Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. That was the resounding reply of many members who answered the query of TechRepublic member Kevin Talbot: “Are employers asking for too many certs and skills for net admin jobs?”
The overwhelming majority of members who responded by e-mail and in the article’s discussion said that companies are requesting far too many areas of expertise for open positions and are most likely hiring those who say they have those skills but don’t have the experience to back up the claims.
Here are some of the opinions and true tales gathered from members’ responses. See whether their experience in the job market matches yours.
Who’s creating the job descriptions?
The consensus may be that many tech positions require an absurd number of skills—but who is responsible for establishing those requirements? TechRepublic member Frida Hayden said that human resources managers are creating ridiculous job qualifications.
“I received a job lead and they were asking for Citrix, Cisco, Linux, UNIX, Novell, Exchange, MCSE, and the ability to lift 100 lbs,” she said. “Oh yes! They were willing to pay $45, 000 per year. Of course I deleted the e-mail.”
John F. Wolfington Jr. also thinks HR is responsible. “The human resource departments of most companies are manned by inexperienced young, fresh-out-of-college know-it-all’s who are trying to impress their bosses by advertising every skill that they want the IT pro to have (unrealistically), and most of these HR personnel have no idea what IT stands for.”
Certs vs. experience
Wolfington went on to say that an IT pro should, at minimum, have the CompTIA A+ and Network+ certifications to effectively administer a network. If that’s the case, what kind of experience should go along with those certifications?
Indeed, any discussions of admin job opportunities—or opportunities in the IT sector as a whole—will always turn to a debate of certification vs. experience. Many members said that companies are asking for too many skills at salaries that simply aren’t satisfactory.
“They ask way too much and don’t pay for the skill,” said TechRepublic member Scott Lagerbom, an MCP and A+ certified pro from San Ramon, CA. “If you can do the work of two people shouldn’t you get two salaries?”
Lagerbom said companies will rarely find someone that is actually proficient in that many skill sets. More likely, they’ve read a book and passed a test but never actually implemented in real life, he said.
One tech pro’s story
A real-life example of how demands for certification can cripple a career came from TechRepublic member Mike Olsson. Olsson earned a B.S. in computer science (with a minor in physics and business) and was hired a week before his college graduation. He made $28,000 annually for two years.
“I thought that my skills, in that time, grew exponentially,” he said. “I finally decided that I could make more as a contractor with two years of experience and holding a degree.”
After quitting his job, Olsson hit a wall. “[I] found out really quickly, through job fairs, that I was essentially nothing because I didn’t hold a cert.” He spent the next nine months looking for a fast food job after being told that without a cert, he couldn’t be hired anywhere.
Finally, in 2001, he began his certification training and soon received his MCP. During his subsequent job search, he consistently saw jobs requiring at least an MCP, CCNA, some HTML, as well as A+. He landed a job working as a network administration manager in Atlanta and is now working toward his MCSE.
Olsson said the trend of employers expecting too many skills started around the year 2000 and has gotten to be a big problem.
“I know of many IT managers who do their best to just hire experienced IT personnel over that of certified,” he said. “Many CIOs/CEOs are starting to figure out that anyone can memorize a book but not necessarily do the real grunt work.”
Generalists vs. specialists
TechRepublic member Jeffrey Jastillana said he finds it “quite challenging” to have to be multiskilled, multicertified, and multiexperienced to apply for a job in today’s market.
“I feel in the long run it would hurt companies because what they would be getting is someone who has an idea of a lot of areas but [no] specific skill set,” he said. “Rather than hire individuals who [are] specifically skilled, which no matter what occupation is a plus, the companies are playing cheap in a vital area of the business.”
Bill Carone agrees that companies may be spreading their IT talent too thin. His e-mail said that he’s been laid off for a year despite his experience with Novell, Microsoft, Apple, UNIX and Linux operating systems. He’s not an expert with any of the OSs, though, and believes that employers are asking for way too much in qualifications.
“One or two good qualifications for the employees and time to gain experience in other areas is what is needed,” Carone said. “Concentrate on that and your IT staff will get better.”
Good project management and communications will go much further than pieces of paper, since many of the certs are outdated before anyone can use them to their full potential, he said. And sometimes, it’s those who claim expertise that get the jobs and can therefore take advantage of company-sponsored education, “leaving many talented people in the background that could better use that training.”
IT pros are held to a higher standard
Jastillana believes that IT pros should continue to expand their knowledge for the benefit of their career. However, he said that techies might be held to a higher standard than professionals in other fields.
“Maybe companies should hire multiskilled employees in other areas of the company,” he joked. “How about an individual who can do accounting, architecturally design a house, or engineer a car? Just a thought.”