The Value of Certifications in an Interview

While on the road recruiting, I am frequently questioned and asked to provide guidance about the value officers get from achieving a certification prior to stepping out of the military.  The answer is: “It depends.”  For an officer considering a specialized career (think IT programmer, public accounting, research and development, etc.), the certification can be a good credential to signify your level of skill in one area.  There are many professional organizations that design tests and certification levels that will help you signify your level of expertise.  For an officer considering a development career where you will step out of the military into a leadership position in business, getting a certification on its own is generally not enough to prove your abilities.  Surprised?  Let me help you understand why.

Development candidates are hired by businesses based on their leadership experience.  Our client companies recognize that the leadership experience achieved by junior military officers (JMOs) in the first part of their career is well above that of any other career path available to the rest of that age group.  When a business is hiring a JMO based on experience, they will interview that officer to determine the accomplishments he or she has achieved during his or her service time.  While academic credentials as well as other factors used to evaluate students still play a part in evaluating a potential experienced hire, the accomplishments of a leader who has overcome real challenges and achieved real results is a much better indicator of future leadership performance.

For Cameron-Brooks candidates, our client companies are looking at you as an experienced hire for a development career.  It is your top performance in the military that makes you a fit to take on the challenges and opportunities where our client companies are looking for leaders to step in and make an impact.  In that environment, a certification that details your experience with one skill set is not enough for them to determine whether you can truly use that ability to make an impact.  Our companies would want to know how you went on to use the knowledge you earned and the abilities you developed during the certification process to contribute to a major accomplishment.  A company that is looking at you as a leader will want to know how you have “operationalized” your certification.  That is proof that you not only have the knowledge but you also know how to use it.

The information above may also help you identify the right time period to focus on certifications and building new skills.  Trying to squeeze in exams and credentials just prior to a separation date will not give you time to put your new abilities to work.  By developing your career goals early and identifying certifications and credentials that you can use to develop key skill sets, you will have the opportunity to put those abilities to work.  Your goal should be to use them to have break out performance in the military to create career potential for yourself in and out of the military.  The impact you’ve made with the abilities becomes the career “enhancer” and allows you to connect your success as a JMO with your goals for success in the rest of your career.  Certifications can be a great way to build your skills.  Using those skills to make an impact is how you increase your success in bringing those abilities to Corporate America.

Scott LePage