The equivalent of a CPA test for digital marketers does not exist. We do have hundreds, if not thousands, of certifications — but all of them are fairly arbitrary. Google, for example, is an incredible company; but becoming a Google “specialist” takes only a few hours, meaning this certification can be earned in a single weekend.
Nonetheless, creating a website logo doesn’t make you an expert in Google AdWords or SEO any more than a weekend spent at defensive driving school creates a NASCAR driver. So why rely on certifications to help you land a job?
I see all types of certifications whenever we conduct a hiring search at Hawke Media. While seeing one noted on a resume isn’t a bad thing (it does at least show effort), it won’t necessarily set a candidate apart, either. In all honesty, I’ve never once seen a certificate that wowed me.
There’s a problem pervading the world of marketing where people who don’t have the first clue about what they’re doing convince a client they’re experts in a certain practice area. This leads to underdelivering on promises, which, in the end, helps absolutely no one.
Yes, making assurances that can’t be guaranteed might temporarily create major cash flow for a company with great salespeople, but it’s not a sustainable long-term business model for digital marketers.
Although a digital marketing certification is an achievement worthy of listing on a resume, attributing too much weight to an easy course only displays a lack of real-world experience. It’s the equivalent of saying that you can type, but not knowing how fast.
Three Qualifications That Outshine Certifications
Instead of focusing on a generic certification, it’s important to showcase real skills and successes.
Here are a few things hiring managers look for:
1. Real-world experience. A certification accompanied by a case study showing direct experience and a working knowledge of how goals were surpassed will easily stand out among the crowd of certified underachievers.
Focus on how much money you generated for the company, and supply measurable results. Discuss challenges you faced, and describe how you overcame them. This type of information proves to potential employers that you have the right combination of creativity, critical thinking, and motivation to get the job done.
2. College education. People fresh out of college don’t necessarily have a working knowledge of the industry, but they’re desirable hires because they can be molded into exactly the resource a company needs. It’s relatively easy to train an intelligent person on a platform or process, but only if the passion is already there. Holding a relevant degree is a solid indicator of how much an applicant actually cares about the field.
Hiring managers gauge a person’s passion for the subject during the interview, and those who give the impression that they get things done will be given opportunities to do so. During the first 90 days of employment, new hires have the opportunity to prove they’re knowledgeable yet malleable executors who are open to gaining the skills the company values and needs. When you show you’re willing to learn, your chances of sticking around increase exponentially.
3. Understanding specific channels. Having in-depth experience in a field is irrelevant as long as you can talk the talk. A resume and personality are important, but at the end of the day, employers are looking for someone who can get the job done.
Even if you’re unfamiliar with the space you’re applying to work in, you can land the job — if you do your research. For instance, if you’re applying for a job in digital marketing for a fashion brand, you must be able to talk the talk regarding Facebook advertising.
Keep Doing Your Homework
To up your chances of being hired even further, read industry blogs, watch how-to videos on YouTube, and follow the social media posts and newsfeeds of industry innovators and influencers. Showing prospective employers that you understand the ins and outs of marketing despite your past inexperience will not only prove you want the job, but it will also prove you’re highly invested and interested in the industry.
On the whole, digital marketing is flooded with certifications. Acquiring them is not a complete waste of time, but they won’t really help you, either. SEO certifications, for example, are not very useful because SEO best practices change approximately every six months.
If SEO certifications followed a continuing-education model — similar to how lawyers, teachers, and doctors must take classes to be re-certified in the latest methodologies and industry standards every two years or so — companies who hire SEO certificate holders could rest assured their new employees’ skill sets would stay up-to-date as the discipline evolves.
If a certification is listed, it should be one of many examples showing a drive to pursue continuing education within the industry. But if a simple Google certification is the crown jewel of your resume, get used to filling out applications — you’re going to be doing it for a long time.
Erik Huberman is founder and CEO of Hawke Media, a leading outsourced digital CMO agency for companies including Evite, Bally Total Fitness, Verizon Wireless, Eddie Bauer, Red Bull, and many other large and small brands. Erik and his team provide a full sales, marketing, and e-commerce team without the overhead.