Evaluating Alternative Credentials in IT Recruitment

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Alternative credentials like coding boot camps and professional certifications are gaining traction during IT recruitment. They offer a practical and efficient route to acquiring in-demand skills. Assessing these credentials effectively involves understanding their rigor, relevance, and alignment with the specific needs of the role. Let’s explore how to evaluate them together. Join us below.

Employer reviewing resume during interview process with alternative credentials

In today’s rapidly evolving tech landscape, the traditional path to a career in IT—earning a four-year degree—no longer holds a monopoly on proving expertise. With the rise of alternative credentials such as boot camps, online courses, and industry certifications, IT recruitment is undergoing a significant transformation.

As companies strive to keep pace with technological advancements and fill critical roles, understanding and evaluating these alternative credentials becomes essential. Let’s delve into emerging trends, benefits, and challenges of incorporating non-traditional qualifications into IT recruitment strategies, offering insights for both employers and job seekers navigating this dynamic field.

What is an alternative credential?

Let’s explain what is an alternative credential. An alternative credential is a form of certification or qualification that differs from traditional academic degrees, such as diplomas or university degrees. These credentials are often shorter-term, focused on specific skills or knowledge areas, and are designed to meet the needs of modern learners and employers.

Examples include:

  • micro-credentials,
  • digital badges,
  • professional certifications,
  • and boot camp completion certificates.

Various institutions, including online platforms, industry associations, and professional organizations, offer them. They are delivered to provide practical job-relevant skills that can be immediately applied in the workplace.

Alternative credentials have gained popularity due to their flexibility, affordability, and ability to quickly adapt to the job market’s evolving demands.

Do employers recognize alternative credentials?

So unfortunately with alternative credentials, some hiring managers especially in the IT industry are skeptical. Many are still looking for a college degree which is a good starting point. Even their automated applicant tracking systems are set up to find job seekers who went to university.

In some cases, human resource management fails to recognize that alternative credentials bring value to the workplace. They prefer college degrees as opposed to looking at a wider spectrum and getting even more diverse candidates in the workplace.

Why are many employers still skeptical about alternative credentials in IT?

There are a few reasons why many employers are still skeptical about alternative credentials in the IT industry. Some of these reasons include:

  1. One major concern about HR professionals is they are not sure what skills were gained when a candidate presents alternative credentials. They are unsure how to evaluate candidates that have alternative credentials.
  2. Another concern is there are major variations among these credentials. There could be for example over 1 million credentials for job candidates to earn. During the hiring process, the manager would need to know the exact specifications of the credentials. Furthermore, they would need access to things like exam results, the quality of the course, and the validity of the institution that issued it.
  3. Employers may perceive that candidates with traditional degrees are better prepared for the workplace regarding soft skills, such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving. These are often emphasized in a college environment. Alternative credential programs might focus more on technical skills, potentially neglecting these crucial soft skills.
  4. There is often a bias towards traditional educational paths because they are familiar and have been the norm for decades. Employers may have established relationships with universities and trust their graduates, making them less inclined to consider alternative credentials.

Despite these concerns, it’s worth noting that some employers are increasingly recognizing the value of alternative credentials, especially as the demand for IT professionals grows and the landscape of education and skill acquisition evolves. However, widespread acceptance and trust in these credentials will require ongoing efforts to address these skepticism factors.

Using wax seal for graduation diploma certificate

Types of Credentials

Let’s go over some of the various types of credentials that exist. Some of these include academic and professional licenses, work experience, and digital credentials. Dive into more details about each of these below.

Academic Credentials

We have academic credentials which most employment opportunities require, this is typically a college degree. These academic credentials can be at varying scales from a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or even a PhD. It depends on what career you are looking to go into and what field.

A bachelor’s degree typically requires four years of study in a specific field and provides a foundational level of knowledge and skills. For more advanced expertise, individuals may pursue a master’s degree, usually taking an additional two years, which allows for specialization and a deeper understanding of their chosen discipline.

At the pinnacle of academic achievement is the PhD, or doctoral degree, which involves several years of original research culminating in a dissertation that contributes new knowledge to the field. The specific credential required often depends on the career aspirations and the demands of the industry.

Professional Licenses and Certifications

In the IT industry, professional licenses and certifications are crucial credentials that validate an individual’s expertise and proficiency in specific technologies, methodologies, and practices. Unlike academic degrees, these certifications are often issued by industry-recognized organizations and vendors such as:

  • CompTIA,
  • Cisco,
  • Microsoft,
  • and AWS. 

Examples include CompTIA’s A+ and Security+ certifications, Cisco’s CCNA and CCNP, and Microsoft’s Azure certifications. These credentials are typically obtained by passing rigorous exams that test knowledge and practical skills in areas like network administration, cybersecurity, cloud computing, and software development.

Certifications must often be renewed periodically to ensure that professionals remain current with evolving technologies and industry standards. By acquiring these certifications, IT professionals can enhance their employability. Furthermore, they can demonstrate commitment to their field and often achieve higher earning potential and career advancement opportunities.

Woman working in recruitment who support alternative credentials

Work Experience and Testimonials

Another type of credential is work experience and testimonials. Most employers seek employees with a certain level of experience. Furthermore, they often prioritize candidates who possess a certain level of professional experience, as it demonstrates the applicant’s ability to perform job-specific tasks and adapt to the workplace environment.

However, there are entry-level positions that may enable you to gain experience, without any prior employment history. These roles offer a valuable opportunity to gain hands-on experience and develop essential skills, thus serving as a stepping stone for career advancement.

When it comes to testimonials, this usually comes in the form of a work reference, character reference, or even a reference from a schooling institution. References provide potential employers with insights into the candidate’s reliability, work ethic, and interpersonal skills. These references are typically done via phone call but in some cases, it can be done as a letter. Both formats offer prospective employers a third-party perspective on the candidate’s capabilities and suitability for the role, thereby enhancing the overall credibility of the applicant.

Digital credentials

Another type of credential is digital credentials. Digital credentials are electronic versions of traditional paper-based credentials, such as diplomas, certificates, and badges. They serve as proof of an individual’s qualifications, skills, or achievements in various contexts.

Some key features of digital credentials include:

  • They are highly portable, you can store them online and on mobile devices
  • Are designed to be easily verifiable through digital means, often involving secure technologies such as blockchain to ensure authenticity and prevent fraud
  • Also, they can represent a wide range of achievements, from completing a single course to earning a degree.

These types of credentials are efficient, and accessible and provide a detailed level of information about the qualifications and skills earned. Some challenges of these credentials especially from the employer’s end include trying to standardize these qualifications. Also, not all employers want to accept these types of credentials. And finally for the employee ensuring the privacy and security of digital credentials is crucial, particularly in preventing unauthorized access or misuse.

Digital credentials are becoming increasingly important in a digital-first world, facilitating a more efficient, transparent, and secure way of recognizing and verifying individual achievements.

How do you evaluate alternative credentials in IT recruitment?

Many employers struggle with how to evaluate alternative credentials presented by a potential candidate during the recruitment process.

Create ranked lists of credentials

One thing that you may consider doing is creating a list of credentials that you as an employer accept and have verified. This will help you narrow down candidates when looking for someone to fill the employee slot. The list may include various non-traditional qualifications such as online certificates, digital badges, micro-degrees, and industry-specific training programs from reputable providers.

Having a well-defined catalog of accepted credentials can streamline your recruitment process by providing clear criteria for evaluating applicants. Furthermore, publicizing this list within your job postings and internal guidelines clarifies expectations for potential candidates, thereby attracting individuals whose skills align with your organization’s needs.

This approach not only broadens your talent pool but also enhances the credibility and relevance of alternative credentials in your hiring strategy.

Young woman working at home looking through job descriptions

Include screening criteria in your job descriptions

You should also include screening criteria in your job descriptions. Let candidates know what skills, knowledge, and experience they should have to be considered for the role. You should make it clear what credentials you are looking for whether that be academic, digital, or other. Also, try to separate must-have and nice-to-have skills, experience, etc. Not every skill is needed, some are just helpful occasionally and some of them can be taught.

Solicit feedback from applicants

During your recruitment process consider gaining feedback from applicants to see what can be improved. It’s invaluable to solicit feedback from applicants to gain insights into potential areas for improvement. By actively seeking input from candidates, you demonstrate a commitment to enhancing the recruitment experience and fostering a culture of continuous improvement within your organization.

This feedback loop not only allows you to address any shortcomings in your process but also provides valuable perspectives that can help refine your approach and attract top talent more effectively. Encouraging open communication with applicants can lead to a more transparent and engaging recruitment process. Ultimately, benefiting both your organization and future candidates.

Test your applicant tracking system

You should test out your automated systems that track applicant submissions, to see if they are picking up on the right CVs. You don’t want your tracking system to miss certain keywords and then you might miss out on possible suitable candidates. This can be particularly problematic if your ATS doesn’t recognize emerging terminologies or unconventional formats used in alternative credentials.

So, you want to make sure that you include any alternative credentials that you are looking for so that you can track these types of candidates. It’s crucial to update the system’s keyword algorithms and filters regularly. To encompass the latest industry-specific skills, certifications, and alternative qualifications you seek.

Moreover, conducting periodic audits of the system’s performance can help identify gaps. Thus ensuring that the system aligns with the evolving criteria of your talent acquisition strategy. By fine-tuning these systems, you enhance their ability to capture a broader and more diverse talent pool. Including those with non-traditional yet valuable qualifications.

Business people talking about job market needs and how to hire current and prospective students

Get everyone on the same page

Train your HR professionals and hiring managers, on what they should look for and how the candidate assessment should run. This way you have a more standardized interview process, which increases your chances of hiring the right person for the job. Also, if you are looking for specific alternative credentials let your HR management know. This way they are not overlooking them but are welcome during the process.

Show the value of alternative credentials to existing staff

You should also consider showing the value of alternative credentials to your workplace. Despite their growing prevalence and acceptance, alternative credentials—such as online certificates, micro-degrees, and digital badges—often face skepticism from both employees and employers who have become use to traditional qualifications.

This skepticism can stem from a lack of understanding about the rigorous training and up-to-date knowledge these credentials represent. By showcasing how these credentials enhance specific skills, keep employees abreast of industry trends. It often involves cutting-edge content delivered by reputable institutions, you can help bridge this perception gap.

Emphasize that alternative credentials provide a practical, flexible learning pathway that complements traditional education and directly addresses the needs of today’s rapidly evolving job market. Highlighting success stories and case studies where such credentials have led to tangible benefits in the workplace. Benefits such as increased productivity, innovation, or career advancement. This can further validate their worth and encourage broader acceptance.

Education diploma certificate on office desk. One of many alternative credentials out there

TL;DR: Summarising evaluating alternative credentials in IT recruitment

In the evolving landscape of IT recruitment, alternative credentials—such as certifications, boot camp diplomas, and micro-credentials—are reshaping how we identify top talent. These credentials offer a way to recognize expertise outside of traditional academic degrees. Thus, capturing a candidate’s practical skills and up-to-date knowledge in a fast-paced industry.

To effectively evaluate alternative credentials in your recruitment process:

  • Create ranked lists of credentials: Develop a hierarchy of valuable alternative credentials to streamline your candidate assessment.
  • Include screening criteria in your job descriptions. Specify which alternative credentials you value in your job postings to attract qualified applicants.
  • Solicit feedback from applicants: Gather input on the application process to refine how you assess alternative credentials.
  • Test your applicant tracking system: Ensure your ATS can recognize and sort alternative credentials efficiently.
  • Get everyone on the same page: Educate your team about the importance and benefits of alternative credentials.
  • Show the value of alternative credentials to existing staff. Highlight how these credentials enhance team capabilities and align with organizational goals.

Ready to enhance your IT recruitment strategy? Leverage IT staff augmentation to hire developers who possess alternative credentials that boost their expertise.

Drop us a line to find the right talent that meets your needs and drives your projects forward. Let’s elevate your team with skilled professionals who bring both traditional and alternative qualifications to the table!

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