Qualification versus Certification: An Interview Consideration

by Mychal Ludwig, former Head Editor, INALJ New Mexico
previously published 5/29/13

Qualification versus Certification: An Interview Consideration

MychalLudwigWhen going through an interview process, whether it’s the traditional all-day or multi-day affair in an academic library, or a phone interview then one or two in-person interviews, most of us have to consider many factors, such as how to dress, or which types of questions to prepare for. One important one I’d like to bring up is how to shape the discussion over whether or not you fit the job you’re trying to get. More specifically, whether you should emphasize your job certification or job qualification.

Qualification means simply whether or not you can do the job being asked. Can I perform the necessary tasks at the level required? Certification is the paper or education or training that is supposed to suggest if you are indeed qualified for a job.  I’d argue that your certification doesn’t necessarily lead to qualification (but let’s hope it does). That said, I think, in an interview situation, that it’s both prudent and probably expected to discuss how you are qualified for the various job tasks ahead of you.

How does this apply to answering questions about yourself during an interview? Well, don’t talk about what’s on your resume, or at least, not in the vague, bullet-list way it’s written. The committee or person(s) interviewing you have this and have read it (hopefully). What you need to do, is discuss how your certification lead to you being qualified for the job. How getting an MLIS meant taking particular classes, and what’s more, what you did in those classes that lead to the skills you need to use to function in the job you’re seeking. You can skim through a degree without really gaining more than a cursory knowledge of particular topics. Show your committee what you did to employ those skills in a project or assignment, or in a job or internship.

I’ll leave you with a particularly salient example of the difference between certification and qualification (especially if you like musicals). Many musical fans out there absolutely hate when stage musicals are adapted for the silver screen. They complain that producers swap out great singers for great actors who can’t sing. They suggest that quality is being compromised. What they are really suggesting, is that stage musicals generally employ singers who are trained (i.e. have a degree or class work in music) while the actors probably can’t sing at all. This is an argument that suggests that the good singers are certified. But is this really true? Aren’t there stage musicals with bad, but trained singers, and movie musicals that have great actors, who can also sing well? I’d say yes. You can be certified and qualified, or qualified but not certified, or really any combination of these.

I think qualification is the most important regardless of certification, so make sure you emphasize that!

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