Certifications in Hiring, Part 3: Hiring Tips

How can you use certifications in your hiring? In Part 1 and Part 2, I discussed the value of certifications and hiring traps. Let's see how to be positive about certifications and use them during the hiring process.

I've already said that a certification might be a sign of perseverance and interest in the field. I think of those as positive qualities for a candidate.

I've also said that certifications might be shorthand for what you want in a candidate. Let's consider what you want when you do a job analysis. (Download all the Templates from Hiring Geeks That Fit.)

Analyze the job

Consider your certification specification as a kind of job description (or management) debt. (Tip of the hat to Dave Gordon for suggesting that metaphor.) You have a certification defined, how can you refine that and manage the risks of too many resumes, not finding the right person, and the cost to hire?

Let's try an example. If you want a CSM (Certified Scrum Master), do you want someone who:

  • Can facilitate an agile team?
  • Can coach members of an agile team?
  • Can remove impediments for an agile team?
  • Looks for/helps define the goal of a sprint?
  • Has successful agile experience?
  • Can help a team retrospect and improve its process?
  • Has agile understanding, interest, and practice?

You might be looking for other qualities, preferences, or non-technical skills. You might have reasons for what you specify. Notice that when you start to specify these items, you can see there is a big difference between agile understanding, interest, and practice and the ability to facilitate or coach agile teams.

Let's take the difference between: facilitating an agile team and removing impediments for an agile team.

For facilitating an agile team, you want a candidate who is:

  • Able to help a project team see their reality.
  • Able to coach others.
  • Able to accept coaching from others.
  • Facilitate meetings to accomplish what they need to do. (This is a little vague, and might include standups, retros, planning and any other meetings.)

This candidate focuses at the team level.

For removing impediments for an agile team, you want a candidate who:

  • Can work via influence at the team level.
  • Can influence one level of management.
  • Can help people understand change and the effects on people and teams.
  • Maybe some of the other abilities as above.

This candidate might work at the team level, and also works with management and across the organization. A CSM does not confer capability as to whether a person can work across the organization.

Since I don't know your situation, I don't know what you want or need. You might need both in one person (for a small organization,) or you might only have money for one person, or you might be able to hire two people. What are your constraints?

When you approach analyzing a job like this, to discuss who the candidate will work with, and what your constraints are, you can decide: is a CSM sufficient, or even likely to help you find a person? What is essential for this person's success? What is desirable?

Using a certification will get you partial information. But it won't get you the essentials of what you need in a job description or a candidate.

Here are tips:

  1. Use the certification in your first draft job analysis as shorthand. Expect to iterate.
  2. Describe the activities and deliverables as part of the job analysis.
  3. As you analyze the job more, or once you move to a job description, tease apart the roles you want the certification to provide. Lead? Facilitate? Coach? Protect? Consider verbs so you understand what you need in a candidate..
  4. Ask yourself, what experience do I want to see on a resume that will help me learn if a candidate can do these things (all the verbs, activities, and deliverables you specified).

Start with a certification. And, don't stop there. Look deeper and see what you need to explore in a job analysis, so you find the candidates you need.

The series:


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