We used to call the MCSE "Must Call Someone Experienced". But I have found out over the years that certs do actually have their place.
You refer to paper tigers. We call them graduates they have the piece of paper, have put a lot of effort into getting it and are keen to learn the skills to do the job. If properly mentored they usually turn into fairly decent engineers. It shows enthusiasm.
The best guys I have employed over the years have bucket loads of experience and keep their certs up to date, I am not sure why they need to, but those that do seem to have an edge. Maybe its because they are passionate about what they do and really want to understand it in more depth. It shows commitment.
As for the role of a cert in the recruitment process what it does is say that at a point in time the candidate managed to have a certain level of knowledge on a particular subject. If that knowledge is required for the role it puts a tick in a box, nothing more, and it makes the interview easier as all the interviewer needs to do is validate whether they can apply the knowledge (what you refer to as experience).
So if I am a potential employer looking at a pile of 50 CV's for a shortlist of 10 interviewees and 10 have enthusiasm, commitment, knowledge and experience and the others only have the latter who will make my shortlist?
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