Iris Classon
Iris Classon - In Love with Code

Stupid Question 58: Will Microsoft Certifications increase my chances of getting a job?

[To celebrate my first year of programming I will ask a ‘stupid’ questions daily on my blog for a year, to make sure I learn at least 365 new things during my second year as a developer]

Will Microsoft Certifications increase my chances of getting a job?

A some of you might have noticed I do have a few of these very much debated certifications, and on a few occasions I have joined in on some rather heated discussions on FB and Twitter (and in person) if these certifications add any value in regards to getting a job. On average, I get 2-3 emails a day asking about the certifications, so a public question and response seems appropriate.

Here is my answer – and please note that this is my opinion and I am more than happy to hear yours, so please share your thoughts on the subject =)

For me, studying for the certifications, NEXT to school, real projects and user groups/seminars, conferences, StackOverflow etc. has been a way (out of several ways) to learn more about a subject but within a limited scope. I’m very aware of the limited scope, and the quite obvious tendency to market .Net solutions only, after all it is a Microsoft product. When I say study for an exam, it means I’ll code a lot, and ask around a lot- not sit and read and memorize. I mainly use the requirements as a set of suggestions of things to try out. Some of them I might never ever use in real life, but you don’t know yet what will be useful and what wont. Ask ten people and you’ll get ten answers. I try to cover as much ground as possible, always thinking code first. So, using the materials to learn more about Microsoft products and those only, I think it is a good enough idea, but make sure you code a lot, and that you seek out other points of views. As for getting a job, nope.

But will the certifications increase your odds of getting a job?

In Sweden, yes – not by much, but yes. BUT, it might not necessarily be the job you are looking for. Some companies are gold partners and are required to keep a certain level of certifications, so they will push for certifications. In this process I can imagine creative developers that have chosen not to take certifications for various reasons will not get the job- and the job environment is bound to suffer as diversity is very important. At the same time, some companies, in particular smaller ones with a broader aim than just .Net products will be skeptical to developers with certifications. So you might win some, but lose some. And no matter the amount of certifications or education you have, you will have to prove your knowledge once you start working, and there is no certification for drive or passion- two things great employers look for in a developer.

So, if your aim is to increase the odds of landing a job, then I would NOT advise you to focus on certifications.

Do this instead:

  • Find a mentor or several – connect with them on regular basis, create a plan together

  • ASK a lot all the time, keep a notebook and scribble down your questions

  • Ask for feedback on your code – even if it hurts sometimes

  • Make a list (maybe with help from your mentors) over things you should learn, and work through the list- create a plan on how succeed

  • Engage in the community – attend User Groups, join conversations on Twitter, SO etc. Be friendly, respectful and show an open and honest interest in other developers and their achievements

  • Work on you portfolio, make sure you have things to show

  • Ask companies if you can come a for a day or two and learn from the developers and the others there

  • Stay up to date on trends, read articles, blogs and so on, provide feedback and support to those that put in the effort in writing/creating

  • Help other junior developers, there is ALWAYS something you can help with

  • Find out who YOU are and build one that

Basically you need to sharpen your skills, get different point of views, create a support network and people that believe in you and would recommend you, and by giving something back to the community you keep this cycle alive for the next dev looking for a job

Oki, I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten a few points here, please help me out and add a few comments. Would love to hear from employers as well, what are you looking for, and what is your take on the Microsoft Certifications in regards to landing a job?


Leave a comment (via email)
10/9/2012 9:31:13 AM
I think you missed a key point in the "Do this" list.

Start a blog to share what you have learned. A person who blogs (rich tech content) regularly is a continuous learner. 
Rob Ashton
10/9/2012 9:46:19 AM
With a strict answer to the question, of course I'd say "yes", but as with all things - if you dig deeper it is much more complicated than that.

What do those certifications say about you?

Most of the MS certifications are to say that Person X can pass a test on technology Y, and with most technologies this can end up equating to not much more than a check list of features and functionalities. (And technology becomes obsolete, fast).

This knowledge is useful, but it is nothing that generally can't be found by either reading through documentation or making an appropriate Google Search. (That said, most of the answers will be from folk who have done the certification so that isn't to be dismissed).

Most of the time, technology is a small thing to pick up - give a good developer a couple of weeks using something in anger and they'll know most of what most people need to know about a given stack - this is true of most things.

Beyond that, the only thing that counts is experience with the technology and experience building things with or without it - because experience typically teaches you the hard lessons that can't be taught in a classroom.

Once you have experience, then that usually speaks far louder than any list of qualifications, once you have a stack of things behind you that you have made and can talk about in detail then very few interviewers will be asking whether you have an M*** in Framework X.

What kind of job are you looking for?

Are you needing the experience? Then of course having certifications is going to help you - having that bottom rung (whatever it may be) is always going to sway an interview in your direction.

That bottom rung could be qualifications on relevant technology, it could be some apps you wrote to learn about that relevant technology or it could be that you've just done a year long internship building software and you have the reference to prove it.

Great - at this level, I don't think it really matters what that bottom rung is, your options for jobs are fairly limited (depending on how well you can present yourself in a CV and interview of course) and you'll likely be happy building whatever you need to build to make some money and put beer on the table. 

I said above that experience is always going to count more than qualifications in a particular technology stack, so assuming I'm not building a straw man - what does this imply about developers who are still collecting certifications after a few years, or employers who care about hiring those developers?

Knowing Framework X is a small part of building software (as is knowing Methodology Y or Practice Z) - much more important is being able to piece together your experiences and put that towards preventing mistakes that are going to cost money (such as unmaintainable software, over-design of technology, under-design of features etc).

Any company who recognises rather than simply hiring by numbers is likely to care about those things, and be less likely to be doing project management by numbers or similar kind of stuff that make a workspace not cool to be in. (Mostly these are body-shops)

And what does that say about you?

I would say that if you're still churning on the qualifications after a few years in an effort to get hired, then you've made some mistakes in your career because you either haven't got anything else worth showing, or you've not recognised that you have got something else worth showing. (again, assuming my initial argument isn't a straw man)

If you've not done anything else worth showing, then fine - you're in this industry to make money rather than deliver value to your clients (whoever they are), I probably wouldn't hire you, and neither would any other companies who care about their clients (and probably their employees).

If you've not recognised you've got something else worth showing, then re-evaluate - you could be working somewhere much better instead of churning out Software Version 2.0 of Boring Enterprise Product that has been done by Everyone Else already. (Hey, if you don't mind this then that's cool too - we've got families to feed and all that).

If you do recognise this and you're actively putting experience on your history and proving that in an interview situation (whatever that interview may be) then you're probably not wasting your time on vendor qualifications unless you have a lot of spare time - in which case find a better hobby. 

Will Microsoft Qualifications increase your chances of getting a job?

Yes, but only if you're new to the game or haven't got anything else to show for your time in the industry. 

This is the first time I've tried to put into words my feelings on this stuff, and as such it's a bit un-formed, probably for the best it's written as a comment on a blog entry and not as a blog entry itself eh? ;-) 
Patrik Löwendahl
10/9/2012 9:51:18 AM
Some thoughts on certifications I wrote down a few years ago: 
10/9/2012 10:47:19 AM
How about this, Will certifications help get a job AT microsoft?
I've never so much as gotten a whisper of interest from all of jobs I've ever applied to at microsoft despite having a great GPA from college, 8 years professional experience, over 50 published WIndows Phone apps and 4 publishing Windows 8 apps... not a single callback, email, tweet, nothing.... 

I figure if I get a certification MS will start calling me? 
Niall Merrigan
10/9/2012 11:43:19 AM
I wrote an opinion piece in 2009 on my blog

There has always been a lot of debate about the validity of certifications and much of it stems from those who have and those who have not. It also comes from which is more important, education or experience. Depending on your background this will colour your view somewhat. 

Lets step back a bit. If you asked the question will a degree help me land a job what will the response be. Most likely yes and no. 

Yes because it will show some sort of competent learning ability with a seal of approval from a recognised source. 

No because a degree without experience is nothing really special 

Now you could that old stick out and stir it some more, does the institution that gives you the degree matter. Is a degree from MIT better than one from Open University. Or does getting a degree in a particular class year vary the quality. Can you say that a degree from the same university in different years in the same quality?

The drill keeps on going. You can keep arguing on and on.

What I believe is this. If you pass an exam, it showed that you knew enough on that particular day to pass that particular exam

The problem that most certification vendors face is that to supply a valid quality benchmark, everyone must be tested against the same benchmark. So that if you have the MCTS X Tech, you passed it and have the same technical knowledge on the day as someone who passed it at a different time.

Now when you say this, this means that the resource pool is small. So the number of questions in this pool can range from 100 to 250. Microsoft exams take on average 6-9 months in planning, creation, authoring, testing and evaluation before they are released to the general public. Its a lot of work. 

After a while all those questions get answered and due to nefarious means appear online in the form of braindumps. There are ways and means to detect and combat these, but it can be very hard to prove you used a braindump at times. 

Then there is the other argument of what is tested. Is that valid. A common complaint on MS certs is that they are out of touch with the way things are done in the real world vs in Redmond. This can be said on any vendor exam. The issue is the time to market of the exam and also things change. Look at the stuff we do on a day to day basis. What you did last year may be out of date even by now.

There are benefits to the company with having certified people on staff.. The can get discounts and partner recognition from the vendors. There is part of the value, Gold Web Dev competency with MS requires up to 4 individuals with MCPDs and then some other reqs. If you want that level of partnership you require those certifications.

Are they valuable to people. Yes, but like everything they are only valuable if the other person wants them :) 
12/2/2013 2:46:41 AM
will certification will help in getting into universites for MS in CS. 

Last modified on 2012-10-09