No Image Available


Read more from TrainingZone

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Does certification guarantee performance competency?


As part of our feature on IT training, Susan Schwartz, principal consultant of The River Birch Group asks how important certification really is for technical staff.

Today’s tight job market demands highly skilled applicants for most technical positions. There is little room for eager, “willing to learn” entry-level staff. New hires must be ready to “hit the ground running.” But how can managers – who needn’t be as technically knowledgeable as their staff members – determine whether candidates possess the necessary skills?

Over the years, many software, hardware, and networking vendors developed certification testing and credential programs to address this very challenge. Initially, these third-party assessments seemed like the perfect solution. However, after nearly twenty years of experience with them, many managers find themselves wondering, “Does certification testing guarantee a competent workforce?”

In order to answer this question, we need to reflect on the original purpose of certification credentials. Novell, one of the certification pioneers, developed and managed the Certified Novell Engineer (CNE) through its marketing department. Microsoft, Cisco, and other computer/network-related organizations follow similar product strategies. What are the implications of such a business model? Essentially, the promise of a “knowledgeable workforce” to handle product maintenance and repair is, first and foremost, a sales strategy and not an operations support function.

It is also important to understand that certification is an accreditation bestowed on a candidate who has successfully passed a test or series of tests, independent of any training curriculum. Although organizations are beginning to add workplace scenario and hands-on components to the testing mechanism, many of these certification exams consist primarily of multiple-choice questions. Therefore, “good test takers” without field experience may become certified, while those with demonstrated troubleshooting skills may fail because they are intimidated by the test environment.

Which candidate would you rather have working on your computer network? Hiring managers must consider a candidate’s entire profile when evaluating his or her qualifications for a position. Filtering against a single credential – a common tendency for “certifiable” job functions – may not bring the best employees into your organization. Today’s complex work environment, after all, requires a multi-faceted set of competencies.
The table below identifies qualities associated with successful technical employees. Notice that “hard” skills are only part of the picture!

Workplace Competency Skills for Computing/Network Technical Staff

  • Interpersonal communication skills
  • Basic understanding of business goals
  • Flexibility to adapt to new situations
  • Broad foundation knowledge of the designated computing environment
  • Self-driven learning style
  • Expertise within the designated area
  • Bottom line: While certification has its place in candidate assessment, managers must be mindful of its weaknesses and limitations. A multi-dimensional screening process that also explores non-technical (“soft”) skills is vital to building a strong and effective technical team.


    Get the latest from TrainingZone.

    Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


    Thank you!