Scott Hanselman

Scott Hanselman, 11 Successful Large Projects, 3 Open Source Applications, 1 Collossal Failure

April 22, 2006 Comment on this post [48] Posted in Musings
Sponsored By

I noticed a resume come by recently from a person that included their name and email signature like this:


For me, this is a little off-putting. Kudos to folks who get certified. Certifications are great for the certifications section on your resume. They shouldn't go in the education section and shouldn't go after your name. I blogged about this three years ago, but I've got my mind around it now.

Folks go to school for 20+ years to put "PhD" after their name. I could go take a cert test now, but should it be displayed so prominently?

I used to chase MS Certs, got a bunch then realized that no one really cares.

What potential employers WANT to see is, do you go from 3 month project to 3 month project? Or are you the kind of person who stays at a job for a few years until you ship v1.0 or v1.5?

People want to know how many successful projects you've been on, not how many tests you can take.

I scored high enough on my high school SATs (like the O-levels for you non-US folks) but do I tell folks? Should I sign emails:

Scott Hanselman, 400 Math, 560 English (not my real score)? ;)

Scott Hanselman, 6 O's, 3 A's (for the UK folks)

What about:

Scott Hanselman, 143 IQ (not my real score)? ;)

Wouldn't these indicate to a prospective employer that I'm a decent writer and all-around thinker? Why is it socially inappropriate to publicly tout scores like these, but

If it's silly to suggest putting my SATs on my resume, why is

Scott Hanselman, MCSD, MCT, MCP, MC*.*

reasonable? Just my thinking...when I hire, having a cert means you have a capacity to hold lots of technical stuff in your head. Full stop.

I propose we sign our names like this:

Scott Hanselman, 11 Successful Large Projects, 3 Open Source Applications (it's not a crap idea), 1 Colossal Failure

Wouldn't that be nice? Sign your name, people.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

facebook twitter subscribe
About   Newsletter
Hosting By
Hosted in an Azure App Service
April 22, 2006 1:58
Bryan Batchelder, 9 Successful Large Projects, 4 Successful Mid-sized Projects, 1 Open Source Application, and 1 project that, while successfully implemented, has yet to see success in the marketplace.

So, no failures for me...does that mean I am due one?
April 22, 2006 2:17
And what is it about guys named "Joe Blow" that they are consistently doing this?

Since many of my projects are never over, it's hard to say whether they were successful or not, since perhaps they will crash tomorrow.

Phil Haack (Just Trust me, I kick butt).
April 22, 2006 2:46
I think it's ok to put one or two after your name, but no more than that. And only use them in places where you're not already stating that your certified; Like on your resume and cover letter. It's a good thing in emails and/or blog comments to show your cert. But, I do agree that it doesn't compare to a Phd.
April 22, 2006 3:38
I believe mine should be something more honest.

Dave, (Wastes about 45 minutes a day reading/writing blogs when I should be working)
April 22, 2006 3:42
Project success doesn't necessarily mean anything, there are often many variables outside any one developer's control (especially true with larger projects).

I'd much rather know how many open source projects you've worked on. This tells me if software development is just a job to you or something that you're passionate about. If I could only have one piece of information to base my hiring decision on, that would be it.
April 22, 2006 4:19
I think that if someone has more than one MS cert that they should pick the one they view as most valuable or the one that is most PERTINENT to the job they are applying for and put that.

It's extremely redundant to put MCP and MCSE as anyone who knows anything about MCSE knows that an MCSE is also automatically and MCP. It's filler and makes one look less than professional.

A lot of people put down MCSE when they aren't really qualified to be MCSEs as well. Unless one really knows their stuff, putting MCSE on your resume is like putting a big red target on your better be able to back it up in an interview if it's on your resume.

Also, to continue with the first paragraph, some certs carry a lot more weight than others. Anyone who has CCIE for instance, should surely put that after their names (unless they are going for a job that has nothing to do with networking/routers).

Anyhow, I agree that too many certs after one's name is ridiculous, but putting one or two certs that are germaine to the position one is trying to get is ok...with the caveat that they need to be able to back the certs up in an interview.
April 22, 2006 5:07
You raise some good points Scott but I think your perspective might be a tad slanted because, well, you're Scott Hanselman, Notable Person. Trying to succeed in this industry takes some serious Cujones, if not just to go on the interview in the first place. You have to be speak out, where loud clothes, do Something Extraordinary, do Something Foolish, eat lunch with Dangerous People, etc.

But first you have to get a Notable Person to even consider you're worth talking to. Since you can't send along head shots (or maybe you can, it's weird though) you have to just lay it out there. What will catch your eye more:

Rob Conery, MVP, MCSD, MCT, M&M

-- or --

Rob Conery - A really great guy who can do a really good job. I p4wn n00bz and use Ruby to make Pina Coladas for Rob Howard.

If sprinkling your sig with some M-caps will get a little more notice - I honestly don't think it hurts anything. I do think your correct that it shouldn't be the primary statement, but hopefully that will come with the interview :).

Then, as Alex mentions, you can put those M's to the test :).
April 22, 2006 6:53
Seems a shame to spend $600+ for the initials and not be able to use them!


April 22, 2006 7:23
Rob, I vote for p4wn n00bz. H15 pwn4g3 sh00d b3 ph34r3d.
April 22, 2006 10:12
Wait a second - these days it's all about the score (e.g Credit Score)

There should be a Job Performance Risk Model (JPRM) that determines your score, taking into considerations all factors such as # of projects, # of successful, # of failure, # in progress that could fail, and of course any that are 30 days late. Just think about the things the model could evaluate.

E.g David Yack, JPRM 795

Then, contracts and employement agreemnts could have clauses that if your JPRM dropped below a certian # they could renegotiate the contract or terms.
April 22, 2006 10:48
Tomorrow it'll be about your genetic code.

Phil Haack A-T-G-G-A-A-T-T-C-T-C-G-C-T-C-T-A-C-C-T-T-A

Like project success, I don't think contributing to open source projects really means anything either. I just do it for the chicks.
April 22, 2006 11:52
I like Dave's: "Dave, (Wastes about 45 minutes a day reading/writing blogs when I should be working)".

I also recently saw something that made me laugh:

%FirstName% %LastName%
No Fancy Title
No Fancy Company
April 22, 2006 12:24
Frankly, I agree with John Bush.
Having Open Source projects on the side tells me a lot more than certifications.
For one thing, beyond telling me whatever you are passionate, it tells me a whole lot more.
I can look at the code.
I know that you understand SCM systems and Continious Integration.
I can see whatever you are using tests.
I can see what kind of tools you are using.
I can often look at the discussion groups for the project and learn a bit about the kind of person you are.

All those things will tell me quite a bit more about you than if just a resume can.
April 22, 2006 12:25
To say no-one cares is unfair. MS Gold Partners care because MS tied the marketing pot allocation into it and if you don't have enough MSC*s you won't be a partner for long. Avanade take it one step further and wave their certification statistics around like it makes them all heros. Of course that cheapens then whole thing anyway, but I doubt MS see it like that, after all they can't see the problem of tests that are easier for people to pass who have never encountered the concepts before and won't argue with the MS line.

Oh, and it's GCSEs now, not O-levels. Damned youngsters having to change anything. And I only do open source because Phil comments on my blog.

Barry Dorrans, not qualified in any way, but very bitter regardless.

April 22, 2006 18:11
Interesting idea. I'm not sure if I would say you should make that your signature, but project's you've been involved in should definitely make a part of you CV. it tells a lot about what you've worked on :) I agree that open source participation can be pretty telling but I'd also add one more sign of passion: Community involvement!

Tomas Restrepo, 5 successful projects, 2 open source projects, 3 successful consulting gigs, 1 failure :)
April 22, 2006 18:14
I didn't bother in 01-02 to chase any Microsoft .NET certifications as all of them only tested what menus to drag down or what widget to drag on the form. Not a single one did or does today make you understand how the CLR works or even basic Framework fundamentals found in Richter's book. Its a bunch of bullshit. I have interviewed over 50 deveopers that had "certifications" and not one of them could tell me how the CLR basically worked, answer any questions like thew list you had (and I have) or tell me how to ship product and business value in a continous design manner. I would rather see how many projects people shipped and how they deal with team members and what tools you use and why. Did you contribute to any OS projects?

Mine would be Sam Gentile, Over 20 Large Applications Shipped, 0 Open Source Apps (hope to change that) and at least 2 Collosal Failures-))
April 22, 2006 18:21
Care to share your "1 Colossal Failure"? :)
April 22, 2006 19:49
I agree with you Scott. Around work I see so many people that do this with their auto-signatures and it just makes me cringe. As part of my MCSE (back in 1999) I passed the Exchange 5.5 test, but there's no way in hell I'd ever have sold myself as an Exchange administrator! It's simply a benchmark for a person's ability to hold information and pass tests.

-- Dave, (Wastes about 45 minutes a day reading/writing blogs when I should be working)

Dave's gets my vote for best sig too! :)
April 23, 2006 2:46
Manual Trackback:
April 23, 2006 5:04
Certifications are important in the government contractor world. Depending on the type of contract vehicle, a contractor must have a valid certification (relative to their job function) in order to bill the government. That said, I don't put "BFA" behind my signature, so I won't put "MCSD" either.
April 23, 2006 18:32
the only people that actually have bugged me about certifications were recruiters. they used it as a strike against me. they were like 'the company really wanted somebody certified, how about you take $5 less'? so i got certified, and now they don't bring it up anymore. so i say 'don't you see i'm certified, how about paying me $5 more'? that doesn't work. and most of my employers have not even known what an MVP is, but that might be changing. but recruiters still have no clue what it means.

regarding all the flare after your name ... i think that's ok on a resume, but it's a bit much to see it on forums/newsgroups/email sigs. as far as listing the major certification and all the minor ones too ... that is for recruiters. most have no clue that MCSD is bigger than MCP.
April 23, 2006 19:48
Tom Watts
Certified Geek

Over the years (I will not tell how many), I have had dozens of MCSE's and other certs work for me. I never found any that had any more general competencies than I, who never bothered to get certified.

My key question for interviewees is why are they in computers, if it appears that they have that cert or degree just for extra pay, they are not geeks! And almost all non geeks I have hired have been poor performers.

If you don't have more than two computers and a (development system) at home you have just struck out with me!
April 24, 2006 9:00
Gee Christopher ( could you plaster the MCSD any more on your site? :O
April 24, 2006 15:58
I second Jiho's comment...
What was the colossal failure, Scott? Did you blog about it? What did you learn from it?

Go on, tell all!!!
April 24, 2006 19:39
Hmm, would this work

Darren Kopp

eh, maybe not. i'll just stick to

Darren Kopp

April 25, 2006 0:06
I think the big difference in what Scott is saying is that putting all the certification letters in your signature is excessive. Having all that on your email signature seems excessive. They should go in your resume. As a hiring manager who did 150+ interviews last year, and reviewed countless resumes, I completely agree with Scott. It is the projects that matter. I look for longevity with a company and what contributions were made by the individual. The job of a resume is to get an interview. If certifications are your best asset then use them. But I threw out many resumes with a list of certifications but lacking enterprise level project experience.

The one exception for me is MVP. Since this cannot be obtained easily I treat this as much more valuable than certification. Every MVP resume I came across merited an automatic interview. And it has paid off to have a MVP on my team. The passion, training and other things that qualified them to be a MVP have made a big difference to the other developers.

Shawn Swaner
Development Manager
April 25, 2006 3:15

Great post! I too review resumes and signatures that display an alphabet soup after their name. I am not interested in hiring people with a bunch of memorized techical information when I have the option and can find the folks that can solve problems and think at very abstract levels.

This latter group will easily be able to pick up a syntax and apply it to solve a particular problem on a given platform. The former group could very well run into problems if there is a platform shift or they are asked to think of a problem outside of their comfort zone.

I am not saying that they are unable, just that the ability to memorize and put technical information under lock and key in one's brain does not necessarily translate to master problem solver.

Besides, do we need to memorize technical information anymore with Google? =)
April 25, 2006 9:43

When you have two candidates and let's assume they are equal in everything except that one of them has some certs, wouldn't you hire him instead of the other. At least youl would know that he knows some related information. It doesn't matter if he memorized it or not. As the hiring manager, you don't know.

Also some people inflate their resumes with projects which they were remotely related to.
Some companies require certifications and some companies use automated scanning of resumes and their software might just pick resumes with certs in them.
Having certs is always beneficial. Naturally you're also looking for persons with achievements but how would you know?
April 25, 2006 18:36
I always focused on deliverying software per client specs, with frequent code drops so they can change specs as needed during the development phase, and making sure I hit the timelines that were agreed upon by both parties.

I never spent much time chasing certs because I realized it would take time away from reading books.

Want work done? Hire a contractor.

Employees spend too much time surfing the net, planning lunch, and managing their career path (read politics for the newbies).
April 25, 2006 20:45
I agree with you, people should avoid using certification names at the end of the name.

I have seen some companies before taking actual interview they tell the candidates to complete a online test. Is it not like asking for a certification ?.

I have seen companies not giving enough work,they are fine if one solves a bugs. What about those kind of jobs, if one gets certified during that time isn't it a room for career advancement. That way even if they want to shift to new jobs they can get ahead.

IMHO getting certifications give people chance to explore new areas even though they are not gaining the skills from their day to day job or open source projects.

At the same time i don't like interviewers asking questions for senior level people like What is threaded binary tree, How do you add seven numbers efficiently etc :)

April 26, 2006 17:18
You know what's really funny? The Google Ad I got at the top of the page Guaranteed me a Certification if I only just attended the Microsoft Bootcamp.
April 26, 2006 23:25
Fred Torklesenn 9.5"
April 27, 2006 12:46
Keith Woods, 0011010011110010101010100001010101001001010
April 27, 2006 15:09
I think it depends who is recruting and who you are talking to. I have a PhD and yet when I get interviewed I always get the question how come I am not MCAD or MCSD.
April 28, 2006 7:12
Sadly, the only thing I get from the comments is a reminder that hiring is a preferential, decidedly prejudiced action. Although there are many good hiring managers, there is also a poor track record in the industry of adequate management training, including many aspects of the hiring process. Not to insult the commenters, I can't recall anyone saying that they are hiring people now (besides maybe Scott).

I'd like to see someone say that they like hiring individuals, and that's a great reason to avoid requiring some initials on the name. I'd like to see someone tell a great story about hiring somebody after following up on their references and hearing great things from their prior employers or managers. I'd like the world to be a fair and honest place where those hiring "contract to perm" aren't just playing you for three months of hard work only to be kicked to the curb at the end of the contract period. It would be great if you didn't have interviews knowing that you were under the microscope for every misstatement, every wrinkle or gray hair, any statement that puts your development philosophy at odds with the company's (what do you mean, everyone should use source control?), or mention of some aspect of your life that doesn't match the unofficial company credo (surely you like vegetarian pizza, right?).

But then, chances are, only the people blogging about these things would give a rat's ass about a world like that. Sorry about preaching to the choir, folks.
April 28, 2006 16:53
How silly is that...thinking negatively of a potential candidate because of a signature. Reminds me of the big debate of having the word "Engineer" in the MCSE certification title. While I have a boat load of certs, I do not include those in my signature; however, I'm not going to judge someone just because they do. The only time I mention my certs are on my resume and when I give classes/talks. The way I see it, that person is proud of that achievement, so more power to them. Now, does seeing that certification mean anything to me? No. I've interviewed and met several individuals with certs that didn't have a great degree of knowledge, but in that same regard, I've also met authors, regional directors, MVPs, architects, bloggers, podcasters whose designs/code leave a lot to be desired.

Isn't a CPA, basically a bachelors with a couple of tests passed? Seeing CPA after accountant's name is basically required. How would that be different if this individual had a BS in software engineering + those certs? The certs do apply to his career field...

Signing your name with a project list isn't any better. Who's to say those 11 large projects were extensible, maintainable, etc? Or the design that those three open source projects was any good? I've seen a lot of application's whose code stunk to high heaven, but were successful because they made the company money. Were they easy to maintain or easily extensible? No, but the business side was happy eventhough developers hated it. How about the original code for CVS. Everyone agrees that that code is/was a mess and that's open source.

With that said, I know you were being facetious, but doesn't your resume have the education/certification section lumped together?? Heck, it even lists BrainBench certs (MS Office Specialist at that), which I'd say is even worse than listing an MS cert (As far as their recognition that is...) Whatever happened to "at Corillian we use success as a metric."?
April 29, 2006 4:28
Anonymous...I hear you and agree with 90% of what you're saying (and yes, I need to update my resume. ;) )

However, you lose points for staying anonymous! :P
May 02, 2006 21:16
So my Doctor should be 'Jim Someone, I did 5 brain surgeries'? I would prefer to know that he is an MD. As far as my successes and failures, Its called a resume, not a signature. Do you object to people signing their name with MD, PHD, RN etc? Sounds to me lmore ike certification envy then a real issue.

My Dr's MD gets me to check him out, I do not depend on it. It is the same with certifications, they show the POTENTIAL for a good developer, making a basic cut from the pile of 'others'.

While your tongue in cheek suggestion might get a laugh, I do not tink it will get you a job

My oppinion, I could be wrong

Tom Vande Stouwe
MCT, MCSD, MCAD, MCP and other letters that do not get me a discount on the Subway :)

May 02, 2006 21:26
The problem is one of professionalism. The IT industry is immature and there are no industry regulated Professional qualifications that someone can take to put them on the same level as other professions (i.e. MD, Lawyer, CPA, PE). The only qualifications out there to give any credibility are vendor qualifications.
If you have professional qualifications (i.e. qualifications from a professional regulatory body) then these rightly belong on your signature. In this sense, vendor certifications are not professional qualifications and should not be included in a signature. Unfortunately, there are no industry-wide accepted IT professional qualifications in the US and this needs to be addressed. In the UK it is possible to become a Chartered Engineer or a Chartered IT Professional and these qualifications give you right to use post-nominals.
May 02, 2006 23:51
Aw, come on now.

You know you just love it when there are more initials than name and they are larger than the actual information contained in an email.

As for being useless, never! Everything and everyone can at least be used as a bad example.
Besides, you can always use certifications as a goal for this years evaluation! ;-)

May 03, 2006 7:12
N Kimber has a good point "The IT industry is immature and there are no industry regulated Professional qualifications that someone can take to put them on the same level as other professions (i.e. MD, Lawyer, CPA, PE)." However, there are some close to that caliber that are not vendor-specific certifications. For example, the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) has something called the Personal Software Process (PSP) and Team Software Process (TSP). There is a certification exam for the PSP. These methods are designed to improve skills at the personal and team level to produce engineering-level high quality predictble results. I'm working toward this certification and when I finish I will not hesitate to include it in my e-mail signature. I strongly believe these types of non-vendor certifications add value and are very indicative of how an individual actually works.
May 04, 2006 2:22
Hey Mr. Smarty Pants,

People like to show what they have, like you are showing picture of son on the website.
What's that gotta do with a blog, which is a technical forum, where you write you technical stuff( which is very good I will admit), and we come to read and discuss it.

This is not a personal attack on you, just trying to show you other side of story.

People like to show to the world something they are proud of.. end of story.


May 04, 2006 2:33
Sam, you had me right up until "Mr. Smarty Pants." :P

We're just having a discussion. That's what blogs are about.
May 04, 2006 18:15
IMHO, alphabet soup on a sig is nothing but an ego trip.
On the other hand, a list of certifications on a resume will tell a prospective employer that he should at least bring you in for an interview.



May 05, 2006 3:40
Good shot, very well written, completely agreed:) Some one has asked me long ago about it and i told hime, its the same difference as of breadth-first(MCSD) and the depth-first (traversal in computer science).. Cheers :)

May 05, 2006 5:14
I think it all depends on the certification. The Microsoft certifications have gotten such a bad name from people just passing the exam that they do not mean as much. Certifications such CISSP, Cisco and others mean more. It also depends on the target audience.

I think that only *unusual* or particularly difficult to achieve certifications should be listed. So, a BS or MS in Math would be inappropriate, but a Ph'D and MVP would not.

In terms of contracts and jobs, certifications are (IMO) exactly like formal college degrees. They are all forms of "ticket punches" that get you an interview. Their meaning is only relevant in the knowledge you can actually demonstrate. I knew a Ph'D that was hired at a company where I was working many years ago. His degree related to something like statistical analysis of biological systems (I don't remember the formal name). You would think he would be strong in Math. I with my lowly BA in Math could run circles around this guy. Yet, he was paid more than me because of his degree.

May 13, 2006 10:19
When you build a house or a building, you build the foundations first and then you build the rest on top of it. Its the foundation that matters, if they are strong then you can expect the building would stay long, or vise-versa. So if your foundations are week or are not there.. what do you expect?? Same way as when you inspect the building you inspect the foundations and then rest of the beauty comes later.. like that when you hire some one you need to look at the foundations first, (that is what i call a depth-first search), and that you gain with strong back ground based on sciences. and The certification has nothing wrong on it, if its on a strong foundation with proper education (Masters, Phd etc) These are like adornments and they shine with your basic education. Certifications add value to the technology that you been certified in and it will expire with time. On the other hand, the basics that you learn from your education doing Bsc, or Engineering, or doctorate, the foundations, they stay for ever.

For me..

Knowledge is power and Knowledge++ is more power.. (and ++ is the certication)
And a quick Question: what is the power??

Cheers :)

June 01, 2006 20:58
Amen, Brother.<br /><br />Zack

Comments are closed.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.