When Vikas Wadhwani, Director of Certification at Facebook, and his team proactively launched an ingenious alternative recertification option for their Media Buying and Media Planning candidates, little did he know that other leading organizations would take notice and begin adopting similar approaches. “It is great to have inspired other programs in the industry and give back to the Certification community”, said Wadhwani. 

“Recertification rates in the IT industry are traditionally very low, unless the certification is needed for the individual to perform the job role or it is required by a partner,” explained Wadhwani. “We wanted to challenge the status quo of low, industry-wide recertification rates, remove barriers where possible, and increase recertification rates.”

“It is vital for our candidate population to remain certified to keep pace with our rapidly evolving platforms. With 9 certifications in our portfolio, and more in progress, we recognized the need to provide an alternative recertification solution to help optimize the candidate journey, protect their hard-earned credential investment and improve our global certification program,” shared Wadhwani. We have currently accomplished this for our Media Buying and Planning exams and are exploring best practices to apply our refresh strategy to the other certifications we offer. 

The Case for Certification and Recertification Validated

In partnership with a third-party research firm, Facebook conducted a qualitative and quantitative study on certified Media Buyers and Media Planners and their employers (from 8 global regions: US, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, UK, Germany, India and Japan) to assess the benefits of certification (“Facebook Blueprint: The Value of Certification” by Kantar [April 2020]). The results were telling. 

Of the certified candidates interviewed:

  • When asked if improved knowledge was a top benefit, 87% concurred
  • When asked if increased efficiency was a top benefit, 53% concurred

Of the employers interviewed, 79% said certified employees produce higher quality work, which is a benefit for respective ad agencies who employ Media Buyers and Planners, as it makes them more credible.

When Facebook initially launched their former recertification program, the process required candidates to retake the exam annually. Because the exams are high stakes and require a fee, the annual associated costs presented a barrier for many. In this scenario there is no inherent motivation for someone to recertify before their certification lapses; whether it lapses or not, the process to renew or earn it from the beginning is the same.

“We knew it was essential for us to find creative ways to make the process more beneficial and cost effective for candidates in order to help reduce friction points and incentivize them to keep their certifications current,” said Wadhwani. “Our platforms are evolving constantly, so we also needed to make sure the certification validity period was adequate. The Media Buying and Planning certifications are valid for 12 months and we feel confident that timeframe is sufficient.”

Facebook proactively went back to the drawing board to collaborate internally and with input from Alpine psychometricians, when needed. They formulated two options for maintaining certification status for the media exams that alternate yearly: 1) Certification Refresh or 2) Retake the full exam.

Certification Refresh

Certification Refresh entails taking and passing a 2-hour online course and a 20-question assessment (which is scored as Pass/Fail) for Media Planning or Media Buying in order to remain certified. If the candidates fail the course or the exam, they can retake the course and assessment free of charge as many times as they would like to. If they do fail, there is a 24-hour waiting period before they can retake the exam. Candidates receive notification via email 6 months later to encourage them to begin prep and study to take the full exam. Candidates also receive reminder emails as needed. Certification Refresh is available every other year. In the alternating years, candidates must take the full exam.

Retake the Full Exam

Candidates can keep their certifications for Media Buying and Planning current by retaking the full proctored exam that aligns with their existing certification – either online or at a Pearson VUE testing center prior to expiration. Each exam has 60 questions and is 105 minutes long. The exams are high stakes, and a fee is required. If the candidate fails the exam, there is a 5-day waiting period to retake the exam. Candidates who pass the exam receive notification via email 6 months later to encourage them to begin the Certification Refresh process. Candidates also receive additional reminder emails as needed, if they have not yet taken action.

Employing CertMetrics Eligibility Module

“A major aspect of our design and planning involved collaboration with our counterparts on the CertMetrics team where they adapted the CertMetrics Eligibility Module to align with automation of our certification refresh requirements,” shared Wadhwani.

The Eligibility Module allows test sponsors to determine the requirements that candidates must complete before they are eligible to take or retake an exam. For example, in the case of Facebook’s requested functionality, respective eligibility rules were implemented. With CertMetrics as the clearinghouse utilizing API functionality, the system knows when a candidate earns their certification and when to trigger respective emails, including reminders. When a candidate launches a refresh through the learning module and earns a passing score on the assessment, a trigger is sent from the Learning Management System (LMS) to CertMetrics to extend the respective certification by 1 year and then informs the candidate.

The Eligibility Module has been an essential key to the success of our Certification Refresh,” stated Wadhwani.Additionally, Single Sign On (SSO) (implemented previously) is invaluable and contributes to the overall use of CertMetrics. We consider the user experience to be a journey– not a destination– and reducing the number of clicks improves the candidate experience immeasurably,” explained Wadhwani. “SSO allows our candidates to seamlessly navigate multiple systems through the CertMetrics portal without having to juggle numerous logins. This is just one example of an elegant CertMetrics solution that gives us full trust in CertMetrics and peace of mind working with the professionals at Alpine.”  

Recertification Rates Increased

According to Wadhwani, “Since launching our Recertification Refresh plan, recertification rates have more than doubled per CertMetrics reporting and the overall feedback from recertified candidates has been very positive. Candidates are establishing credibility and are the ultimate beneficiaries. But employers also benefit when certified individuals are more efficient at their jobs, stay up to date on Facebook’s family of apps and services, and produce better quality work.”

“Facebook takes pride in advancing the concept of recertification to benefit candidates and the industry,” added Wadhwani. “It’s a great feeling to see that we are beating the status quo by removing barriers to recertification and are increasing the rates!”