Did anyone else notice this interesting e-week article titled The Downside of Certification? It immediately reminded me of an article written by Pythian team lead and datawarehousing architect Rob Hamel titled Get Down with OCP: Evaluating DBA Job Applicants in an OCP World. What Rob noticed in 2004, at the peak of the certification explosion, was that certification can mask a certain type of incompetence from a casual technical evaluation process. Certification does not imply incompetence, far from it, however it does make it more challenging to design an interview process that will allow you to discern a star performer from a certified technician who has less than stellar real-world abilities. The result is that, when evaluating a certified candidate, you are more likely to be hoodwinked by the result of the certification than when a candidate is not certified. This fact is now percolating into the collective consciousness of hiring managers.
Eweek’s article covers the “Q1 2006 Hot Technical Skills and Certifications Pay Index, released April 25 by Foote Partners” which appears to show that the rates of pay for non-certified skillsets have increased at triple the rate as that for certified skillsets. To pull some words from the slashdot.org article covering this matter, “…employers are getting hip to the idea that those who don’t have experience or can’t “do”, get certified…”. I wouldn’t take it that far, but I do find it interesting that employers are de-emphasizing certification as a manner for evaluating employees. We’ve been down that road time and again for years now, and no longer take certification into account at all when selecting DBAs. Instead, we assign the Pythian Interview which Doug Burns so nicely summarizes in his blog post on this subject.
We have found that work-simulation, assigned and assessed by an expert in the field, with a carefully designed and calibrated set of questions is the only way to assess the skills and just as importantly the productivity of a database engineer.