Career Preparation Posts

Why IT Pros Lie: A Certification Doesn’t Always Make You Qualified for a Job (And That’s Okay!)

It’s the most open dirty little secret in Information Technology hiring today: the lies we tell to get our foot in the door.

To be sure, they are white lies, subtly bolstering our appeal to hiring managers by insinuating greater experience or a more narrow focus than we might actually have had with a specific project or technology. A couple weeks watching SQL logs while the DBA was on vacation might turn you into a database administrator; fiddling with widget on the company home page means you have experience with JavaScript.

Have you every started an IT job where you knew everything you needed to know the minute you walked in the door? Few people have. Information Technology is a vast and ever-changing field, with many silos of knowledge and few systems which can be relied upon to operate identically from organization to organization. Learning the quirks and foibles of a particular combination of software versions and hardware systems is a skill in and of itself. It is not one that can be easily tested in a lab environment.

Of course, these lies are provoked in some sense by the lies we’re told in the job postings themselves: requests for expertise in wildly disparate technologies which no sane person could specialize in simultaneously, or demands for years of experience with technologies which have only emerged months earlier. The bill of goods that job candidates are selling is matched, in some sense, by the goods that employers claim they are looking for.