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eaglescout avatar image
eaglescout asked

Credibility of Microsoft Certifications?

Hi All, I've been an ETL assistant for about the past 2 years now. I am quickly learned the basic of using T-SQL, SSIS, and other various Microsoft tools (like Access). I am liking this field of work and possibly want to continue on this career path through college and couple of years after I get out of college. I've met several ETL specialists and DBA's and none of which spoke positively about Microsoft Certifications. So, for those of you have attempted or even have any of the Microsoft Certifications, here are my questions: 1. Are they credible to employers? 2. Because of the fast pace changes in the IT world, is it worth getting certified on a specific area? 3. What are the major Pros and Cons of spending money to obtain a Microsoft Certification? ALL opinions are welcome! Thank You **Additional Questions:** Thank you all for the insight guys, I appreciate it. This is an important topic especially for young SQL newbies like myself and it’s even more important to hear from experts like yourself who have interviewed and hired people in this line of work. If none of you mined it, I have another question! When you were and have hired DBA’s, ETL Specialists, etc., what are key skills and characteristics did you most noticed as “WOW” I want that guy on my team? Thank you again!
ssisdbaetlcertification
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Looks like Tim is ahead on votes, go ahead and give him the win. He's more positive about it anyway and should be appropriately rewarded.
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Thank you guys again! I appreciate the honest opinions. Not quite sure how to mark this post as “Answered”… great insight from all of you and I don’t want to cheat any one of you out of a great answer.
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Tim avatar image
Tim answered
It really all depends on the person hiring. I am an IT Manager and having someone that has the years of experience plus the certifications lets me know they value their career and continuing to educate themselves. Passing the test to earn the certs is not an easy task if you do it the right way. If I am interviewing someone that has zero experience and loads of certs, I typically pass them right over. All they have done is study or use exam crams to pass a test. Someone with 2-5 years experience with the certs shows discipline. Although IT is constantly changing, look at all the folks with SQL 2005/2008 certs that are many years old and how many shops still support 2005. The certs are good for a long while. I don't rush out and take the latest and greatest exams, I typically renew every other release, part of that reason for me is the nearest testing center is 90 miles away. Pro's, it could give you an edge to get a new job or raise where you are at. Con, I really don't think there is one.
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The example is someone I hired a about 2 years back. Was a newbie to SQL Server. Came to the field from a .Net background. I asked him to explain his role as a day to day DBA. He explained that he setup maintenance plans for the SQL servers to do backups, index optimizations, etc. I asked him to share with me the options he chose and why. Well he chose to 'auto shrink' the databases. Instead of commenting then I let him proceed. At the end of the call I told him we would do a Q/A session, there isn't a pass or fail, just a series of questions to judge his knowledge. Question #2 was what are the few reasons why you would shrink a data file and why should you never automate shrinking a data file. The candidate was quite for a few seconds and said, "Well sir, I don't know the answer to that. I would be very grateful if you could share those reasons with me and what I need to do to correct any issues I have caused by turning that on in the maintenance plan". This showed aptitude, willingness to learn, and a desire to do the right thing. I offered him the job on the spot. For me the wow factor is aptitude and hunger. I can teach some SQL, I can't teach them personality and drive.
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I have a perfect example. I believe I shared this with Grant and others in Atlanta at SQL Sat 111. I have literally interviewed hundreds of candidates. Certs do not give them any more credibility than those who don't have them, but I do appreciate seeing someone with a few years experience going above and beyond to get certified. What wow's me are the candidates that can back up what they say on their resume. I challenge them with real world questions, "What would you do if abc or xyz happened". I like to know how they operate, not that they can answer trivia questions.
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Please see my original post for an additional questions. Thanks!
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Grant Fritchey avatar image
Grant Fritchey answered
I'm not currently in a position for hiring DBAs, but I was for the previous 15 years. During that time, I noticed a distinct pattern. I saw, literally, thousands of resumes. I participated in hundreds of interviews. The majority that had MS Certifications prominently displayed on them came from people who generally were not as good at the job as people who either didn't have them at all, or listed them down at the bottom of a two page resume, after all their experience, training and knowledge was explained. It got to the point where, if I saw certs, I made sure to question everything on the resume a little harder because frequently the knowledge and experienced claimed wasn't what it appeared to be. In short, except for the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM), I have very little faith in Microsoft Certifications. I would rather see that you participate in a forum like this answering questions, blog about your experiences, write articles for SQL Server Central, anything rather than rely on passing what amounts to a marketing trivia test. And yes, I know my opinion on the matter is a little more harsh than most you'll meet, but it is based on all those people I had to talk to who usually couldn't explain the difference between a clustered index and a non-clustered one or tell me the difference between blocking and deadlocking.
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Please see my original post for an additional questions. Thanks!
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Hard to say. I can't say that I've had that experience. Instead, I've had "Wow, I want to work for/with that person." Usually when talking about people like Paul & Kim, Brian Knight, etc. As to hiring people, I get the most excited by the ones who can actually talk like their resume sounds. So many people have resumes that describe how they helped Codd understand relational theory, but a fundamental select statement is beyond them. Just say what you know and then actually know that.
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@grant fritchey, agree with you all parts. The only sure fire way to know someone knows their stuff on a resume is if they have the MCM. Regular certs mean you can pass the test. I do like to see that someone with 3+ years cares enough to get certified to try to help them along the way. I don't assume they know more or less, but from a general give a darn factor to better themselves it helps to show initiative. To many times I have been given a resume of someone stating 8+ years experience from a recruiter and the person can't explain the difference between a clustered or non clustered index, don't know the first thing about instance configuration items, tuning, etc. All they know is to restart failed jobs and how to execute existing queries. God forbid they are still referring to SSMS as Enterprise Manager.
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My experience, though much more limited, matches that of @Grant Fritchey. When I hire, certification is strike 1
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@kenJ, would it be a strike if they have several years experience too? No experience and loads of certs yes, but work experience and certs a strike?
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TimothyAWiseman answered
If I may respectfully disagree with both the other Tim and Grant, I have different experiences. **Why I like certifications....** When I was looking for my first SQL Job, I was very openly told by more than one company I interviewed with that my certifications were a factor in getting the interview, and the company that did hire me in the end paid for me to get additional certifications while I worked there. Later, when I was screening resumes and doing interviews for entry level positions I always valued certifications and gave those with the certifications a second look before I put them aside. During the interviews, those with certifications could normally demonstrate at least a basic understanding of SQL and the subject matter which meant I wasn't entirely wasting my time with them. **But only for entry level...** So, in short, my experience with certifications on both sides of the hiring table has been generally positive. But let me add some caveats. The certifications helped me when I was entry level and the positions I was conducting interviews for were entry level or just one step up. Now that I have more experience, I still keep my certifications on the resume but they are just a couple more bullet points towards the bottom rather than something I highlight the way I used to. I have not yet been in a position to hire senior people, but if I were I think the certifications would not be a major factor. Unlike Grant, I don't think I would ever see them as a negative. They show that the person knows the basics and they show that they are willing to take the trouble to get the cert, and I think I will always consider that a positive. But for someone with years of experience that can tell stories of projects they have led, the certification is a very minor factor. **Conclusion** I think the fact you have three wildly different answers here hints that people have different views. As the other Tim said, it depends a lot on the hiring manager. But I think my bottom line is that for entry level people they can be helpful. I had them when I was starting out and I like to see them when I am reviewing new entry level resumes. But once you have real experience they fade in relevance.
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@TimothyAWiseman. Love the additional view and I feel much the same way. I probably should have elaborated more on the entry level aspect. My comment about someone with zero experience and loads of certs if from experience having multiple resumes presented by an agency of people that never had a SQL job, but had their MCITP in 2008 admin and Dev. They couldn't answer basic questions proving all they did was getting answer dumps and passing the test. I believe most folks deserve a chance, but I don't need a professional test taker on my payroll. Someone with an MCTS that studied hard for it and looking for break with a great attitude and aptitude, please please please get me that persons resume and them be willing to relocate to my town. Good help is hard to find. Let me find anyone that participates in forums, knows about PASS, participates in the community, I will ask to adopt them.
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This is exactly the sort of conversations I was hoping to hear from different experts in their fields. As you mentioned @TimothyAWiseman, the opinions are different and that is exactly what makes them more interesting to read and discuss. THANKS FOR SHARING!
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