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What Hiring Managers Really Think about Certs

Every organization has different needs when it comes to hiring IT professionals. Those needs are dependent on factors such as company size and use of specific vendors. The rapid growth of the IT industry means more IT jobs are available than ever. With so many resumes coming across their desks, hiring managers have their work cut out for them.

It also means your resume needs to be able to stand out from the pack, which depending on the position, can number in the hundreds. We recently polled the CBT Nuggets community about what they really look for on resumes. Here’s what we found.

Skills vs Certs vs Experience

Question 1: What carries the most weight for you when evaluating an IT resume?

At the end of the day, employers want IT pros who know what they are doing, and they determine that with specific skills, years of experience, and certifications.

Experience (40%) is the clear winner here. No wonder nearly half of respondents said experience carries the most weight when they’re combing through IT resumes. There’s no substitute for tried and true IT experience. All the knowledge in the world doesn’t matter if you can’t apply it to real-world situations. Businesses need you to be able to solve their needs. If you’re new to IT, or don’t have much experience, find other ways to build your experience level and work history.

Specific skills (35%) is a close second. That makes sense. Let’s say a hiring manager is looking for someone to administer Windows Server 2016. A resume packed with experience, but not Windows technologies, won’t get much consideration. So, pay special attention to job postings and make sure you can validate the skills listed.

Degrees (4%) evidently don’t matter. One of the biggest (and longstanding) debates in IT is certifications versus degrees. Our poll definitely was lopsided in favor of certifications. Twenty-one percent of respondents said IT certification carries the most weight for them, while only four percent say degrees are the top factor.

That said, earning a college degree is never a bad idea. They are still required for many positions, IT-related or not. Earning a degree takes discipline and commitment, which you also need when pursuing certifications.

When putting together your resume, make sure your experience and skills stand out. You might even consider using a skills-based resume. That way hiring managers can easily identify if you have the skills they need.

The Ultimate Question about Resumes

Question 2: Do you prefer one-page resumes or multiple pages?

One-page resumes (47%) win the day. The runaway winner was one-page resumes — with 47% of respondents saying they prefer resumes be limited to a solo page. That’s not surprising, because what hiring managers want to dig through pages to find the info they need?

There’s room for more pages though. What interested us the most about this question was that 28% percent of respondents answered — “It depends”. That’s probably just bad poll question creation. Because those people are absolutely right.

What does resume length depend on? Experience for one. Employers probably don’t expect (nor would they appreciate) a 3-page resume for an entry-level networking technician position.

However, if they need an AWS cloud architect, a one-page resume might not fully represent a candidate’s experience. Managerial roles typically require multiple-page resumes. It would be awfully hard to fit decades of experience and skills into a single page. It’s possible, but if it doesn’t matter, then why even try?

While the debate between 1-page and multiple-page resumes rages on, there’s evidence that the 2-page resume is becoming more popular. According to one recent survey, recruiters are more than two times likely to prefer longer resumes. It’s a safe bet that hiring managers feel the same way.

We still recommend keeping your resume as concise as possible. If that means one page, so be it. Do what you can to make life easier for hiring managers. Remember, they may see hundreds of resumes for a single position. Make sure your resume is well-organized and to the point.

Cultural Fit is Hard to Judge

Question 3: Which do you find the hardest to gauge when interviewing candidates?

This question took a stab at all the intangibles in the interview process — namely the cultural pieces. You’re going to be spending 40-plus hours per week with this person. That’s nearly as much as time you see your family and friends. You don’t have to be friends, but you should be able to tolerate them. That’s a tough thing to judge.

People skills (43%) are tough to gauge. Of course, someone will be polite, friendly, and nice during their interview. If not, then that’s an easy enough decision. But, what about after they’re hired? Forty-three percent of respondents answered that people skills are the hardest to gauge, with cultural fit second at 30%.

Honestly, we weren’t surprised by those results. Unlike technical skills (27% percent), people skills and cultural fit aren’t easily conveyed through a resume or phone interview. It’s all about when they’re unleashed in your office. You’ll soon find out whether you made the right decision.

More organizations are using personality assessments such as the Myers-Briggs or StrengthsFinder to try to get a better sense of a candidate’s personality. In recent years, more than 60% of companies have used pre-employment tests to vet candidates.

However, there are downsides to relying too much on these assessments. For example, candidates have been known to “game” the assessments. And on the flip side, such tests can create a bias against candidates.

Some companies rely on multi-day interviews to ferret out cultural fit. But, those are the exception rather than the rule. Most interviews are still in the one- to two-hour range. That’s hardly enough time to get a handle on someone’s personality, much less determine how they fit culturally with your organization.

The Final Verdict

Hopefully, we’ve helped provide a better idea of what hiring managers are really looking for on resumes. Make sure you have the skills and experience and skills that they are asking for and play them up on your resume succinctly. If you aren’t quite there skill set-wise, get training.

As an IT pro, you need to be a lifelong learner — beyond just technologies and products. You also need to keep up on the hiring practices within the industry. Then it’s a matter of adjusting accordingly, whether it’s adding certifications or developing people skills. Good luck chasing your next IT career move.


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