The Value of Experience Over Certifications in Salesforce Hiring

The debate between hiring based on certifications versus experience is a significant one. While certifications demonstrate a candidate’s commitment to learning and understanding Salesforce, they do not necessarily equate to real-world problem-solving capabilities. This distinction becomes critical when comparing the practical expertise gained through years of hands-on experience with the theoretical knowledge acquired through certification courses.

The Academic vs. Real-World Performance Analogy

A common analogy that helps illustrate this point is the difference between academic excellence and real-world performance. A student who excels in exams and coursework might not always translate into a top performer in a professional environment. This is because academic success often measures a person’s ability to absorb information and pass tests, rather than their ability to apply this knowledge in complex, real-world scenarios. Similarly, someone who excels at passing Salesforce certification exams might not have the practical experience necessary to solve critical issues promptly.

The Trench Warfare of Salesforce Development

To tackle complex issues within Salesforce, you need someone who has been in the trenches, someone who has navigated the intricacies of the platform and has a proven track record of problem-solving in an enterprise environment. From my extensive experience in the Salesforce ecosystem, I have often encountered candidates with multiple certifications who struggle to apply meaningful solutions in real-world situations. These candidates, while knowledgeable, tend to be cautious and hesitant when faced with unforeseen challenges.

A Tale of Two Developers

Consider a scenario where I tasked two developers with creating a utility to provide better statistics around Bulk API consumption. The developer with Salesforce certifications encountered a bug caused by incorrectly parsing the API response and was unable to complete the task. In contrast, the developer seasoned in Fortune 500 environments successfully completed the task. When asked how he managed to navigate the challenge, his response was simple: he had encountered a similar issue in a prior implementation and knew exactly what needed to be done. This example highlights that while the certified developer had the theoretical knowledge, the experienced developer had practical insight that allowed him to overcome the obstacle efficiently.

Commitment vs. Capability

It is important to note that this is not to say that certified developers are not good developers. Certifications indicate a level of commitment to the Salesforce platform that is commendable. However, they cannot replace the depth of understanding that comes from real-world experience. Many outstanding developers have full-time commitments outside their 8-5 jobs, such as family responsibilities, which limit their time for certification prep. Despite this, their decades of solid Salesforce experience make them invaluable assets, capable of handling complex issues with ease during their work hours.

The Pressure of Real-World Problems

In my experience, I have seen many certification-heavy developers resign when faced with real-world Salesforce problems at the workplace. The pressure of failing under time constraints can be overwhelming, especially for those who lack the practical experience to navigate such challenges effectively. This reality underscores the importance of hiring individuals who can not only understand Salesforce theoretically but also apply their knowledge in high-pressure situations.

The Warrior Analogy

To further illustrate this point, consider preparing a squad of warriors for a critical battle. Would you prefer warriors who have experienced previous battles and know the intricacies of warfare, or would you choose those who only understand the theory of battle? The choice is clear: experience in real-world scenarios is invaluable and quite often (if not most of the time) outperforms theoretical knowledge.


In summary, while Salesforce certifications are a testament to a candidate’s dedication to mastering the platform, they should not be the sole criterion for hiring. As an effective hiring manager, it is crucial to prioritize seasoned developers who can add immediate value to your team and hit the ground running. Certifications are beneficial and show a commitment to professional growth, but industry experience is irreplaceable. When building a team, look for a balance of both, but never discount the importance of hands-on, real-world experience.

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