Do Online Certifications Actually Help You Get Hired?

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LinkedIn, Coursera, and Hubspot are just a few of the companies online that offer free marketing courses that come with a certification. But do hiring managers really care about these?

Unfortunately, not really. For starters, if you’re trying to get an entry-level marketing position, we already assume you know this stuff. After all, most of you went to school for marketing or business and should’ve learned this stuff while in school. So, it looks a bit redundant on your resume when you have a marketing degree and are listing certifications. It tells us that you don’t have much work experience (which is the #1 thing we look at when determining who to hire) and you’re using these certifications to take up space on your resume because it would otherwise be a bit empty. Always, and I do mean always, put in work experience instead of marketing certifications.  

The problem with these certifications

Don’t get me wrong, I love that there is more and more education being made available to the masses as I think it’s ridiculous in our day and age for universities to be charging what they are for tuition. After staying in state and going to public school for both undergrad (UCLA) and law school (UC Davis), I personally still came out with around $165,000 in student debt despite having a large scholarship at UCLA. So, I love that anyone can get education online for free now. However, having spent my last 7 years as a top level executive for the largest test preparation company in the world, I will be the first to say that these programs still have some major shortcomings. 

They are taught just like schools

If you’ve read any of my previous articles, you’re probably already aware of this stat: 90% of hiring managers want someone with real world work experience yet hiring managers feel as though only 11% of students graduate with the necessary workforce skills. These certification programs, just like schools, stop at the 3rd level of learning which is why employers feel as though students aren’t prepared for work post graduation. You see, there are 4 stages of learning. 

  1. First, there is understanding the material. 
  2. 2nd, there is being able to organize the material so it all fits together and makes sense as a whole to you (like when you create an outline for an exam). 
  3. Third, is the exam where you show that you not only understand the material and how it all fits in, but also that you can answer questions about it as well. This is where education fails us and these certification courses are stopping right here as well. Being able to answer questions does not mean you know how to do something. Go ahead and spend a day reading and watching videos on Youtube about SEO and backlinking. Sure you might be able to answer some questions about it, but I can guarantee, you won’t be able to jump on a computer and start doing it for a company. 
  4. The 4th step of education is real world application. Can you actually implement what you have learned? For the most part, this is the hardest step. Think about all the times you’ve read a manual from Ikea. You’ve learned the steps on how to assemble a piece of furniture but when it comes down to the application of actually building it, well……that’s another story and for some reason you always seem to have a few “extra” screws…

They are too theoretical

Much like schools, these courses teach you in a school like setting as opposed to a step by step approach like a job would teach you. You come out of these having a general understanding of a topic, but not how to actually apply it in the real world. Trust me, I know. I’ve spent my entire career working for the biggest educational test prep company in the word so I’ve spent more days than I care to admit scouring the internet for the courses that are out there. Surprisingly, I would actually recommend Youtube videos as a way to get a better understanding of how to actually do a job. However, the problem with Youtube is there is SO MUCH incorrect information out there that if you repeat some of this stuff in an interview, the hiring manager will almost immediately know that you don’t know what you’re talking about. I see so many influencers on there talking about the best sales/marketing tactics to make your first million. People eat it up, but at the end of the day, a lot of this advice is flat out bad and you’ll end up wasting a lot of your time if you try to implement these “golden rules”. 

So, what do us hiring managers really value?

REAL WORLD WORKING EXPERIENCE. This is what we want. Yes, it’s nice that you’ve watched some videos online or have read some books. We like that. However, you won’t even get to the interview phase if we don’t see the requisite work experience on your resume. That is the very first thing we look at and if you don’t meet the requirements there, unfortunately we have to move on. So although I want to suggest that you get as much education as humanly possible as I think education is the most important thing in life, do not use these courses as a way to help you get noticed and get a job. If that is your goal, you are better served seeking out work on UpWork, an internship, or better yet, by using JobPrepped. Focus on gaining as much real world experience as you possibly can and you’ll forever be able to continue climbing the corporate ladder with promotion after promotion.

Good luck out there! 

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Joseph Blanco, Esq.

  • Former Fortune 500 Top-level Marketing & Sales Executive
  • Trained and hired over 3,000 college students and graduates from over 150 US Universities for marketing jobs 
  • Skyrocketed up the corporate ladder with these strategies and tips and was managing a team of 500 marketing professionals by age 29.
  • Over a decade of experience in Marketing and Sales
  • Gave marketing trainings at over 150+ US universities including Stanford, UC Berkeley, UCLA, and Vanderbilt just to name a few.  

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