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Door Not Mouth

Periodically I get asked for advice on getting a job in software testing with no experience as a tester. It happened again yesterday.

As a hiring manager I hired many testers, some with and some without testing on their CV. What's most important to me is the way people do their work, how they think and talk about their work, and how they deal with other people around their work.

But I'm probably not the hiring manager you're approaching right now, so bear in mind that the suggestions I'm making below are generic, and mine, and should be taken only to the extent you think they fit you and your situation.

CV, Application Form, Cover Letter

Lead with the skills you have and the value you provided by using them. Make the skills that you think are transferrable to testing most prominent on the list.

Think very carefully before leading with a list of responsibilities such as "attended daily Scrum, reviewed proposals, edited the website". This says almost nothing that a job title won't already cover and suggests you don't think about the value you could deliver.

Find things that you have done that you think are analagous to testing (e.g. proof-reading, reviewing, investigating customer support problems) and say why you were good at them and why the skills transfer to testing.

Explain how your specific background can help you be an asset as a tester. For example, you've worked in the area you're applying for, you have been on the business side and can talk to project stakeholders in a way they'll understand, or you're an experienced user of this kind of software and know how other users will engage with it.

I am probably in a minority but I really like a cover letter. In particular I like it as a direct line from the candidate to the hiring manager. Make a cover letter that explains the generic stuff, but include a sentence or two near the top that talks about the role you are applying for. Why are you a good for this company, this team, this context?

Lacking Technical Skills and/or Background

"Not technical enough" is a very weak piece of feedback when you've been turned down for a role. I'd guess it often stands in for "you don't have programming experience." Now, you don't need to be able to program to be able to test but my strong bias is that if you choose not to learn a little programming you are ruling out a huge set of tools that could help you to test.

I said "a little programming" and I mean it. You can get an extremely long way with very rudimentary skills. Find some courses and work through them, and be ready to explain what you've done and what you've learned.

If you know that you need certain tech experience, perhaps because you are looking to work in a specialised domain, seek out experience there. Maybe there's an open source project you can test on. Being able to point at bug reports you filed, PRs you made, or documentation that you reviewed and updated, will be a positive.

Consider doing some work for one of the crowd-sourced testing companies  to give you testing experience, exposure to some of the tooling that testers use, and interaction with other testers.

Find something "technical" that you have learned and explain how you were able to learn it, use it, teach others to use it, add value to the company by exploiting it, and so on. Perhaps you've used SQL in a marketing role and built a dashboard for the team to see hourly updates on the responses to a new social media campaign. OK, it's not Selenium but it is technical and gives you chance to explain how you overcame problems, taught yourself something, collaborated with the IT department or whatever.

Know Why You Want This

Have convincing answers to questions like these

  • Why do you want to move into testing?
  • What is testing, for you?
  • What makes you a good tester?
  • What have you done to learn about testing?
  • How do you think you can contribute to the company/team/role you're applying for?
  • How will you'll deal with a situation where everyone on the project has more experience of technology X than you?
  • What did you do in your current role to get relevant experience?

Demonstrate Your Skills

What skills do you think a tester should have? Can you demonstrate those skills in your CV, in your phone interviews, in any technical exercises you are given? 

Perhaps you haven't been a tester yet, but you can take every opportunity to show that you are ready to be one.

  • Make your CV concise, comprehensive, and clear.
  • Ask reasonable clarifying questions to establish context, and then by provide well-structured answers with the important stuff flagged.
  • Explain how you will approach a task and why, and the risks and benefits of that.
  • Show that you have researched the company and role you're applying for.
  • When the interviewers ask questions that seem pointed, deal with them professionally. 


I find it tough to advise this one because I don't enjoy networking and I don't think I'm very good at it. However, I do know that making contacts with other testers, and hiring managers, can help you to get a job.
Try attending meetups regularly and talking to others about the fact that you are looking for work. Maybe show that you have something about you by asking questions after a presentation, questions that show you were listening and can think of angles that weren't covered.

Find testing conversations on social media and contribute where you feel comfortable to do so. 

Smaller communities such as Slack groups for particular topics, or geographical areas, or types of role, might be an easier first step. They'll often have jobs channels that give you an idea who is hiring, and who the hiring managers are.

This is unlikely to be an overnight win tactic, but turning up in the same places as testers and test managers on a regular basis can make people aware of you and refer you when asked for recommendations.


Promote yourself. Find the things you've done that the company you want to join will value. Emphasise them. Don't apologise or make excuses for what you haven't done. Don't bullshit. 

You want to get your foot in the door, not put it in your mouth.

P.S. The Association for Software Testing's Career Day webinar is worth a look and I saw that Nicola Lindgren has just published a book, Starting Your Software Testing Career, which covers some of the ground above and much more.


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