Courses and job requirements

Hello,
I’m sure some of you are aware there are these online short courses, some of which are completely free from all sorts of online colleges/institutes/government funded bodies. I know there’s no harm in doing them and putting them on one’s CV (digital certificate), but what credibility do they hold from an employer’s perspective? E.g. having a 6 hour course on UI and Accessibility. Is there a point dabbling into them or is the showcasing of projects is all that matters?

Also - I’ve just done a 2 hour webinar delivered by one of AWS trainers and, according to this person, when employers post a job ad the ‘skills and experience list’ is a ‘wishlist’ i.e. it would describe the perfect candidate, however typically most, if not all, candidates posses 30% of the requirements - and that is who the company takes on board. Is this true?
I ask this because I’ve seen a job ad and if this AWS trainer is saying the truth then I will consider applying from now.

Appreciate your insights.

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Hi @ibrahim_aq !

If you meet some of the requirements what is the harm in applying.

Worst case scenario: you don’t get the job.
Best case scenario: you get the job.

To be honest, probably not much. You are much better off showcasing your talents with actual projects. There is no harm in taking them if you are interested in a topic, especially if you are looking for a way to introduce yourself to something new. But don’t rely on them to prove to a potential employer that you have the skills. And unless the certificate you receive is somewhat prestigious, I would probably not even include it in your CV.

You mentioned accessibility. You can actually get certified as an accessibility specialist through the IAAP. This is not some simple course that you take though. It involves independent study on a wide variety of accessibility concerns. Ultimately you have to take a proctored test. I believe the first time passing rate is around 60%. This is not something you will pass after taking a few intro to accessibility courses. A certification such as this is something you would include on a CV because it is issued by a respected organization.

True… but I’m just worried I might embarrass myself, especially when knowing I don’t meet all the requirements. I might give them a call and have a chat first to test the waters and see what the actual job involves before putting in an application.

Yes ofcourse - showcasing talent is much more impressive than telling a potential employer “I’ve done this online course…” But I was thinking to have them alongside my projects, just something to add in the bag.
Thanks for the IAAP recommendation, I will look into it. It does sound slightly tricky knowing that first-time pass rate is 60%! :exploding_head:

Yeah, I don’t think the certs matter much, except that they make you feel good. I mean, put them on the resume, but don’t expect them to open doors.

What they care about? What you know, what you can do, what you can show them that you’ve done, and what you can show them you can do in the internet. From that perspective the certs/courses are good because they are a framing device for you to learn a lot of what you need to know and you build some basic projects.

when employers post a job ad the ‘skills and experience list’ is a ‘wishlist’ i.e. it would describe the perfect candidate

Yes, I agree with that. I would go even further and say that sometimes they are unreasonable lists that just got thrown together by some HR person.

I ask this because I’ve seen a job ad and if this AWS trainer is saying the truth then I will consider applying from now.

As other have said, go ahead and apply. I think if you (accounting for imposter syndrome) think you meet the needs by 50%, then go for it. They can decide whether or not to give you a call. The exception might be if the position clearly is not for you - they say they need an expert in OAuth and SQL, and you don’t know those, then I wouldn’t waste their time.

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Thanks for the reply Kevin.

sometimes they are unreasonable lists that just got thrown together by some HR person.

You’re echoing the same words as the AWS trainer - he did mention HR adding to the list or employers not being clear what exactly they need/want.

I think if you (accounting for imposter syndrome) think you meet the needs by 50%, then go for it. They can decide whether or not to give you a call.

They want someone ‘experienced in some or all’ of HTML, CSS, Javascript, TypeScript and Angular. They also said they will give training to fill any gaps. So they’re either open to new entrants into the field or are desperate. The pay is really good and I’m tempted. I just feel I haven’t done enough projects or even built an online presence. But judging by what you and others have said I will give them a call and have an informal chat before sending in an application.

Thanks for the tips :slight_smile:

It could be either or both.

I just feel I haven’t done enough projects or even built an online presence.

Again, what is the harm in applying? You get rejected? You’d better get used to it - you’re probably going to get a lot of rejections before you get hired.

Even if you get rejected:

  1. You get experience in applying/interviewing - this is really important.
  2. They might keep you on file. You may not fit for this job, but there may be others in the future. They may keep you in mind.
  3. At the end of the interview, I always liked to ask, “I’m sorry it didn’t work out. Do you have any advice on things where I should work to make myself a stronger candidate in the future?” Most people didn’t answer - some gave me some great advice.

At the risk of more shameless self-promotion, I once wrote up a doc with my thoughts on getting that difficult first job.

Just go for it. Get rejected over and over. It’s the only way to get to that job that you finally get.

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The vast majority of online courses, even ones created by colleges, universities, and even major software companies, are “random online courses” that have no official accreditation of any kind. And unfortunately, taking an online course only provides surface-level knowledge anyway. Not to say they aren’t useful and serve a purpose, but you also have to keep in mind the nature of their limitations. It’s nothing remotely like being in school at a college or university, where you have teachers, peers, exams, grades, and ultimately a diploma.

Take an online course for the information that it provides, and use that knowledge to build things. That’s what they should basically be used for. Intrinsically there’s not much value to them. It’s what you do with the knowledge that you gain from them. Coding is something you learn through doing, not by taking courses on something.

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If a certification is for a specific tool and is issued by the company that owns that tool, it may be worth putting on your resume (AWS certifications, for example). “I did a class for a weekend” type certifications really just use up precious space. To me, if I see them on a resume it looks like filler to try to hide a lack of real experience.

As for lists of required/desired skills on job postings, it’s often not a realistic expectation. There are lots of reasons that happens:

  • “Aim for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll fall among the stars.” – some bullshit motivational poster, probably
    Companies are going to describe their dream candidate. They may know that they aren’t going to get her, but this is how they get as close as possible.
  • That list of skills is really something like(JavaScript && ((react.js || angular || 5 years experience) && (java || c++ || C#) || (embedded systems || objective C || automation))))
    Basically, they want someone with a reasonable (yes, actually reasonable) combination of the skills and technologies they use. They know you will have to learn on the job, but they want to see someone who has the foundation to learn quickly and successfully.
  • The post was written by a professional recruiter, not the manager who needs a programmer
    The recruiter may be working off a list of all technologies used at the company. The recruiter may be working off of out-of-date or bad information. In the case of the job I eventually got, the recruiter asked for an example resume of an ideal candidate. My manager gave him the resume of one of our team members. That resume included a background in C#. The job posting and my phone screening with the recruiter mentioned C#. The team does not use C# at all.
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Thanks for the informative reply. I’m beginning to understand the picture when reading job ads - that they will state all the languages/technologies/libraries/frameworks they use but that I don’t need to know ALL of them, just enough to be able to go on board with them then read and learn on the job.

This is just awful! Although from previous industry experience I do know, especially independent recruiters, have no clue or lack some knowledge in the respected industry that they claim to be ‘experts’ in.

Have you, by any chance, come across the Computer Science course offered Harvard University? The CS50x course? I understand building projects may worth more, but do you think having a certified 12 weeks course from Harvard University may hold something? As part of the course you study a range of languages as well as data structures, algorithms, resource management, security, software engineering, and web development. I understand it may be at a surface level but it may give a more general understanding of how things work/connect to give some background knowledge. Do you reckon it’s worthwhile doing while still building projects?

I think that there is a lot of value in the CS50x coursework. I haven’t taken it, but I’ve heard great things. I don’t think that it means a lot on a resume though, if that’s what you mean.

I had a look at that doc and it’s an interesting read I must say. You’ve had a zig-zag route to web development. I guess we all have our stories.

Kevin, your advice and tips are non matched! You will definitely get a lot more questions as I go job hunting :stuck_out_tongue:

There are plenty of other people with good advice - different experiences and all that. Keep asking questions and googling to find people’s blogs with experiences/advice, people’s youtube commentary, etc.

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I haven’t done it either, but CS50X is an invaluable course. If you don’t have a CS background at all, would highly recommend taking the course.

That said, it’s like I said before. Although Harvard University is a highly respected institution, CS50X is something they provide online for free. It doesn’t give you the same experience that Harvard’s CS students would have taking that course, and saying that you completed it isn’t really a big accomplishment. It’s basically half of the first year of a CS curriculum, without the environment that Harvard would provide for enrolled students (who are extremely selectively admitted to their academic programs).

No offense intended at all, but let’s say you did CS50X. That’s basically like saying “I did this free online course from Harvard without paying any of their tuition, didn’t get graded, and didn’t put in the time for a 4-year CS degree.” So as you might imagine, not exactly a good message to put out. Not to say you wouldn’t learn anything from CS50X, because you certainly would, but on its own, it doesn’t mean anything. It really only means something when someone puts in the time, money, and effort for all 4 years towards Harvard’s CS degree.

Also, first-semester CS courses tend to be introductory anyway. You should consider CS50X a learning tool and essential building block towards gaining knowledge that you can build on in the future. Not as something that necessarily has merit to put on a CV. If it had that kind of merit, anyone who ever did one semester of introductory CS could do the same thing. But no one does that.

This reply was very helpful Kevin, thank you so much!