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Traditional IT Certification Exams Are Broken : NexGenT Certifications Create Job-Ready Engineers

Traditional IT Certification Exams Are Broken : NexGenT Certifications Create Job-Ready Engineers

Tired of interviewing “certified” engineers that look great on paper, but don’t actually have the skills to match their certifications? In a 2015 CompTIA study, 91% of employers believe IT certifications play a critical role in the hiring process and that IT certifications are a reliable predictor of a successful employee. But test takers have long figured out ways to cheat certification exams in order to appear more qualified. And in 2020, it’s become a huge problem.

In a recent interview with the Washington Post, a professor of engineering at Purdue University said that there was a “massive number” of students who had used online resources like braindumps to get the answers to their exams, with as many as 60 students out of 250 doing so in one class. A brain-dump occurs when an individual takes an exam and then publishes all of the details online for other students to cheat. Unfortunately, this problem isn’t isolated to academia.

A 2019 investigation in Tampa, Florida, revealed an entire company that shared the exact certification exam with their staff the day before the test in order to maximize the number of team members certified. Quite frankly, it’s only getting worse as more and more exams move online…

Since the majority of testing has gone virtual in 2020, the rate of cheating has risen more than 8x, according to the CEO of ProctorU, a service which provides trained proctors to watch test-takers. This is common to see when the economy goes down, as people become desperate to find work and rationalize that it’s ok to cheat. But that doesn’t make it right.

Skills vs. Theory

This exposes a larger truth… Traditional IT certification exams are broken. Cheaters can exploit a number of loopholes in the current testing environments, from buying braindumps online to hiring proxy test takers. The result is that you can no longer rely on traditional certifications alone. That is essentially why we built NexGenT. We wanted to create a new standard of certification that verified a candidate’s true skill set. NexGenT students are a great place to look if you are trying to find and hire IT professionals. 

NexGenT founders, Terry Kim and Jacob Hess, were IT instructors in the U.S. Air Force and have over 40 combined years of experience in information technology. Their military backgrounds inspired them to build a unique training program with a curriculum unlike any other. Think about it, our military trains hard to learn skill sets that are needed on the battlefield. They go through rigorous bootcamps so that when they get out into the real world, they can hit the ground running. As IT instructors, Kim & Hess trained hundreds of young adults in a matter of months how to set up and deploy networks in the field. 

After separating from the military, both founders worked in the private sector for companies like Cisco Systems and Arista Networks. After getting to know CIOs of major companies across industries, it became obvious that the issue of finding skilled engineers and cheating on certification exams was a real problem.

That’s when we decided to take the “military grade” instruction from the Air Force and incorporate it into a new training approach – the FSNE program. FSNE stands for Full Stack Network Engineer, an evolution to network engineering that is critical in today’s IT landscape to address the entire IT stack we see across the infrastructure. Our certified FSNA & FSNP engineers now encompass the full set of skills across routing, switching, wireless, voice over IP, and network security… Everything you need to build out a functional enterprise network. NexGenT certifications are taught by industry veterans via both live training and real world projects that teach actual skills, instead of focusing on theory, book reading, and bubble-filling. The beauty of this approach is that these skills cannot be circumvented by online braindumps. To learn them, you actually have to put in the time and effort and to gain the certification, you actually have to perform the skills. 

When someone is tested on skills, cheating is not an option.

Training Skilled Engineers

If you are seeking to hire top IT talent, you should be looking for skills-based knowledge instead of certification based knowledge. 

Our FSNE advanced training includes 3 hands-on projects…

  1. Full Stack Networking Project – designed to provide an understanding of a complete HQ/Branch network and the project build-out process. In this project, students design and deploy a robust full-stack network with a headquarters and two branch offices.
  2. Cisco ASA SSL VPN Project – which walks students through the design, deployment and support of Remote Access SSL VPN on a Cisco ASA.
  3. Colocation Data Center Project – which enhances the existing Full Stack Networking Project by adding High Availability and dynamic routing with EIGRP at the HQ site.

In just 22 weeks, students are transformed into certified professionals equipped with three certifications: the Full-Stack Network Associate (FSNA) certification, the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification, and the Full-Stack Network Professional (FSNP) certification. But our engineers do not receive their certifications until they’ve passed a Skills Qualification Check that’s administered live by a NexGenT Instructor. That means you can rest easy knowing that the NexGenT verified engineer you’ve hired is capable of doing the job on day one, just as if they were ready to hit the ground running in the battlefield. 

Don’t just take our word for it. After securing a role as a Network Support Analyst at CarMax, one of the graduates from our FSNE program was told by his manager, “You knew more in your interview than other people I’ve interviewed with 10-15 years of experience.”

If you are ready to level up your team with an NexGenT certified engineer, fill out the type form at the bottom of our Employer Relations page to get in contact with our team and set-up an interview with NexGenT verified candidates that are ready to get started today. OR upskill your current team with one of our live education programs, which are enrolling now

5 Red Flags to Beware of When Hiring Network Engineers

5 Red Flags to Beware of When Hiring Network Engineers

If you are an IT hiring manager, you probably already know the most common red flags to look out for when hiring a software engineer:

Resumes with too many buzzwords… Lots of short term roles with unexplained gaps… and no portfolio, projects, or sample work to speak of.

These are some serious red flags.

But what about when it comes to hiring a Network Engineer?

Things can get a bit more nuanced, yet it’s just as important to know what qualities to avoid, especially considering that IT operations and support roles like Network Engineer and Systems Engineer jobs currently make up some 70% of all IT openings.

Here are 5 red flags to beware of when hiring Network Engineers.


1. A College Degree Alone

We hate to say it, but traditional education is broken. 

Most technical schools provide four years of theoretical knowledge without any real world training. And it isn’t just us saying it. CIOs from across industries are complaining that college grads aren’t ready for IT work:

“The problem is that universities don’t train people to take jobs,” says Michael Gabriel, CIO at Home Box Office in New York. “If they were better prepared to hit the ground running, they would be a more effective and lower-cost resource that could compete with offshore talent. They wouldn’t hit potential constraints imposed by the time and effort required to get them to be productive.”

The result is that most college graduates require months (if not, years) of additional training, which costs you time and money. Look for candidates that emphasize hands-on projects, rather than a network admin degree alone.

2. Memorized Interview Answers

Different corners of the web, such as Indeed or Glassdoor, host the answers to popular interview questions. You want to beware that the questions you ask in an interview don’t rely on answers that can be easily regurgitated. Even more so, beware of candidates that seem to have memorized someone else’s answers. Some common interview questions for Network Engineers that we’ve seen on online include:

  • What resources do you use to stay on top of innovations in the industry?
  • How have you scaled networks to accommodate an organization’s changing needs?
  • What safeguards do you put in a network design to limit data loss?


These are perfectly fine questions, but Network Engineers will undoubtedly encounter problems while on the job, in which the answers may not be found in an instruction book or resource online. So rather than look for polished answers from the candidates that you are interviewing, look for problem solvers who can think on their feet.

3. Narrow Specialization

Specialization is good, but you need a broad set of skills to build out a functional network. These skills include routing, switching, wireless, VOIP, and beyond. If your candidate has experience with only one or two of these skills, he’s going to be unable to complete the whole task or risk making a mistake on the job. Mistakes are costly. So is on-the-job training. Hire candidates that possess a full breadth of skills from the get go.

4. No Soft Skills

It may seem counterintuitive for a technical role, but network engineers will often be interacting with every department in your organization. They’re going to need the soft skills that will help them navigate all sorts of personalities. Effective communication, patience, and a high level of conscientiousness are just a handful of soft skills to look for in your next hire.

Screenshot of the soft skills report that NexGenT provides with every candidate referred to an employer.

Along with highlighting a candidate’s top technical skills, NexGenT shares the soft skills report above with every candidate that we refer to an employer, so that you can better understand a candidate’s likely work style and how their behavioral tendencies may influence interactions with other team members.

5. Certifications without Real World Skills

A certification alone does not make a capable engineer. In fact, most certification exam questions and answers are available on “brain dumps” online. You need proof of real world experience that guarantees a mastery of the skills your role requires. How do you know if the certified candidate across the interview desk from you has these skills?

You can’t tell from a resume or an IT certification alone.

Skills have to be verified, which is why every NexGenT candidate undergoes a live skills qualification check before they are awarded a Full Stack Network Professional (FSNP) certificate. For students to get certified, they have to successfully test and complete real-work skills rather than just answer a few multiple choice questions. 

And the answers to our skills qualification check aren’t available online. 

We test for cold hard skills to make sure your candidates can ACTUALLY do the job you need them to do. So you can be assured that when you hire a NexGent certified engineer, you’re getting the real deal.

Hiring a Network Engineer? Click here to schedule a call with our Employer Relations team and start interviewing NexGenT certified Network Engineers.