The Certification Craze
I read job postings from time to time to keep up on who’s hiring what. Recently, I came across a job posting that listed a “required” qualification so ridiculous I almost laughed—until I stopped to think how symptomatic it is of what’s wrong with hiring practices. In this job description, in order for a potential candidate to be considered, to make it past the first hurdle, he or she must be “certified” in salesforce.com administration.
In order for it to hit you how absurd this requirement is, you have to know a little about the product. Salesforce.com is a useful, robust “customer relationship management” system. It’s for keeping track of current, potential and past customers, as well as what business your company has done with them, hopes to do with them, is doing with them and—most important—how much money is associated with those deals. It lets you track how “hot” a prospect is, also how close you are to “winning” the business, and if you really exploit the heck out of it, it can be a vast repository of information associated with all customers—everything from exactly who their money-spending decision-makers are to every email exchange you’ve ever had with that customer.
For a marketing person or a senior manager tracking marketing progress, it’s quite a system, and using it to its fullest extent can keep a mountain of details well-organized.
But it is not rocket science.
The kind of information in salesforce is hardly specialized—things like name, contact info, dollars, a little marketing vocabulary. No knowledge of anatomy, nanotechnology, physics, Mandarin Chinese, advanced math, or medieval history is required. Just English, basic math, common sense and some knowledge of human relations, like how to distinguish a “warm” exchange with a customer from a “cold” one.
But back to our “required” job qualification, if you’re not a certified, stamped and sealed expert in this relatively simple product, you’re outta here, quickly relegated to the reject heap. (The must-have certification class, by the way, is only four days long.)
Now here we are in the most complicated business environment that’s ever existed in human history, trying to navigate a treacherous and unpredictable path which we hope leads us out of a deep recession. Meanwhile, recruiters, desperate not to take chances, are making “required” job qualifications something as trivial as “salesforce.com certification required.”
I don’t believe that recruiters represent hiring managers’ and company leaders’ opinions on the subject. Steve Jobs has been quoted often lately because he recently championed the liberal arts, saying that, at Apple, “…it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing.” But good luck going on the Apple website and finding a job description for which a degree in the humanities is required. I tried. I read job descriptions in many categories they’re hiring for (administrative, applications, HR, facilities, finance, IT, internships, legal, marketing, operations, retail, sales), in every country. I didn’t find one.
I know what you’re thinking: Okay, then, what’s a literate, analytical, informed, culturally savvy English major to do if the recruiting world has gone certification-hoopy?
First, go ahead and apply for jobs even when you don’t have the precise qualifications. But in your cover letter be sure to address what they’re asking for that you don’t have. In this example, you could go online to the salesforce.com website and learn about the product, even take a free demo cruise to get an idea how it works, what the salesforce-specific terminology is, and then share your familiarity with the product in your cover letter:
“I have some knowledge of salesforce.com and would welcome the opportunity to apply my analytical abilities to the data you maintain in salesforce to help your company win future business.”
If you were feeling really bold and bratty, you could in your cover letter say something about how, although few jobs specifically require your major, many business leaders have had that very same academic credential—Michael Eisner (former Disney CEO), Mario Cuomo (former Governor of New York), Sally Ride (astronaut), Kathryn Fuller (Chair of the Ford Foundation), and Herb Scannell (President of BBC Worldwide) to name a few.
Just so recruiters can start to picture the future leader you may indeed turn out to be.
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Tags: Apple, careers for English majors, certification, cover letters, English majors, HR, Humanities majors, recruiters, Steve jobs