Tearing the Veil of Credentials

I’m starting to think that credentials don’t matter in the slightest.

A credential doesn’t tell you someone can do a job, it merely tells you that a person can memorize facts and perform well on a particular test.

I’m not talking about doctors, airline pilots, tax accountants or criminal trial lawyers here. Certain occupations should have large gates in front of them to prevent too much ineptitude from entering the ranks.

What I’m talking about is certifications that attempt to provide proof someone can do well at a certain job. I’m not picking on project managers here (I am one), but attaining my PMP credential was a fairly simple exercise in memorization and doing enough practice tests. It is difficult, don’t get me wrong, but the act of getting a PMP is a completely different skill set than being an excellent project manager.

I’ve found this to be true with almost every certification I’ve come a across. People and employers that are obsessed with certs are missing the forest for the trees. Does a PMP know a lot about project processes, tools and techniques? Yes, but can literally anyone learn those same things? Also, yes.

Which one will perform the job better, the one with the credential, or the one who will perform the job better (credentialed or not)?

I think the lazy answer here is that we don’t want know another good way to vet talent. We look to bodies of standardization to do it for us.

Here’s a few options you can use to find candidates that can do the work (or can figure it out quickly):

  • Ask them in the interview:
    • What have you built?
    • Tell me about a process you improved in a prior role.
    • Are you a thinker or a doer?
    • What’s the most important skill is that you bring to the table?
    • What does a good day at work look like?
  • Have them provide “work samples” if appropriate.
  • Give them an example of the work they will be doing, and ask about how they would go about doing it. And most importantly, why?

I don’t know about you, but I prefer to hire someone who can get the job done, and not just someone who can take a test. What do I care if they have a few letter after their name if they can’t help the organization achieve it’s goals?

P.S. This is day 13 of 30 in my challenge to write every day for 30 days. I’m a recovering corporate dude who’s learning that it’s more important to ship good work than to get another credential.

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