Please, update the certification procedure!

Over the last decade, I experienced a good change in the recruitment process. Before, your seniority was mainly measured by the number of certificates you received. Today it is no longer the only tool to determine if a candidate will deliver what he promises.

Improved recruitment at Design Is Dead

At Design Is Dead, recruitment has shifted gears. We aim to make the recruitment as light as possible.

  1. Candidates submit their application.
  2. If the candidate claims to have experience and knowledge in his CV, we invite the candidate for an interview.
  3. We usually conduct a very informal interview, but technical questions are asked while the candidate is discussing her/his CV. Therefore, the technical questions are related to real use cases that the candidate faced. We can assess her or his skills to explain the problem, the thinking process to find a solution, and the technical knowledge acquired after the process.

The interview proved to be a valuable tool to assess the fit of the candidate. However, the process gets more complicated when you see that based on purely skills, the candidate is not the right match, but s/he has the right attitude and shows a lot of potential.

If both parts believe that they can still be a match, the candidate receives an open assignment with little requirements, for instance a REST API written in Java and consumed in a javascript framework of choice. The candidate gets a few weeks to solve this.

After submission of the project and review by a few senior team members, the candidate is invited for a second interview to have a discussion on the work he delivered, how he tackled any problems he encountered and how he dealt with new things. Questions go deep to get a better idea of the understanding of the topic at hand, and we, proactively, give feedback to the candidate.

In the end, why shouldn’t an interview be a learning experience?

This approach has allowed us to find some promising candidates. During the interview, the candidate has to put his money where his mouth is. And, even if the candidate fails, we can contribute to her or his learning process.

As Jeroen (the boss ;)) says, it is all about people and as a company we should aim to have (in addition to results) a positive impact on the society at large.

What has this to do with certification?

I have a background as a tutor at the engineering faculty of a Belgian university. In this function, I examined students on their final projects. The final mark was based on the delivered work, but also on the understanding of the covered material during an oral examination. Over the years I developed a sixth sense to distinguish the shy but intelligent student from the loud and nonsense type. It has been proven that only a written exam does not give a complete overview of skills and knowledge of each student.

Every single time I did a certification exam, I managed to pass, just barely but I passed. Every time I exited the testing center, I felt underrated because these exams do not include a practical part, just like the hiring process or the evaluations I used to do at the university. These exams only test the knowledge you know by heart. So anyone with a great memory but low understanding of the subject has a reasonable chance to pass the certification exam.

What’s the alternative?

That’s a hard one. Having a one-to-one conversation as part of the certification is very intensive, both for the examiner and the examinee. It is also expensive for the company issuing the certification. And finally, these assignments are hard to re-use. Believe me, students are experts in compiling all exam assignments of the past years.

An other approach is how we do things at Design Is Dead. A certification is considered as proof of knowledge. In a interview we check how the candidate applied his knowledge in the past and how he will solve problems using his aquired knowledge.

Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to rethink the certification process. Although computer-based tests are time-savers, they still miss some part of the skills of the candidate.