September 16, 2014

Can Certification Get You a Linux Job?

iStock photo woman with a Hired signIT workers tend to pursue Linux certification because they’re aspiring to land that first job or to move into a better position.

While having that certification on your resume can give you a boost with a hiring manager, it’s not a magic bullet for landing your dream job, experts say.

With the tech job market so tight, companies can’t put too many limitations on the candidate pool, according to John Reed, senior executive director for staffing firm Robert Half Technology.

“A lot of things that might have been ‘must haves’ are becoming ‘nice to haves’ now,” he said.

That can include certification. Undoubtedly, experience trumps certification alone with tech employers, but many companies want both.

There’s a segment of employers who see no value at all in certification, while at the other end of the spectrum, companies such as consultancies and hosting companies often want all their IT pros certified. They see a strategic value in certification because they can charge more by touting that, according to Randy Russell, director of certification for Red Hat.

In the middle, companies differ in the value they place on certification. Doing some research with job ads can not only shed light on the Linux jobs in your area, but also the importance companies place on certification.

Certification is a requirement for a senior security engineer position for TD Ameritrade in Nebraska. Meanwhile, an ad for a senior systems administrator on the cloud and virtualization team at ProQuest in Michigan listed “bonus points” for certification. It was dubbed “a plus” for a Linux system administrator position for HP in California, “preferred” in a Linux systems administrator I job ad at JAB Broadband in Colorado and “strongly preferred” for a senior engineer-development ops opening for Design Strategy Corp. in New York.

Certification is a differentiator

Companies often look at certification in making hiring decisions, but it’s not the sole factor, Russell said.

“If I’m a hiring manager looking at my pile of resumes, I’m not going to be able to interview everybody. I may not even be able to do a phone screen with everybody. So I’ve got to sort that pile. Certification might be one of the things I use to sort that pile,” he said.

“The certification saves me the time and effort of doing a technical interview – if I believe in that certification,” he said.

The certification serves as validation from a third party that the candidate meets the baseline technical proficiency, he said, so they can concentrate on other things such as organizational fit, work ethic and attitude.

“Companies will sometimes use certification as a tie-breaker. If it comes down to a couple of really strong applicants … it’s a plus,” he said.

Those willing to spend the time and money required for certification illustrate to employers they have the initiative to invest in their careers to advance their knowledge. Pursing an advanced certification also can demonstrate the desire for a new challenge, especially if the work has become a bit old hat, so to speak.

In the end, though, “what an employer really values is someone who can simply get the job done,” said Jon Heise, senior technical recruiter at Instant Technology in Chicago.

Trevor Simm, president and founder of staffing firm OpalStaff in Millersville, MD, agrees.

“Certifications are a great addition to any portfolio, but the ability to truly perform the tasks at hand will be the deciding factor more times than not," he says.

“Linux certification may help open doors here and there - and sometimes are basic requirements to be considered for positions. But more often than not, I hear clients say that if [the candidate] can’t do the job, the cert is useless. So all certs should be backed up with the appropriate level of expertise.”

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