As IT takes over every part of our day to day life, the amount of roles available increase but so do the people training in it. With so many candidates which you are competing with, especially with the move towards remote working, opening up global working opportunities, it’s never been more important to make sure your CV stands out.
For employers, the decisions of hiring are getting more and more crucial with the ever-expanding workforce within the IT sector. It’s important to understand and contrast the benefits and drawbacks of both kinds of examples of experience.
The biggest debate in this area is between the importance between certifications and portfolio projects in landing your next role. This article will break down both of these options, explaining the pros and cons of each, and which situations more time investment should be spent.
For many years now certifications have been used by businesses and individuals to be able to train and hire to a baseline of understanding of certain topics, this can range from Cisco’s Networking exams all the way to the more modern, self-paced courses which offer less branded certifications in a variety of disciplines.
The benefit of having some certifications on your CV is that it demonstrates that you have been taught and tested on that specific topic, showing competency or experience within the field. This also has the benefit of demonstrating the individual’s ability to work well in a traditional method of training.
Another positive benefit of doing certifications is the ability to discover a new area of interest or gain a better understanding of the work required within that role that’s being applied for. This can allow developers to become multi-disciplined and train in multiple overlapping areas to be able to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the topics.
A drawback to pursuing these certifications is the cost barrier, with many of the larger recognised ones like Google, Cisco, or Microsoft sometimes costing up to multiple thousands of pounds. This means that these types of qualifications usually have to be funded by a user’s employer or subsidised at the very least. This can put self-taught or funded developers at a disadvantage with no clear route on which certifications they should go for.
Another issue with these certifications for some people is the sheer number of different ones available. Without the explicit guidance on the required ones needed from an employer or such, it can be hard to choose which one exactly to pay to do. This could lead to a lot of talented up-and-coming developers not having their skills recognised through certifications.
On the side of an employer, the benefit to hiring an employee based on the level of certification achieved is that it can allow you to compare and easily filter through a list of candidates if the role you are advertising has had a lot of applications. This could lead to the business missing out on candidates who lack the specific criteria you are looking for, which is why the requirement for these kinds of certifications should be used in specific scenarios where the knowledge gained through this hasn’t been demonstrated elsewhere from another candidate.
Secondly, if, as an employer, you intend to utilise training and certifications to progress your employees within the workforce, a candidate with prior experience in training for, and taking certifications can be of benefit for a company. This can lead to a possible preference for candidates who show even an entry-level certification for this reason. This has the benefit of allowing the possible career benefit from a more cost-effective certificate to increase.
Similarly, to candidates for IT positions, the cost of certifications should be an important factor to consider when hiring. With the growth of remote working, the diversity of situations of the candidates you hire needs to be taken into account. Moreover, the cost of a large majority of these certifications can be out of budget for a lot of entry-level candidates who don’t have the financial backing of a company to complete these certifications.
A lot of IT focused companies these days are focused on seeing if you can deliver real world results more than just any qualifications. This can lead to a strong and extensive portfolio of work being a key part of helping your CV stand out against the rest. The purpose of a portfolio for someone looking to get hired in this industry is to showcase previous projects and pieces of work which you have worked on. These can span a wide range of examples and can show competency in those areas as well as showcasing your ability to work on practical projects to reinforce knowledge showcased in the rest of the CV.
Many people new into this industry can feel unsure on what to include in a portfolio, or even where to start building one. It’s important to not be afraid to include incomplete or imperfect projects as there is still a benefit to including them, as it gives a fantastic discussion point to elaborate on the issues faced with the project and the lessons learnt going forward. These projects can include simple projects created when following online courses, or small applications or utilities you have made for your own benefit.
Through the development of the projects themselves, or in the delivery of the portfolio itself, it can be a very good creative outlet. The inclusion of smaller passion projects is a good way to express the other side of yourself. This can be an opportunity to show off your passions and interests through the projects you have been working on.
Uniqueness is one of the key benefits to looking at a Portfolio when hiring in IT. This is because whilst the pure skills demonstrated within the project may be similar, the implementations will be unique to each applicant. This gives the employer the ability to understand the job candidates better, to best find someone who fits the role perfectly.
For an employer, portfolios can also have their drawbacks. With a variety of projects being submitted it can take up a lot of time and resources to look through every candidate’s portfolio and verify the information which they have included. This requires a general understanding of different sectors within IT and a competency on the language used to discuss it. This drawback, however, could be turned into an opportunity to ask questions during an interview about the candidates. By getting the potential candidate to explain their own projects, you can get a better understanding of the person and their approach to work.
What situations would benefit from either
Due to the number of different jobs which exist within the IT space, the individual benefit to either having certifications or portfolios as a central point in employment can vary.
For design-based roles, like graphic artists or animators, the availability of certifications that can demonstrate those abilities are limited. Because of this, having a strong portfolio of work is massively beneficial when hiring for those roles. These portfolios will be able to give the employer a clear look at the style of designs the candidate is comfortable and talented with. However, it’s important to not discount any certifications which might be held by someone applying for a design role as even though they are not as common, they can show a self-motivated attitude and could have a multitude of the benefits mentioned earlier in the article.
For more developer-focused roles, certifications can be an excellent way of demonstrating competency with a selection of technologies, languages and architectures. This base understanding of the certifications’ concepts can be beneficial by having the candidate be able to integrate and start work within the company a bit quicker, being already familiarised with those concepts. Portfolios should also play an important part when hiring for these more developer-focused roles with implementations of the desired skills and knowledge being an easier way of demonstrating those skills in certain situations.
Despite the varied applications in which building a portfolio or entering for certifications will have its benefits, the consistent point is how they can complement each other. For people with the means to go for certifications, building up a portfolio showcasing the skills you have learnt whilst achieving the certification would be beneficial. As most things, balance is key and it’s important to tailor your CV to the specific roles you are applying for. Similarly for employers, both ways showcase the candidate’s ability to thrive within a new role, and an understanding of the benefits of both can go a long way in hiring the perfect candidate for the role.
Nathaniel is a Web Design Executive who also writes content on technology and loves spending his days researching and building new projects, and generally complaining about new trends.