Page Two

By eweek  |  Posted 2002-07-31 Print this article Print

: Job History"> However, the most interesting thing I noticed about the process was something I noticed about myself: how I was looking at resumes. I learned that the very first thing I looked at was the candidates job history—how many jobs they had in the past few years, and how often they changed jobs. If the candidate had a history of only staying two years or less at their previous few jobs, he or she was immediately discarded. Invariably, the headhunter would explain that the candidate was "now ready to settle down and take something for the long term." Ive heard that refrain far too often (and been burned in the past by it). On the other hand, Id be just as leery of candidates with extended tenure (e.g., 15+ years) at one company—for fear they only have one view of the world.
The very last thing on the resume I looked at—meaning I never looked at it—was the candidates education. In fact, I had to check his file while writing this to find out that the candidate I did hire does, in fact, have a degree.
Does this mean I dont value education? Thats unlikely since I myself obtained an MBA—mostly at my own expense, and while I was working full-time. My tendency to disregard formal education really means that I believe the weight of educational credentials diminishes over time, as experiences, accomplishments and expertise are accumulated over the years. In the case of the candidate I hired, what has more value: a degree he got six years ago, or the skills and experience hes accumulated in the years hes been working in IT? Of course, life is cumulative. Would my preferred candidate have gone as far as he had without his degree? It is quite likely that his degree was a key factor in getting him one of his prior jobs. And that allowed him to accumulate the experience and skills he now possesses. There are many companies that insist on a four-year degree (even in an unrelated field) as a requisite for employment consideration. And, certainly, a degree can be a critical factor for someone looking for his or her first job. I generally believe that degrees and certifications demonstrate exposure to certain concepts and ideas, and the candidates ability to see an endeavor through to the end. But, they do not indicate anything about skill level or competence. What was outstanding about the winning candidate? Probably nothing. He simply had the right skill set (in fact, he had more technical expertise than I was looking for), experience, background, personality, and levels of maturity and professionalism. The things that he saw as important closely matched my own priorities. No matter which side of the desk youre on, you can (and should) learn from every interview. Brian D. Jaffe is an IT director in New York, an eWEEK contributing editor and co-author of the "IT Managers Handbook: Getting Your New Job Done." He can be reached at


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