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Putting Your Certs to Work on the Job Hunt

IT recruiters don't automatically know what your IT certification signifies - It's up to you to tell them! How can you do it?

 "HR resume screening professionals may not understand what MCSE: Private Cloud means"

It’s always surprising to me when I’m asked to review cover letters and resumes for prospective IT job applicants how many of them think a laundry list of their cert credentials is all they need to document to ensure deep and thorough consideration during the job search and application processes. This consternation goes double when that’s all the information that job seekers provide about their technical credentials when they post resumes to Web sites such as Dice, Monster, Indeed, and so forth.

Guess what, folks? A simple recitation of acronyms isn’t enough, and is especially opaque on job posting and indexing sites where keyword searches may not always include certification acronyms but will often include keywords that you have every right to associate with your certifications. That’s why it’s a great idea to include a keyword-rich summary statement along with a certification acronym in either or both of your resume and cover letter. Thus instead of simply writing “MCSE: Private Cloud,” you might instead write “MCSE: Private Cloud (Windows Server 2012/2008 R2, System Center 2012, Active Directory, Windows Desktop Optimization Package (MDOP), Hyper-V versions 2 and 3, desktop virtualization, server virtualization, application virtualization).” To those already in the know, these two different versions are more or less synonymous, but to keyword search tools, or in the eyes of HR resume screening professionals who may not understand what MCSE: Private Cloud means, there is not only a big difference, but also a potentially huge alteration in the outcome based on viewing the short version versus the longer one that follows it.

But wait, there’s more: When it comes to penning a powerful cover letter, you’ll go beyond these keywords and search terms to explain what your certifications enable you to do, what kinds of solutions you’ve crafted, problems solved, and issues resolved. The idea is to tell prospective employers what you know and what you can do, as well as to recite various lists of things to which you’ve been exposed as part of earning some credential or another. Thus, in your cover letter when writing about the MSCE: Private Cloud, you might also add language of this kind to shed some light on your particular and specific skills, knowledge and experience: “Used Windows Server 2012, System Center 2012, and Hyper-V v3 to set up a virtual server farm environment for departmental use in my company, along with virtualized Windows 7 desktops to enable departmental users to access related services and applications. This consisted of creating a generic Windows Server 2012 image to support up to 90 simultaneous users per instance, along with customized images to incorporate line of business applications for the operations, HR, and finance departments. We used System Center 2012 to coordinate basic configuration and deployment of server images for these groups, and made desktop images available to their users to permit them to utilize their tools and applications in the office and remotely on company laptop and tablet PCs. We also integrated access controls with Active Directory in our data center to keep local and remote access secure. Our virtualization project enabled us to reduce our total server count by 35%, while maintaining agreed-upon service levels for departmental users.”

You can’t really write a book about your day-to-day learning and technical activities, but you can provide the search engines and HR professionals with lots of hits for skills and knowledge they want, while also laying the groundwork for a good interview with more substance in your cover letter. The more useful information you can provide in your resume and cover letter, the more likely it is that your materials will match somebody’s selection criteria – whether manual or automated – and keep you in consideration for open positions as the winnowing and selection processes grind their way to conclusion.

Good luck with your next job search, and see if these suggestions don’t help!

Ed Tittel

About the Author

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran who's worked as a software developer, technical marketer, consultant, author, and researcher. Author of many books and articles, best known as developer of "Exam Cram" IT cert prep book series. Ed blogs on certification topics for TechTarget, Tom’s IT Pro, and PearsonITCertification.com, or you can check out his website at www.edtittel.com.