Informing the HR Hiring Decision of IT Personnel: The HR Professional's View of IT Certification, Education, & Experience

By Anderson, John E.; Barrett, Kevin S. et al. | Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline, Annual 2005 | Go to article overview

Informing the HR Hiring Decision of IT Personnel: The HR Professional's View of IT Certification, Education, & Experience


Anderson, John E., Barrett, Kevin S., Schwager, Paul H., Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline


Introduction

The information technology (IT) environment is one of rapid dynamic change, driven by new and evolving technologies. Consequently, IT professionals face an incessant need to keep their skill portfolios marketable. Certification is a useful tool for enhancing and validating IT professionals' skill portfolios and can play an important key role in the hiring process. Although the certification perspectives of IT professionals and managers have been studied in the past (Computing Technology Industry Association [CompTIA], 2001), the perspective of Human Resource (HR) professionals has been neglected. Because they are organizational gatekeepers, the certification viewpoint of HR professionals is extremely important and worthy of study. This study represents an initial step in that direction. This is exemplified by a recent Computerworld interview with IT Analyst Jonathan Eunice:

   While employers want to hire only qualified workers, certification
   isn't typically a prerequisite because it doesn't always guarantee
   that the applicant has the necessary skills. "It's a nice proxy"
   though, he said "It does give people an additional feeling of
   confidence" when hiring. (Weiss, 2004)

IT Certification Literature Review

Certification is often viewed as the practice whereby an individual demonstrates a minimal level of competence through successful completion of a sampling-performance measurement tool based on a profession's set of standards (Mulkey & Naughton, 2005). As a practical matter, certification is pervasive in the IT field with over 1.65 million individuals having earned over 2.5 million IT certifications worldwide (Adelman, 2001). This certification activity suggests that there is a market for the knowledge and skills associated with those certifications (CRN Staff, 2004 Noack, 2001; Ray & McKoy, 2000). Cohen argues that the importance of certification will only increase in the future because of its employee and organizational benefits (D. Cohen, 2001). Indeed, as the economy evolves, new opportunities will arise outside of traditional areas that will promote the need for new certifications to address the complex issues associated with emerging markets (Braun, Mauldin, & Fischer, 2001; N. Cohen, 2000; Freir, 2001; Jiang, 1994).

Some researchers suggests that IT certification is a likely catalyst for facilitating the IT field's transformation into a "profession" with its accompanying generally accepted standards for requisite training, codes of ethics, and sanctions for unprofessional behavior (Linderman & Schiano, 2001; Maier, Greer, & Clark, 2002). They also suggest that certification is of value to certified professionals and those that interact with them. Certified professionals enjoy these commonly cited certification benefits: 1) enhanced profession credibility, knowledge, expertise, and development, and 2) improved compensation, productivity, and career opportunities (Barber& Brackner, 2001; Barry, 2001; N. Cohen, 2000; CompTIA, 2001; Freir, 2001; Hrisak, 2001; Precipe, 2000; Ray & McKoy, 2000; Schroeder & Reichardt, 2001; Williamson, 1997). Business managers believe that certified professionals enhance their organizations': 1) ability to attract and retain highly qualified staff; 2) credibility; 3) competitive advantage; 4) level and consistency of service, and 5) productivity (Ray & McKoy, 2000). They also believe that certification is a reliable measure of applicants' knowledge, skills, attitudes, and commitment to the industry. Thus, certification serves as a useful job-ad criterion and a prescreening heuristic for potential quality, reliability, and productivity (Cappel, 2001-2002; Edwards, 2004; Jiang, 1994; Maier et al., 2002; Pierson, Frolick, & Chen, 2001; Precipe, 2000; Schrage, 2004; Williamson, 1997; Zhao, 2002).

On the other hand, some researchers argue that certification proliferation causes confusion for: 1) consumers who are unfamiliar with a particular certification and its level of prestige, and 2) employers who must sort through an increasing number of certified applicants during economic downswings (Braun et al. …

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