With the rise of online learning, there's no shortage of classes you can take that offer you a certification in a particular trade, skill, or software program. But outside of positions that require certifications — pilots, emergency medical technicians, and insurance agents, for example — do any of these make a real difference in a job application? We reached out to recruiters and HR professionals to get the answer.
The consensus: Certifications certainly can make a difference, but not all certifications are created equal. Below are some of the ones that recruiters say actually move the needle in their decision to hire a candidate.
1. Human Resources Certifications (PHR, SPHR, SHRM)
While not a requirement, many recruiters agree that job seekers in the HR field can benefit greatly from professional certifications.
“If I'm hunting for an HR professional, I'll want to be sure they have certification from SHRM,” says Laura Handrick, Senior Workplace and Careers Analyst at Fit Small Business.
“I am going to be more interested in seeing certifications (or formal degrees) related directly to their career progression (e.g., PHR, SPHR for Human Resources),” adds Dawn D. Boyer, CEO of D. Boyer Consulting.
2. Project Management Certifications (PMP)
“Anyone can claim to have the leadership and organizational skills of a Project Manager, but a certification in this field really adds value to a candidate's resume," says Ashley Riedesel, Technical Recruiter at OakTree Staffing & Training.
“Employers love to see this since employees with the PMP certification tend to have a more sophisticated approach to taking projects from inception through to completion across different methodologies,” adds Bryant Vargas, Director of Recruiting, Information Technology at Atlas Search.
Bonus: While this certification is especially helpful if you're hunting for jobs in the Project Management field, the knowledge you gain can also be broadly applied to other fields at the manager and leadership level.
3. Sales Certifications (Challenger Sales, Spin Selling, Sandler Training)
“Selling skills are often gained from experience, but candidates can stand out by including formal training or certification from a well-known sales philosophy on their resumes. A few examples: MEDDIC, Challenger Sales, Spin Selling, Sandler Training, etc.,” says Jordan Wan, Founder & CEO of CloserIQ. “This shows the candidate has the discipline to back up their raw skills with learnings from sales experts to improve their selling ability.”
4. Help Desk/Desktop Analyst Certifications (A+, Network+)
A caveat here: recruiters say these certifications aren’t quite as impressive for more senior roles, but if you’re in an entry-level position, they can help your resume stand out.
“An A+ cert looks great for a lower-level position like help desk or desktop. It’s a really good starting point and will definitely help you find your footing in the IT industry,” says Chase Wagner, Technical Recruiter at OakTree Staffing & Training.
Recruiters may also like to see Network+ certifications, says Senior Technical Recruiter Kamron Cox, also of OakTree Staffing & Training. “These are easier to get but do look good for those types of roles,” Cox shares.
5. Network Certifications (CCNA, CCNP, CCIE)
If you want to be a network engineer or admin, Cisco offers a variety of certifications that can boost your application.
“A good network engineer/admin typically would have a CCNA or CCNP, and for the heavy hitters, you’re looking at different levels within CCIE,” Cox says.
The CCIE in particular “is a series of the highest level of Cisco Certifications offered for Network Infrastructure Leaders who design, build and implement enterprise networking systems,” Vargas says. “Candidates must first pass a written exam and then pass a hands-on lab exam. When employers see that you’ve dedicated yourself to passing the written and lab portion of their CCIE it shows not only subject matter expertise, but also dedication and perseverance.”
From sales to marketing to customer service and more, many departments in a corporate setting rely on customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, and Salesforce is one of the most popular choices.
“It’s like the Google of CRM systems… most everyone uses [it],” says Wes Lieser, Executive Recruiter & Practice Director of Demand Generation & Marketing Technology at Versique. “If someone is Salesforce.com certified, then I know they’re going to be well-versed in analytics.”
2. Hubspot’s Inbound Certification
“There are only a select few certifications that actually move the needle forward when assessing a candidate... The first is Hubspot’s Inbound Certification,” says Keith Johnstone, Marketing Manager at Peak Sales Recruiting. “It provides a framework and methodology for basic inbound marketing strategies and tactics like SEO, blogging, email marketing, and social media.”
3. Google Certifications (Publisher, Analytics, AdWords, etc.)
Google has a tremendous range of products and services and almost as many certifications. Whether you’re in digital marketing, data science, or software engineering, there’s likely a Google certification that you can benefit from.
“We look for candidates that have the Google Publisher University certificates. There is one for each of Google's flagship supply-side products: DoubleClick Ad Exchange and DoubleClick for Publishers,” says Kean Graham, CEO of MonetizeMore. “It's rare to see candidates that have these certificates but when we do see them, we snap them up. We have found these candidates tend to be at a consistently higher level than the others.”
Johnstone looks for candidates with Google Analytics certifications under their belts. "These courses allow students to learn everything about Google Analytics — from how to analyze reports, set up goals, track campaigns, collect data for processing and configuration, and more complex analysis and marketing tools," he says.
Rachel Lehn, Manager of Business Operations at Perfect Search Media, says her company “[looks] for current certifications in Google AdWords... As an agency, almost all of our employees have those certifications,” she shares. “If a candidate has current certifications, we know that they have at least a basic understanding of Google AdWords and Google Analytics, which are core platforms for our service offerings of paid search advertising and search engine optimization.”