The candidate experience in certification is getting better
Professional certifications are in high demand. As employers in various industries seek to cope with innovation-driven change within the business functions of their organizations, the most important advantage is a top caliber workforce. Acquiring, nurturing and retaining trained talent in a globally competitive world will determine whether companies thrive or die.
Certifications lend a stamp of approbation, building confidence among certified individuals that they can be placed into a better job, whether within or outside their current organization. Certifications also assure an employer that the certified individual can hit the ground running, with all of the knowledge and skills required to execute business processes.
From a candidate's perspective, however, the experience of acquiring a certification can be a daunting one.
First there is the decision that has to be made as to which certifications are appropriate. The need to acquire some high-stakes professional certifications, like a CPA or CFA, from a recognized and respected independent body is obvious. There are many other credentials, however, that are vendor-centric and are too specialized, and do not necessarily provide job mobility. Moreover, the authenticity and validity of some of these certifications may be questionable.
One of the key requirements of any modern job is being able to do work with what you know, rather than just knowing it. Certifications that train you to do a job, and test your ability to do that job based on what you've learned, are definitely the ones that employers value most.
The second decision that a candidate has to make is to find a good training program that will prepare him or her to take and pass the targeted certification test. It is not always obvious who gives the best training; whether such trainers are accredited, or whether there are any training standards that they need to follow. The value of such training will be determined by it being web-based, virtual, interactive and hands-on, or purely lecture-based. The cost, time and place for such training will also factor into this decision.
Certainly any hands-on, web-based training that teaches you to apply your knowledge will be the more valuable choice. Training that is rendered virtually through video/audio should also be interactive with in-stream assessments that test the assimilation of knowledge every so often throughout the learning process, so that you can review the content as needed, and adjust the pace of the training program to your liking. Also look for quality content designed through exhaustive industry-backed processes, with benchmark reporting.
The final experience that the candidate goes through is the certification test itself. Most certificate program tests have followed the same format for years (e.g. multiple-choice questions), which doesn't really �test' what a candidate can do with what they know. At best, answers can be rote-learned. Such certification tests do a disservice to candidates while providing no relevant benefit to employers. The recent controversial examples of a 5-year old passing the Microsoft certification, and a 12-year old passing a CompTIA certification bear that out. Look for certification tests that provide simulated hands-on assessments, performance-based testing, and critical thinking skills assessments.
There is a move for certification tests to be conducted on-line so that more people have access to such tests without the need to go to a test center. This also expands the market for certifications, while reducing the cost of test centers. In a computer-based testing environment, the candidate will be asked to register and schedule the test on-line, and on the test date will be asked to verify their identity in a secure manner.
To increase the integrity of the test, the candidate may also be proctored online through a camera on the computing device and a locked-down browser experience. There are also now new machine-learning algorithms being built to detect any cheating activity.
With all of these improvements, we're seeing the dawning of a new day for certifications that will make certifications even more relevant to both the candidate and the employer.