Call it certification inflation—the degree to which an organization places value on technical certifications in workers and job candidates beyond its capacity to verify those certifications.

That is the term given to it by TEKsystems, in its newly released study on the validity, perceived value and compensation impact of technology certifications. Many of those certifications fall in the big data and data management realm, and are indeed an important factor in hiring and advancing workers with those skills.

But many—in fact, nearly half (49 percent)—of IT leaders confirm that they never or rarely verify the validity of certifications claimed by workers or job candidates. Another 25 percent say they do it sometimes, and only 26 percent claim verifications are often or always done.

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By contrast, only half (52 percent) of IT workers or job candidates accurately reflect certifications earned on their resumes. Another 41 percent sometimes do, and 7 percent rarely or never do.


“Together, these findings point to a staggeringly high percentage of organizations potentially exposed to ‘certification inflation’ during the vetting process,” notes the report.

“Additionally, feedback indicates that IT professionals may embellish, or ‘inflate’ their certifications in order to sidestep the automated electronic resume filtering process,” the report noted. “This may include omitting certification expiration or ‘self-certifying’ their capabilities based upon work experience, believing their technical proficiency will be adequate for the position.”

So what harm is really done here?

“IT leaders who don’t verify a new hire’s certifications expose their organizations to unnecessary risk and inefficiency,” warns the report. “With the average time to fill a requirement currently greater than 50 days, hiring an individual who cannot perform as advertised forces organizations to rededicate time and resources towards finding a solution to a preventable problem.”

The value of certifications also depends on the technical area in which they fall. For example, both IT managers and IT professionals clearly see the value of security certifications—45 percent and 43 percent, respectively. After that, the top five areas are programming/development (22 percent and 21 percent, respectively); project management (21 percent and 22 percent, respectively); software engineering (10 percent and 14 percent, respectively); data analytics (7 percent and 12 percent, respectively); and cloud computing (7 percent and 10 percent, respectively).

The other area on which IT managers and IT professionals mostly agree is on the value of technical certifications, each agreeing that employers should compensate workers for having them (cited by 65 percent of IT managers and 74 percent of IT workers).

But the value of a specific certification drops in value for existing employees. For example, taken as a whole, employers say certifications are very important when hiring a new employee (cited by 62 percent); just slightly less important when developing an employee (cited by 59 percent); and significantly less important when promoting an employee (cited by 48 percent).

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