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Advice on Certification

Mark Herschberg

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
I've seen this question listed in a number of threads, so decided to post a general comment on it.

I've done quite a bit of hiring at my current company and last company (I was even the HR director for a while in the early days of my current company :-).
I don't place much weight on certification. It's just a hoop people jump through. I know good programmers that don't have it, and bad programmers who do. During my interview process I can usually tell if they know Java or not based on my questions, not their resume.
I think the certification has two uses. First, if you are a new programmer, it may carry some weight.We hire a lot of guys out of top universities. Frankly I don't care if their certified, I know they're smart and have a CS background. If you don't, if you're self taught and or have little or no experience, than it's an extra point for you, but at mst it might get your resume looked at, or get you a frst interview.
Consulting may be a different story. Resumes from people with consulting backgrounds tend to be "flashier." Certifications often do stand out.
On that note, I've seen some pretty flashy resumes with little substance. Often, I'm suspicious of the one with 2-3 years experience and dozens of buzzwords (e.g. jdbc, jsp, servlets, ejb). I found more often than not, those people really only briefly know the topic ("well, we used XML on my project, and even though I didn't write any, my code worked with some that did").

Ultimately, this is just my opinion. I am, first and foremost, a software engineer, and so maybe I don't think like a HR person. So don't take this as gospel.
Travis Gibson
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 17, 2000
Posts: 100
In think you are 100% correct. I recently had an Jr. Java Developer interview I encounter questions not really pertaining to syntax(i.e. what is learned for SCJP) but instead on possible solutions to a problem.
Example: How you go about designing a application which would require you to login in a user. Then track the user's request. Then send an e-mails to our specific departments when user is finished requesting based on request type.
It kind of threw me for a loop. When I got a chance to sit down and research(and actually develop some possible solutions) it became a lot clearer. Because I wasn't real familiar with session tracking I suggested setting request header parameters to track the user's request(which can be done but is very tedious).
But I should have suggested either the use of cookies(i.e. similar to the shopping cart desgin) or the preferred way would have been to use HttpSession to track info on user.
You live and you learn. I'm in the process right now of coding a prototype soultion for the problem above. When I'm done I will put it on my Server and send the people I interviewed with the URL. Maybe they will bite, maybe not but at least I'll know that I could do it.
My .02,
Travis M. Gibson

Regards,<BR>Travis M. Gibson, SCJP<BR>Java Developer<BR><BR>
Liz Stanley

Joined: Aug 12, 2000
Posts: 16
I think a lot of times it's the recruiters who put those buzzwords in big, bold letters up at the top of resumes. Most of the people I've interviewed have only read about EJBs or done a few examples, and can only give me textbook answers when questioned about them.
I had one guy who had EJB plastered all over his resume, but when push came to shove he said he had "lead a team to investigate the use of EJBs." Translation: he told someone else to read about them.
It's amazing how many people out there claim to have been coding Java for years yet can't answer *simple* technical questions. That's why the job market is so tight... which is good for me, I suppose. :-)


Michael Finney
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 25, 1999
Posts: 508
I do not perceive the market at tight.
As long as you understand what is required of the person getting certified, I respect your decision to not put much weight on certification.
However, I view certification as a gift from the industry. Let's face it. A lot of companies would like a standard test given to people they may want to hire. However, giving out a fair test is hard. Sun and others put it on their shoulders to make fair tests. Without certification, I would get more questions which may or may not be of a high quality.
I fought against certification and to make my arguments effective, I learned all I could about them. That led me to get Developer and Programmer certified!

Michael Finney - "Always Striving To Serve You Better Every Day"
Simon Xu
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 16, 2000
Posts: 235
I aggree with Michael.
At least, certification could prove us fast-learning. Image, good students in university usually pass exam with high mark, while others may struggle to just pass it. And also, we in fact learned a lot during the preparation of exam.
Mark Herschberg

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Don't misunderstand me. I can appreciate the benefits of standardization. However, Java Certification suffers from the same problems as the SATs.
Specificaly to the Java exam, I don't feel it covers a lot of "daily knowledge," i.e. what most programmers do day in/day out. As I said, it's useful for beginning programmers, because it tells me they didn't just read a book and list Java as a buzzword. However, for anyone with 2+ years experience, I care only about what they've worked on, not their exams. I can usually get a good sense of someone's Java skills within about 15-20 minutes. But having your own set of interview questions, you can establish some baslines by which to judge people. (Of course, it took me a while to get questions for all skill levels--in fact, I can stand to use some more in my arsenal.)
I disagree with the idea that passing the exam says the person is "fast-learning." With all the crash course books and courses out there, all it says to me is that they can regurgitate the information. Again, this is fine if you want to be sure they understand basic Java. But I don't take the test to mean anything more.
True, fundamental programming goes beyond the language. Its funny that so many students out of school tell me "I really want to do design"--and yet they have no experience is making large scale designs (or even scales bigger than 10,000 lines of code). I've yet to see a good test for this. In fairness, of course, its hard to make of test for this set of skills.
Rob Ward

Joined: Dec 14, 2000
Posts: 8
Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
I can usually get a good sense of someone's Java skills within about 15-20 minutes. But having your own set of interview questions, you can establish some baslines by which to judge people. (Of course, it took me a while to get questions for all skill levels--in fact, I can stand to use some more in my arsenal.)

I'm curious, could you share some of these questions with us? I'd like to see how well I do, given my Java experience!

Rob Ward<BR> <A HREF="" rel="nofollow"></A> <P><I>"Maths and alcohol do not mix. Remember, don't drink and derive"</I>
I agree. Here's the link:
subject: Advice on Certification
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