In Part 1, I discussed the issue of certification vs. experience. One of the problems in using certifications to discriminate for or against people is that some people might have the experience you want, and might not have the certification paper that represents that experience to you.
Here’s an example. I coached a project manager as she was looking for a job several years ago. She had used timeboxes, asked her project teams to develop with small features, and insisted on continuous integration. That allowed the project to show progress every one to three weeks. (She didn’t use timeboxes in the sense that many agile teams do. She helped the teams timebox their daily work, so they could integrate at least every day, not once every two weeks. She had figured out kanban by using stickies for “this week’s work,” and rolling wave deliverable-based planning.) She had discovered a reasonable successful way to shepherd projects to completion. She did not use retrospectives or demos, but she and her teams were close to agile.
She loved her job. The project teams appeared to love her. When we met, she had received 17 or 18 recommendations on LinkedIn. The recommendations actually said words such as, “servant leadership,” “facilitation,” and “coaching.” She was an agile project manager, or if you will, a Scrum Master. Not in the classic sense, but once she read the Scrum Guide, she realized what she was.
Her company merged with another, and she was laid off.
She was having a terrible time getting a job. She did not have a CSM. Her previous job title was “Project Manager.” She was drawn to agile approaches, but she could not prove she was agile. She finally decided to get a CSM, even though she regretted spending the money on the class. (She was unemployed and wanted to keep her money.)
She did learn some things, especially the language. She found that useful. But the hiring managers or HR people who insisted on the agile certification? They were not agile. She said to me, “They wouldn’t know agile if it bit them in the face.”
We developed her questions to ask of the hiring manager. She also developed her target list of companies, so she could find work not based on certification. She started asking some questions during the phone screen.
She found a job and now has the “real” agile experience in addition to her previous “non-agile” experience, which seems pretty agile to me.
The traps hiring managers fell into:
- Believing that a certification is the same as experience.
- Believing a certification provides you sufficient knowledge to do the job.
- Believing you can use a certification to differentiate among candidates.
By now, you can tell I’m not a fan of certifications when used to discriminate against people in hiring. One of the comments on Part 1 said that the hiring manager looked for training—not just the certification—from the same trainers. That’s not useful.
In Part 3, I’ll talk about tips for certification, how you can use the fact that a candidate has a certificate.