Technical Certifications – should I or shouldn’t I?

Some companies want them, and for others it does not impact their operations….. but what you have to ask yourself is what benefit can they bring YOU!

Technical CertificationsBottom line: Technical & Professional certifications are valuable to obtain if they are considered valuable in your field.

I predominantly work in the Technical Infrastructure Supportspace and in the current competitive market I’m seeing a surge in their demand.

So what does having technical certifications mean to you? You want to ask what benefit they can bring you now and also in thefuture:Question Mark

  • What added value could they bring to your current position?
  • Could a course and cert help advance you into an area of interest?
  • Make you more valuable and competitive among your peers?
  • Help you become a subject matter expert in a particular area, and
  • Would they help differentiate you from the crowd?

The below are some examples of situations where certifications can be advantageous:

Job Applications:

  • Envisage the volume of CV’s a company is going to receive and your competition. You need to think about what is going to differentiate you from your peers so you can take the next step on your career ladder.
  • Having technical certifications, shows the company your initiative and interest in personal development and interest in your area of expertise.
  • All things being equal, if you were a company and received one CV with a technical cert and one without – who would you choose?

Money & Promotion

  • Again, consider the employers view point. With certifications you are validating your knowledge and expertise. Have you become an expert within the company? Have you differentiated yourself amongst your colleagues?
  • If your professional skillset and knowledge are in line with the company’s business, and you are expanding upon this by getting certified, you are giving yourself a strong business case for salary negotiation and advancement at promotional reviews, this can also encourage the company to invest and develop your skillset with you.
  • Some companies align salaries with certifications, I’m sure that’s motivation enough.

Subject Matter Expert (SME)

  • In such a competitive market, certainly within the Infrastructure/Support space, Engineers are being shortlisted, not just on their years of experience and expertise with specific technologies but top level certifications are being demanded with high-end specialist roles.
  • Ensuring you are up to date with latest technologies and having the certifications to prove it, assists employers in validating skills and experience.

What to do?

It is important that you do your research and find certifications that compliment your current skillset and work environment (keeping you competitive in your current position) as well as develop upon these for future growth and progression. Yes, there is a financial outlay, but consider it an investment in yourself and your future.Technical Certifications

In my opinion, it is very simple…. Technical Certifications validate your skills and experience, therefore start with the ones that support what you are currently doing and build from there.

Multiple jobs, one employer…. how to format your CV!

A friend of mine has inspired this mornings blog post.  She has been with her present company for over seven years and is currently taking on, what she feels, to be the daunting task of updating her CV and LinkedIn profile.

If like her, you have gone through a number of positions; either moving horizontally, taking on long-term project based assignments or having been promoted over the course of your tenure, you are possibly finding yourself in a similar position and wondering how to outline and explain everything you have done on your CV.

My advice; segregate the positions and do not list everything under your most recent job title. Your aim is to make things transparent and easy for the end reader to understand.

In your professional experience section, firstly, make the company name and initial start date to present/end date your headline. Secondly, on the next line, continue by listing the various job titles that you have had within the company and their respective start and end dates in chronological order with the most recent first.

Example CV Format for long-term duration with one company:

Professional History
Company Name                   Start Date – Present/End Date
Job Title                                  Start Date – Present / End Date

Outline your responsibilities, skills and key tasks associated with this position.

Job Title                                 Start Date – End Date

Outline your responsibilities, skills and key tasks associated with this position.

Job Title                                Start Date – End Date

Outline your responsibilities, skills and key tasks associated with this position.

Your descriptions will want to outline the specific tasks against each position, highlight any professional development you have undertaken, keep your skills relevant omitting any that may now be viewed as obsolete, and acknowledge accomplishments.

This will now provide the reader with a snapshot of what you have been doing with the company long-term and spells out the career path and progression you have achieved while there.

This format can be transferred to LinkedIn, but you will have to set up a new job for each position. I do suggest that this format is only followed where there is significant time and different tasks associated with each position.

Interview Preparation: The SPREAD Technique

When it comes to an Interview, it is all about first impressions. Being prepared is essential to making a good one! You have applied for a position; your skills and experience are coming up as a match to the requirement and subsequently you have been called to interview. Do not do yourself an injustice! Put in the effort and give yourself the best possible chance of being the company’s first choice for the position.

I’ve come up with the SPREAD technique as a guide for interview preparation to assist in having you as prepared as possible to give that best first impression.

SPREAD stands for Scheduling, Prime time, Research, Examples, Appearance and Delivery.

Scheduling

Working with a Recruitment Consultant:   

  • One of the perks of working with a Recruiter is that they will have information about the company and you will get the benefit of this knowledge.
  • Depending on the duration of their relationship, they may have insight on the likes and interview style of the person you will be meeting.
  • Behaviour and conduct insight that your Consultant can provide is highly beneficial. Knowing what the interviewer does not like is just as important as knowing about the competencies and behaviours they are seeking.
  • ALWAYS endeavour to solve any scheduling issues yourself first. You are interested in the position and it is your responsibility to try to accommodate the company, not the other way around. Show initiative and try to find a work around to any conflicts.
  • Address any outstanding issues/concerns you may have at this time with your Consultant. Your Recruiter is always a good sounding board in trying to resolve any obstacles you feel you cannot overcome. As a last resort your Consultant can explain any scheduling situations on your behalf to the company and see if a resolution can be reached.

Independent Application:

  • Someone has contacted you from the company and is looking to schedule a date and time.
  • You need to determine who they are, and what position they have in the company. The same questions and information that you would be looking to get from a recruiter you are going to try to get from your new point of contact.
  •  Just remember that you are speaking directly with the company and first impressions have already commenced. Keep your questions specific to the interview.
  • ALWAYS endeavour to solve any scheduling issues yourself first. You are interested in the position and it is your responsibility to try to accommodate the company, not the other way around. Show initiative and try to find a work around to any conflicts.
  • Contact your point of contact and address any scheduling issues you have.
  • With a valid reason most if not all companies are accommodating.

Below is a list of questions to ask prior to the interview:

Questions to Recruiter & HR/POC:
Information on the company

  • Whom will you be meeting (their full name, job title and relationship to the position)?
  • Who should you ask for upon arrival (sometimes not the same person who is interviewing you)?
  • Is there parking or are they located on a public transport route?
  • Is it a competency based interview or technical interview or both?
  • Is it a panel interview or one to one?
  • How many rounds of interviews are expected?
  • What is the estimated duration of the interview?
  • When does the company expect to make a decision or provide feedback?
  • How many candidates are being interviewed?
  • Dress code
  • If at all possible, have your Consultant or POC try to schedule the interview during your Prime Time!

Prime Time

Everyone is different, some people have more energy in the morning and others are more alert in the evening. If you are not sure when your Prime Time is, ask yourself when are you most alert and engaged about your tasks during the day, when is your mind at its clearest and when is it easiest for you to focus?

Being aware of your high-energy periods is advantageous because you can schedule complex tasks accordingly, like your interview, when you are likely to be at your best.

Research

Do your own homework about the company: Look at their website, read the ‘about us’ page, is there anything about them in the news? Any current affairs that are industry related? You don’t need a life history here, but the Who, What, Where, When and Why are the boxes you are looking to tick.  Who they are? What they do? Where they do it? Main competitors etc. are advantageous to know. You could be asked any of this in the interview to see how much you know and your level of interest in the company. Are you just looking at the job or taking the organisation as a whole into consideration?

Find information on their values and statement on culture: Researching the culture and values of the organisation will influence your decision on whether you want to work there.  Really, this should be done at the application stage but is usually overlooked.  Knowing the culture of the company is important. What is described? Does the culture and values align with you personally? Do you feel you would fit in? Would it be a place you would want to work etc.?  These are very important factors that many overlook.  The culture and values are where you will get a feel for the ‘type of person’, and traits the company looks for from employees, it can be a great source for behavioural pointers prior to an interview.  If what is described is not aligning to your key traits, do not be discouraged. However,  it is something to be aware of and over the course of your interview, there may be related areas that you can query to put your mind at ease or help you to make a decision.

Professional Sites: You have been given the names and job titles of the interviewers. It is a good idea to  search for their profiles on LinkedIn. Any information such as, how long they have been in the company, brief role descriptions of what they do or industry connections can be insightful.  Glassdoor is another useful resource for information on companies. The site provides “employee generated content”, anonymous salaries, company reviews, interview questions etc.  All posted by employees, job seekers, and sometimes the companies themselves.

Examples

Aligning your experience to the requirement: Creating a skills matrix is a useful preparation tool that I have my candidates complete prior to an interview or an application. It’s easy to do and will help you to prepare: Create a two column table in a word document. Then write down the list of requirements (from the job specification) in the left column and, finally, outline your competencies and previous work experience that address each item listed into the right hand side column.

These are now your work examples that are specific to the company’s requirements. At all times during the interview you want to stay focused on these areas as it is this relevant career history that is pertinent to the position and of interest to those interviewing you.

Questions: Now that you have conducted your research on the company and prepared your skills matrix, what questions do you have about the organisation and position that have not been addressed from your research (or Recruitment Consultant)?  You will want to prepare these to ask at your interview (usually at the end).  This is your opportunity to really probe the interviewer on various topics that are of interest to you around the position and company.

Think about questions in areas such as working in a team, size of department, reporting structure, hierarchy, culture, and values….etc. Consider having them describe what they expect a typical day would look like in the position, what initial expectations they may have from the candidate and what ideal/specific experience and traits they are looking for from a candidate. Having them describe the latter opens the opportunity for you to redress any areas they have subsequently raised that you may not have already discussed.

Appearance:

Visually, you want them to see you in the position you are interviewing for. Ensure you are ‘suited and booted’ appropriately to reflect the position and company. My advice is to always be in formal business attire unless otherwise advised. (Certain companies might be casual; your research should show this, make sure you know!).

Of course there are exceptions to every rule but be cleanly shaven (men), clean washed hair, neutral nail polish (ladies), do not ‘over kill’ on perfume or aftershave/cologne. Fresh breath (ensure you are not walking in after a bacon sandwich from breakfast or lunch!), clean clothes that have been ironed, make sure they smell fresh not damp/musky and neutral professional makeup ladies.

The more you know about the company and who you are meeting the more prepared you will be and know how to present yourself.

Delivery:

The Night Before: Know what you are going to wear, research how you are going to get there: your mode of transport and route, consider traffic based on the time of day etc., don’t forget to check the weather forecast in case you are walking (in case there is a need for an umbrella). Endeavour to arrive at least 10-15mins in advance of your scheduled interview time.

Being unprepared for simple things like this can fluster and frustrate, and is quite unnecessary.  The more prepared you are the more at ease you will be.

Arriving to the interview: Last but not least, BE PUNCTUAL!!! Know who you are to
ask for upon arrival, introduce yourself, smile and shake hands! If for any reason (and it needs to be an excellent one!), you happen to be running late, ring your Recruitment Consultant or Point of Contact on the way and make them aware as soon as possible so that they can update the appropriate people. It is better to have this explained and expected than just whittling off your excuse as you walk in flustered and them frustrated. People are very understanding as long as you conduct yourself in a professional manner and have a valid explanation.

You now know about the company, who you are meeting, how you are getting there, what you are wearing, have outlined your work experience examples that are relevant to their requirement and have prepared questions on the company and position.

You are prepared and ready….. Take a deep breath, smile and good luck!

Refer a Friend

Here at Ipsus we believe in six degrees of separation, there is no doubt that each one of us knows someone, that knows someone… that maybe suitable for one of our roles and on the lookout!

We want you to think of friends, colleagues and contacts within your network so we can get them working in a job they enjoy!

To say thanks for putting your thinking cap on we’d like to reward you for anyone we successfully place; enter our Refer a friend scheme:

If you refer someone to us that we place (either permanently or in a contract of 3 months or more), we would be delighted to share our success with you and give you a gift voucher for your assistance.

Rules:

  • The candidate put forward cannot already be on our database. If they are, your referral is only valid if we have not contacted or spoken to them within 8 months
  • If they contact us directly or apply for the role via any method (website, social media, job boards etc) before your referral, then your referral is invalid
  • The candidate put forward must be placed within 12 months of your referral date
  • The candidate must be authorised & eligible to work in Ireland

How:

  • You submit your friend’s name, CV & contact details to Ipsus directly, we can then confirm whether your referral is already on our database &/or contacted within the last 8 months. If we don’t already have them, you pass on the full details.
  • If they are subsequently placed, you are eligible for a gift voucher (to the value of €150) 4 weeks after their start date.

T&C’s:

  • Ipsus reserves the right to offer an alternative reward of the same value at any time
  • We reserve the right to decline any referral without explanation – This is essential so as not to compromise our candidate and client confidentiality
  • Under no circumstances will we pay more than one placement fee per candidate or opportunity. For the avoidance of doubt, if a candidate referred to us was employed on a fixed-term contract or on a consultancy basis, and the candidate subsequently becomes employed on a full or part-time permanent basis or, in the case of a fixed term contract, that contract is renewed or extended, no placement fee is payable in respect of that change in employment status.
  • It is understood that we obtain similar referral services from other third parties and receive direct applications from candidates and clients. In the event that we receive a particular candidate’s CV or opportunity from more than two parties we will in general treat the application received first in time as the only application received in respect of that candidate or opportunity. We will inform all parties we have received a prior application from another third party source within a reasonable time of the candidate or opportunity being referred.
  • In the event that two or more parties refer a candidate or opportunity to us we may decide, at our sole discretion, which party is entitled to the placement fee, or to distribute the placement fee equally or unequally among the two or more referring parties. In any event, the total fees paid to all parties in respect of each candidate/opportunity shall not exceed the agreed fee structure for a permanent or contractor placement
  • We reserve the right to change/discontinue the referral scheme at any time with one months’ notice.

Let’s get people working in jobs they enjoy, start sending in those CVs!

The KISS of Life for the Technical CV

Reviewing, revising and at times re-writing CV’s in full, has happened on more occasions than I wish to admit, but it’s worth it when you finally have a ‘pièce de résistance’ that you know represents your candidate at their best as well as providing the correct and relevant information to the client. The end, certainly justifies the means when you make the placement…. But wow can it be arduous!

Honestly… some of the CV’s that have crossed my desk over the years, can at times only be classed as comical! I have seen applications from helpdesk engineers with six months experience including the summer bar work abroad span 3 plus pages and Senior Technical Consultants not outlining any of the systems that they work with nor the technical environments they have worked in….. This is the never ending Jerry Maguire moment where I’m screaming internally at my computer screen…… ‘Help me help you’!

Luckily for some…. and maybe not so much for others; I believe in constructive criticism. Not addressing the issue isn’t doing anyone any favors. Considering the economic climate, it has been a tough few years for a lot of people and providing advise in this context can really help (and if I am to receive that same CV another 20 times applying for every job I have posted…. Recruiters you know what I’m talking about…. I’ll go mad). So; where possible, I try to advise on the recruitment process and CV writing.

Presentation, content, structure and format have an impact on appropriate applications and getting the CV right is just the first of many steps in the recruitment process, but what an important first step it is!

I recommend the KISS principle! ”The KISS principle states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complex; therefore simplicity should be a key goal in design and unnecessary complexity should be avoided!” Thank you Wikipedia for putting this so eloquently! A small variation to the phrase is more appropriate and works best for our purpose “keep it simple and straightforward”.

Based on this principle I have outlined some pointers for putting together a Technical CV. I will also provide a template that you may choose to work from. I appreciate many recruiters have preferred formats, this is mine, but as long as the information is relevant and evident I’m sure anything along these lines will suffice:
The KISS Tips:
APPLICATION CHOICE:
Job Descriptions

  • These can sometimes be a wish list, but if you are not ticking 75% of what’s required, chances are, there are more suitable candidates on the market – do not just apply for the sake of it.

Note: Suitability varies on position – at helpdesk level you would want to be matching at least 90% of the requirements whereas in specialist areas there is greater flexibility especially if skills are rare on the market.

If you are interested in the company

  • Don’t send your CV in via an inappropriate role, the likelihood is that it will just be deleted. Instead, contact the company/HR/Recruitment Department and see if there is a contact you can send your CV directly to or connect with that person on LinkedIn and follow the company

FORMAT:

Word Document

  • Word documents are easier to transfer into templates and edit where appropriate

TIP: A lot of recruitment or company databases will not be able to do a key word search on .pdf or other formats, consequently, although on their system, your CV may never be found!

Font

  • Calibri, Arial or Times (10, 11 or 12 font)

Spacing

  • Remove needless spacing, reduce it to single line spacing

NOTE: this will assist with keeping your CV to the desired 2 pages.

Tables

  • Where at all possible, do not write your CV in a table format. Having to edit and reformat is very time consuming and frustrating.

Length

  • Keep your CV up to 2-3 pages

NOTE: (I have had CV’s come through at 8-10 pages in length….nobody is interested in having to filter and trawl through that much information to find the skills that are relevant to their requirement. Keeping the content specific to the requirement will assist in this process. I have had Senior Managers and Technical Architects with 30 years’ experience get their CV’s to 2.5 pages, if they can do it, so can you!).

  • Do not reduce your font to 8 to facilitate keeping the pages down, if the content is relevant, we still need to be able to read it.

Picture

  • No thank you, not necessary and it just takes up space; provide your LinkedIn profile link and if you wish, have your picture there.

CONTENT:
Tailor your CV for each application

  • Review the requirements and skills necessary for the position in the job specification
  • In your job descriptions make sure you make your experience evident with each requirement – if you know you can do the job – make sure we know too!

TIP: Keep in mind the majority of HR or Recruitment personnel may not come from a technical background – spell it out and make the appropriate skills obvious – this will greatly increase the chances of you getting a call to elaborate and explain your CV further

Do not lie

  • You will get caught, it’s not worth it and it is a waste of everyone’s time so just DON’T DO IT. Keep your experience real there is not point ‘fluffing’ a CV to get the job you want but are not suitable for. Your reputation with your recruiter will be in disrepute as well as with the company.

Spell Check

  • It is a simple click of a button, do it! Grammar and spelling mistakes are a big ‘NO’ on CV’s. There is no reason or excuse what-so-ever. Spell check the document in full and ensure your comma and word spacing is correct.

STRUCTURE
Outline:

  • Personal Details – name, address, contact number, LinkedIn profile link
    Summary (discretionary)
  • Certifications/Training & Education – chronological order
  • Technical Skills Matrix – core strengths
  • Professional Experience/ Career History
  • Previous Career History if beyond 2000 or if experience is not relevant
  • Hobbies (discretionary)
  • Reference (make note to availability)

Technical Skills Matrix

  • Provide a technical skills matrix (two columns with bullet points) outlining your core technical strengths and systems/software you are very competent working with

TIP: Do not list every single technology you have ever worked with, especially if it is over 5+ years ago

Technical Certifications/Education

  • Order these in chronological order

NOTE: Keep in mind expiry dates i.e.: Cisco Certs etc. If they are no longer valid and you are no longer working in that area, leave them out. If relevant but expired, outline the dates.
TIP: Have your certifications scanned and saved for easy access should they ever be requested!

Previous career history

  • Previous career history is to showcase career continuity but because it is some time ago the skills are dated or no longer relevant. For these positions you can just note the Company Name, Job Title and Dates of employment/assignment.
  • If you were in permanent positions and were with a company for quite some time, you can provide a sentence or two to overview your time and role there but keep it short as these positions usually have no bearing on the current application from a skillset perspective. If you are highlighting Industry experience, then the company name etc. should suffice and you could note the industry in the Summary instead.