major.io words of wisdom from a systems engineer

Do professional certifications belong in your e-mail signature?

After a discussion amongst coworkers about professional certifications in e-mail signatures yesterday, I decided to throw the question out to Twitter to gather some feedback:

rackerhacker: Quick Twitter poll for the nerds: How many certification abbreviations do you put in your e-mail signature? [Permalink]

The question must have struck a nerve with folks as I had over 50 replies in less than 10-15 minutes. I expected to hear a lot of people say “zero”, and there were quite a few responses that didn’t surprise me:

minter: @RackerHacker Zero

stwange: @RackerHacker none it’s pretentious

nickboldt: @RackerHacker Zero. My cert-fu is weak.

scassiba: @RackerHacker none, I don’t feel it’s necessary to fluff up an email signature with certifications

errr_: @RackerHacker 0

chrstphrbrwn: @RackerHacker Zero. I don’t use an email signature.

DamianZaremba: @RackerHacker none, makes you look a bit stuck up imo

saiweb: @RackerHacker 0

jirahcox: @RackerHacker 0. Job title only if absolutely necessary.

jtimberman: @RackerHacker None mine are almost all expired anyway :)

ckeck: @RackerHacker zero

billblum: @RackerHacker None.

puppetmasterd: @RackerHacker zero, or preferably fewer

ripienaar: @RackerHacker zero, they dont add value. Much rather link me to your github account so I can make up my own mind :)

redbluemagenta: @RackerHacker None. People can see for themselves through other avenues (blog, github, references) if you’re any good.

ubuntusoren: @RackerHacker none

There were a few people who disagreed:

bwwhite: @RackerHacker Just one because that’s all I have :) But I think 2 should be the limit. Pick the 2 most relevant to your current role

jwgoerlich: Generally 2. Depends on the email topic.

whitenheimer: @RackerHacker just one, some of them aren’t worth putting

russjohnson: @RackerHacker Currently none but have done upto 4

rbp1987: @RackerHacker I only put the most relevant or the highest level of cert that i have. Why what do you do at the moment?

hotshotsphoto: @RackerHacker MCP, MCP+I, CNA MCSE ITIL Practitioner….but only when I’m working in the IT field

There were quite a few that were strongly worded or humorous:

rjamestaylor: @RackerHacker I hate them - R Taylor, SCJP, MCP, RHCP, BSci, SAG

mshuler: [email protected] I regard email signatures similar to SUVs - the size is relevant to the compensation factor

iota: @RackerHacker zero; as number of reported certifications increase, respect for sender decreases - my law #1514

raykrueger: @RackerHacker http://theoatmeal.com/comics/email

hjv: @RackerHacker I’m Ebay A+++ Certified.

unixdaemon: @puppetmasterd @RackerHacker I’d love to see “Failed my MCP due to realising 10 minutes in that it would taint my soul. Forever.” on a CV.

swimsaftereatin: @mshuler @RackerHacker And ASCII art is to the signature as a huge purple spoiler is to a pickup truck.

anoopbhat: @RackerHacker none. unless there is a cert whose acronym is BADASS.

sarahvdv: @RackerHacker None because I only have one and it’s almost embarrassing to put “CompTIA Network+ Certified” in my signature.

0x44: @RackerHacker Zero. Certifications are nerd short-hand for “Don’t hire me.”

I’m certainly not against certifications - they’re a good way for vendors to ensure that there are trained professionals that meet a certain set of minimum knowledge levels about their product. When you hire someone with a particular certification, you should be able to assume that they have this minimum knowledge level (for most certifications).

However, a certification says absolutely nothing about how a job candidate has actually applied these skills to their previous work. For example, consider a systems administrator with a CCNA. If you ask the job applicant something like “So, how much experience do you have working with Cisco” for a Cisco-heavy job position and they reply that they’ve set up a Cisco PIX a few times, but they mainly focus on Linux administration, then what is that certification worth to your company?

As for e-mail signatures, I’d leave out the certifications. If you’re sending e-mails to coworkers that you already know, there shouldn’t any reason for you to “fluff” your signature with those abbreviations. They should already be familiar with your abilities and the addition of certifications to the e-mail doesn’t add anything valuable to the e-mail itself. If you’re sending e-mails to people you don’t know (especially for a job), it makes your e-mail look pretentious.