I recently read about 15 resumes for tester positions on my team. None of them told us anything about how well the candidate can test.

Here is what I saw:

  • All candidates list a ton of ”technologies” they are familiar with (e.g., .Net, Unix, SQL, XML, MS Office)
  • They also list a bunch of off-the-shelf testing tools (e.g., TestDirector, LoadRunner, QuickTest Pro, SilkTest, BugZilla)
…So far I don’t know anything about how well they can test.
  • All candidates string together a bunch of test buzz words…something like, “I know white box testing, gray box testing, black box testing, stress testing, load testing, functional testing, integration testing, sanity testing, smoke testing, regression testing, manual testing, automated testing, user acceptance testing, etc.”
…as if I would be thinking, “yes, but do you know Glass Box Testing? That’s really what we’re looking for.”
  • Some candidates will say something like “I wrote a 50-page test plan”, or “I’m responsible for testing an enterprise application used by 1000 users”
…okay, so how well can you test? To be fair, this is a difficult skill to convey in a resume and perhaps I am just not good at reading between the lines and determining which candidates would thrive as testers on my team. However, the candidate would have probably gotten an instant interview if they had included any of these:
  • My approach to testing is as follows…
  • See my software testing blog for my opinions on how to test.
  • My favorite testing books and blogs are…
  • I enjoy testing because…
Sigh. I guess the modern resume has not advanced far enough to reflect candidate traits to said extent. That's why the interview questions will be so important. I get to participate in my first interview tomorrow and I have come up with a list of fun questions/activities to help me see how well the candidate tests. One of them will be to "Test that light switch over there on the wall completely." (if the candidates are cool enough to read my blog, they'll have a head start).

What are your favorite tester interview questions?


  1. Ken said...

    While I agree with your wish to have more meaningful information within a resume, I know that where I work, I don't even get to peruse a resume unless it has passed through an initial screening by HR or recruiters. They use scanning tools that look for certain keywords/buzzwords to indicate whether a resume matches a given job posting. I tend to ask these kinds of questions during the interview.

  2. Anonymous said...

    My favorite interview question is: "Do you ave a favorite bug?"
    I have never gotten a specific bug as a response. What end up happening is that the interviewee starts discussing the types of bugs they enjoy finding and the methodology they use to coax these "favorite" bugs out of hiding.

  3. Geordie Keitt said...

    My testing resume is on my LinkedIn page. I think it would stand out in a crowd. I'd appreciate your feedback on it. http://bit.ly/6TnmeL

    My favorite test interview question is "Tell me about the worst bug you didn't find, and how you handled it." That won't work for newbies, so with them I play 20 Questions.

  4. Anonymous said...

    Great post. If only all testers could read this. It would certainly make recruitment easier and more cost effective.


  5. Unknown said...

    Great post Eric,

    In my opinion importat thing is to include project history in the resume.
    - project name
    - project role
    - description of testing process
    - etc.

    You have mentioned all other things that I am thinking about :)

    Look at my blog a read about:
    8 ways to be a good software tester - maybe it will help you to rank candidate resume:

    best regards

  6. Jesper L. Ottosen said...

    it depends ...

    joke aside - it depends on what setting you are recruiting for:
    - agile or waterfall?
    - technology or business facing?
    - manual or automated?
    - exploratory or "prepared" ?

    My suggestion for you to use the interview not so much on testing skills but more on the personal level - what motivates the person and what wants he/she to contribute with?

    yours Jesper

  7. Alex said...

    I recommend reading this -- http://testobsessed.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2007/01/taoiastbt.pdf

  8. Cindy said...

    Great post. I had to test a table at a conference. It was a great exercise in testing.

  9. Alan said...

    Nice post - in fact, I think I'm going to update my resume (or more likely my online bios) to incorporate more of how is test.

  10. Eric Jacobson said...


    Yep, Hendrickson's pdf is perfect for me right now. Thanks for passing it on.

    Apparently, you had not read it when you interviewed me; I recall a cake walk...

  11. Shaun said...

    Excellent post - and also some of the comments.

    IMHO there are three types of CV that you require to write:
    1 - if applying thru an agency, you need the buzzwords and technologies just to get past the auto filters that are in place.

    2 - if you are applying direct - then you have a CV that sells you to the employer - like Eric has described.

    3 - the blend of the 1 and 2, and if you can get that right, then you have nailed the interview.

    Finally - there is also the straight in the bin CV
    - 20 pages long
    - unformatted / unreadable
    - googleable cv text (i see plenty of these it seems)

  12. Joe said...

    "I have come up with a list of fun questions/activities to help me see how well the candidate tests. One of them will be to "Test that light switch over there on the wall completely." (if the candidates are cool enough to read my blog, they'll have a head start)."

    Fun activities in an interview? Ugh.

    So, presumably if a resume had included "I've tested 20 light switches" or I read "Test This Blog daily", you would have quickly brought them in for an interview.

  13. Tony Bruce said...

    As Ken has mentioned, before it gets anywhere near the hiring and interviewing manager it has to go through HR and recruiters who have a checklist to work with. It's a fine line between making sure you can get through the checklist and adding useful content.

    @Marcin. Could you explain why you'd be interested in the project name and project role? Or by project role do you mean what they actually did rather than their job description on paper?

  14. Eric Jacobson said...


    Yes! You got it!

    I'll go out on a limb right now and assume none of the candidates applying for these positions on my team read any test blogs. The sad truth is that most testers I encounter are not really interested in being testers. They just fell into that position by chance and have stayed in it due to lack of imagination.

    I fell into it myself. However, I have convinced myself I love my job and have managed to keep it interesting.

  15. Phil said...

    Posted this to the Software Testing Club to see how they would descrive their testing approach in one paragraph - http://www.softwaretestingclub.com/forum/topics/my-approach-to-testing-is

  16. Able Weis said...

    I think what's of paramount importance is the requirement for an updated certification. For instance, Software Certifications board has launched a Scholarship program for its Managerial level certification, CMST. You just have to score more than 80% in the written examination and get a 50% refund on the fee - http://bit.ly/qaistp

  17. Troy said...

    I have many of the same problems that you do when hiring. Once of the first questions I ask is "What is your favorite testing blog or website?" About 1 in 10 have a decent answer.

    As for the problem with HR screening resumes, I have that as well. I have found that asking for the cover letter that accompanied the resumes can be very helpful. I sometimes find a lot of additional information in the cover letter that is more useful than the resume itself.

  18. Guy said...

    As others have pointed out if you apply via agencies or HR the only thing they seemed skilled in is looking for key words so the approach this article suggests would mean that many a good tester would cause detrimental harm to themselves from getting these positions.

    Resumes are just documents and any document is in my opinion a shallow replacement no matter how creative for what's possible via a conversation so i'd argue by the same token that someones creative writing potential should not give them an advantage over the others either.

  19. sarathy said...

    I have a word for you, in the world of corporate for single technique we have number of names to be called off. For example some called white box testing, some call them as open box testing, some call it as glass box testing, even the worst part is the clients totally interchange the name even. I had faced this with one of my client, we has to do an ad-hoc testing but the client says it as regression testing. In this sense we cannot put all the alternate words in are resume. It is not the fault of the testers.

  20. Anonymous said...

    So if I start me CV saying "my approach to testing is as follows" one of 2 things will happen:

    - It wont pass the HR keyword search filter
    - Some manager fed up of scanning CVs will bin it as they don't want to read huge paragraphs.

    I was always taught to keep the CV light, bulletpoint what you have done, what you used and what you have achieved.

    Generally in the interview stage, one of the first questions regards their approach to testing an application.

  21. Dwarika Dhish Mishra said...

    Last year I come to know about a company that never do any interview with out going through the demo of skill and for that they prefer to see the test case for any open shources project those are hosted on git-hub or any where.

    First company go through the test cases written by the candidate and once they feel like contacting due to magnetic skill of writing test case, they start mail chain in which they ask some analytically proven questions that benefit society along with company. then they schedule interview.
    So in such recruitment process role of resume doesn't come in to action but company manage to hire the best resource for the company and such candidate prove to be a better though leader and benefit the goal of organisation with their collaborative effort.

    So I am totally agreed with your points about reading list and the forum where people are actively writing and taking part in discussion and how they are helping others in providing solution. These things not only proves the quality of resource or candidate but also proves how good they are in networking because networking is the only thing that helps in rising from the rat race of this bread and butter.

  22. Nicola said...

    Great read.

    Thanks heaps for posting this!

  23. Anonymous said...

    "I fell into it myself. However, I have convinced myself I love my job and have managed to keep it interesting."

    This is not really the real Love. This is called coming to terms with what you got, closing your eyes and relaxing.

  24. Darrell said...

    This is a helpful Blog Post Eric. No, it's not your imagination, 92% of all resumes submitted are off target. People simply cannot comprehend how to target their writing for hiring managers and recruiters. Many specialized professionals like software testers are unable to make a compelling statement in writing as to why they should be hired vs. other well qualified candidates.

    I'm a veteran Executive Resume Writer and former Hiring Manager/Recruiter. I stumbled upon your fine blog posting. We live in a highly specialized society in the information age. These professionals were blissfully unaware that mediocre resumes do not earn interviews and that talented resume writers are an affordable solution (check credentials and work samples carefully). http://HowToFindWorkNow.org/resume-advice.html

  25. man9ar00 said...

    Great post. Curious to wonder how the interview(s) went, and how candidates did on interviews with you.

    Having gone through interviewing candidates, I find it is often quite boilerplate-y like reading those resumes. Few candidates stand out as being exceptional in some (unique) way, and those that did, I didn't get to work with. And from these experiences came these blog posts:



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