Should I Get a Microsoft Certification? 5 Myths and Facts

The SharePoint community seems to have a resurgence of talk about Microsoft certifications. You know, the weekend course that supposedly is a door opener to get you a new career in SharePoint.

Because the people that would fall for programs like that do not have the patience to actually read or learn anything in any case, let me do the TL;DR very quickly :

Don’t get certified.

Now that we’ve gotten the potential candidates out of the way, let me tell the rest of you why you shouldn’t get certified by answering some of the frequent comments I see. I’ll tell you by killing off a few myths about the exams and how they affect your chances of landing a job.

Myth 1: An Exam Shows Willingness to Learn

The argument goes that if you show that you have taken exams, that’s evidence that you’re willing and able to learn.

Fact: Any exam that will land you a SharePoint title can be passed with a few days of studying. I’ve previously written about how you can pass any Microsoft exam within 24 hours using simple deduction and a few hours of reviewing the curriculum. At worst, you can take Microsoft curriculum crash courses for a few days and get enough knowledge to pass the exam.

Note: This isn’t just for SharePoint. I got my MCSE in about a week and took a random ASP.NET developer exam shortly thereafter. No exam took me more than a day to study enough to pass.

I have, of course, never cheated, and I’m not even taking cheating into account. You can read about my approach in the link above.

In what profession would you consider someone “willing to learn” if they go through a couple of days of training? I asked the community on Facebook and the answers, beyond my own suggestions of flipping burgers and working as a store clerk, were mostly jokes like “Social Media Consultant” or “SEO Analyst”.

Hey, I got a paramedic coming to pick you up after your accident/heart attack/other health issue. They’ve gone through a weekend course on driving, medicine, treating critical wounds, administering care, and they got a diploma after answering around 50 multiple choice questions so they are now Certified Medical Professionals. You should feel perfectly safe now, right?

Or how about this: I’m starting a new garage to fix up your car. All the mechanics will go through a week of training where they’ll learn everything they need to know to fix your car. At the end, they’ll get a diploma after demonstrating the ability to do a few car-related tasks. You feel comfortable sending your car to my garage for the annual service, right?

How about a hair dresser? Carpenter? Chef? In which professions would you consider 5 days of training sufficient to call someone a certified professional?

Don’t fool yourself: An exam shows laziness and a willingness to take an easy way out to get a diploma when in any other profession, the training requirements would cause you to shun away.

Myth 2: A Certification Cannot Hurt

The argument goes that if your employer pays for your exam, it cannot hurt to have it on your resume.

Fact: A certification can hurt your chances of landing an interview, especially when you look at companies that have some experience working with SharePoint professionals.

The slightly experienced community member knows that these exams are quite silly in terms of actually teaching you anything or judging your skills. What does it say about a candidate if the resume highlights these exams as evidence or indication of skill?

As more and more companies engage seasoned SharePoint professionals, chances are increasing that your resume will be reviewed by someone who knows how easy these exams really are. More than once, I’ve spoken to recruiters or reviewers that either throw out or at least negatively review resumes that point out low hanging fruit as achievements.

Do you really want to have your first paragraph pointing out how you’ve done a weekend course and passed a few multiple choice questions to get a diploma?

Myth 3: Certifications Is A Competitive Advantage

The argument goes that if given two otherwise similar candidates, one without a certification and another with, then a recruiter will favor the one that has a certificate.

Fact: The certification exams are very easy, and the cost of a 5-day boot camp is so low that it really isn’t a competitive advantage for anyone. Tell me, would you hire a certified professional for $50K or a non-certified professional for $30K when the cost of getting the non-certified to a certified status may be as low as $3-5K?

The value of your certification, if your employer insists that you have one, is no more than the cost of a crash course and the exam fee. There’s little or no skill requirements, so effectively anyone who can spell SharePoint will be able to take that course and pass the exam.

Do you really think that having a weekend course and a $200 exam will be enough of a barrier to give you an advantage? If it were that easy, why shouldn’t employers just hire the cheaper candidate and send them through the same week-long course?

Myth 4: Certifications Are Mandatory to Get Microsoft Referrals

The argument goes that companies need a certain number of certified professionals to get referrals from Microsoft.

Fact: This one is actually true. It’s a really nice scheme; Microsoft gets to sell certifications and brag about how many “certified professionals” they have in the community and the companies have fewer problems convincing customers they actually know how to tie their own shoelaces because Microsoft vouches for them.

So yeah, for your employer, it makes sense because their cost of customer acquisition goes down.

Is that good for you? Well, that depends what you think about things like job safety, morale, and the tasks you get. If your job security depends on nobody else taking a weekend course, I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable.  If your continued job depends on the ease with which your company can convince customers that their paper diplomas are valuable, I’m also unsure whether I’d feel comfortable.

But, it’s up to you. By your next pay check, a much cheaper offshore consultant can have all the exams you currently have. Do you really want to hope your boss doesn’t realize how worthless your exam is?

Myth 5: Everyone Else Has Them, So I Must Too!

The argument goes that because all the other resumes or candidates have certifications, then you will look less valuable if you don’t have them.

Fact: Most of the SharePoint superstars are out of jobs, right? People like Jeremy Thake, Marc Anderson, Joel Oleson, Michael Noel, and Christian Buckley. They couldn’t land a job if their lives depend on it because they don’t have certifications, right?

Wrong! Any employer worth their salt would give up non-vital parts of their bodies to get any of these people on board. Still, they do not have a single exam.

“But,” I can hear you say, “I’m not one of those superstars!”

And you’d be right, but neither were they just a few years ago. Today, though, these people drive the community forward and deliver orders of magnitude more value to their companies than what their frankly ludicrous salaries are.

The problem for you, though, is that you want a quick fix. You want to write something in your resume that will land you a job next week. Sorry, but that’s just not how it works. There are some things you can do, but they will not be done quickly nor are they as easy as writing something on a piece of paper.

What Do I Do?

First of all, stop contemplating getting certified. It’s a joke to anyone who knows what they are. It can and probably will be negative for your resume. It is not a competitive advantage. You will not learn anything valuable. You will not open a door that’s worth opening.

Second, start learning. Learning is great. Cramming for an exam is not. If you really want a career where you are worth the frankly silly amounts of money you can get,  you need to spend considerable time learning.

Third, start being active in the community. I don’t care what your excuse is. If you’re not in the community, you’re not doing SharePoint. No more arguments. Whatever you say against this is wrong, so shut up.


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Why Your SharePoint Project Fails – Recruiters Suck!

And it doesn’t matter if you have internal recruiters or hire an agency. You all suck!

Once you’ve accepted that, you’ve taken the first step towards actually finding someone who can help you get SharePoint working, so let’s spend some time looking at three reasons why you suck and what you can do about it.

Senior Chef/Racecar Driver/Neurosurgeon

The first mistake you make is not knowing what you’re hiring.

To any slightly experienced SharePoint professional, most SharePoint job ads look like someone blew up a bomb in the job description factory and you just picked up whatever looked like it was legible and put it together.

You do NOT hire a SharePoint designer/developer/architect. Those are three different positions. For anyone to have experience enough to give you any value, they would need to have three educations and three jobs. You know, taking 8 hours each, effectively meaning they would need to work 24 hours a day, every day.

Learn what the different SharePoint roles are and understand that if you try to hire one person to do three jobs, you get someone who has at most a third of the experience and skill as someone who does just one job.

Note: You can download this free eBook to learn about, among other things, the various SharePoint professional roles.

Solve Our Problems using This Brand Hammer

The second mistake you make is telling professionals what tools they should use to solve your problems.

Why do you care? If I can fix your issues or build your product using a magnetized needle and a turntable, and I can do so twice as good and three times as fast as someone else, will that really matter?

If you hire a carpenter, you don’t put the brand of hammer he or she should use in your job ad. when you go to a doctor, you don’t tell them how to treat your disease. You describe what you want done or what your problem is and trust the professional to know how to do their job. Why aren’t you doing the same when hiring SharePoint professionals?

Tell people what you want done, not how you want it done. If you knew better how to get things done, you’d probably be the one doing it.

Don’t Tell Me What I Want

If there’s one thing that you should never do, it is to tell people what motivates them. I don’t care if you’re the worldwide leader of squat, or if you have multi-continent clients that span vertical and whatever industries.

Understand that if I know my job and know it well, I can pick and choose jobs because I bring immense value to whoever hires me. Don’t tell me that’s not important by focusing on what I should expect in salary or compensation, on how great you are by winning that award nobody heard of, or how how important it is for me to be motivated by personal growth or a great team.

Note: I hate people. Really. I get extremely exhausted by having to deal with anyone in person. It’s a condition called introversion. Look it up. Telling me I’m going to work with awesome people means you’re also telling me what kind of people I like. I don’t.

Skip telling me what I want and instead focus on what you want. I know far better than you what I want and you know far better than me what you want. If you swap these around, you have the wrong person defining the requirements and that means you get the wrong product or service from your candidates.

Think You Know Better?

Fire away in the comments below. Feel free to include your success stories breaking these three rules, though.

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