Software testing may not be the kind of profession kids dream of. However, it can certainly be an engaging, challenging and rewarding career. As a growing industry with many specialities and opportunities worldwide, it’s an appealing prospect for anyone looking to establish themselves within a new profession.
Starting into a new career is never simple and knowing where to begin can be tricky. If this is you, do not fear because as with any problem, a stranger on the internet is here to offer you their dubious and unsubstantiated advice. You’re welcome!
Power-Up Your CV
The only place we could possibly start, and the bane of any job-seeker’s life, is the CV or resume. As a complete beginner with no actual testing experience to mention, you will need to get some stuff on there that will attract the attention of a test manager.
Technical skills are a good place to start. You don’t need to go away and learn to be a programmer, but taking some introductory courses for things like SQL and Java go a long way to demonstrating your desire and ability to learn new skills. Websites such as Udemy, Codecadamy and Code School all have free beginner courses, and you’ll be able find good deals on the more advanced topics.
Knowledge of the top development methodologies, particularly Agile and Waterfall, is the next thing an employer is likely to look for. Being able to differentiate between the two and identify how the tester’s role varies in each, will no doubt serve you well. Reading through various blogs and websites will suffice in giving you a core understanding of each.
Looking at the Test Analyst data on the job market analysis website IT Jobs Watch, the related skills list shows that over a third of Test Analyst job adverts ask for some degree of Selenium experience. In case you are unaware, Selenium is by far the most popular test automation tool on the market. It’s a powerful and free tool that can be used with numerous programming languages including Java, C# and Python. There’s plenty of free training material out there so let Google guide the way.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the ISTQB Foundation Certificate at this point. Despite my own personal feelings towards it (it’s essentially an expensive glossary), recruiters use it as a keyword, and sometimes as a minimum requirement for applicants, so it’s worth considering.
Get Your CV Into the Right Hands
OK, so you’ve now got a CV ripe with technical skills, methodologies, test automation and the ISTQB certification (maybe), what now? Well you need to get your CV to the people who will be able to help you on your way to getting your first testing role.
Job boards like Indeed, Reed, Total Jobs and Monster are all great tools for distributing your CV and should be the first port of call. Not just because it makes it quicker and easier to apply for roles that come up, but also because you can make your CV searchable for recruiters. This can often give you an advantage because recruiters regularly search for people matching certain keywords before an advert is even placed.
Apply for Roles
The next step, and very much the most obvious one, is to reply to software testing job adverts. Don’t limit yourself to only applying for roles where you 100% match the job description. It’s important to remember that sometimes job adverts are more a representation of what the recruiter believes is important, rather than what the hiring manager might require. Your cover letter is an excellent place to explain why you’d be good for the role, highlighting previous experience in other roles and how they link to the job you’re applying for. Remember to also tweak your CV for each job you apply for, such as moving up or emphasising the skills that are mentioned in the job spec.
A less delicate or precise method of applying for jobs is by using the scatter gun approach. This requires quite a lot of leg work with likely few results, but it can work. You’ll need to research local companies, finding which of them employ testers and then, how to contact their HR department. Some will have a mechanism for directly uploading a CV, however for most, you will need to email them directly.
It’s About Who You Know
I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s more about who you know rather than what you know, but it can be a help when looking for opportunities. Interacting with other testers is a fantastic way, not only to demonstrate your passion for testing, but also to put yourself in the forefront of people’s minds when they look to hire new testers.
Twitter is probably the quickest and easiest way to interact with lots of testers. A simple search for ‘software tester’ will provide you with a vast list of people you can follow. Then it’s just a case of following the conversations that are happening and participating when you can. This can be quite daunting but most will appreciate you taking an interest, especially if it’s about something they have written or done.
Forums and LinkedIn make another excellent avenue for networking. Searching out different forums, joining groups, asking questions and answering other’s questions will soon get your name seen.
Even if all you ask is how to get a job without experience, it’ll get your message out there that you’re passionate and determined to get into the industry.
Meetups and Conferences
If you’re willing to put in a little extra effort, then meetups and conferences can be great for connecting with new people. Most major cities play host to free testing and tech meetups, both of which can be highly beneficial for meeting local test managers, dev managers (who are often responsible for hiring testers) and recruiters. Conferences will cost you the price of a ticket but the numbers are a lot higher and you tend to get bigger name speakers.
Alternatively, Sneak in Through the Back Door
Let’s be realistic, it’s always difficult getting your foot in the door in any career and despite your best efforts, you may still be struggling to get that first offer. Instead of giving up, you should consider taking a detour. Lots of testers got their first role by internally transferring from a different department.
Getting a different role at a company you know employs testers can be an excellent tactic. Once through the door you can find out who hires the testers, talk to them, quietly express an interest and hopefully be the first to hear of new vacancies. If the hiring manager sees you working hard in the other role and knows you’re keen, it’s a low-risk decision for them to give you a shot.
This list is by no means definitive, but I’ve tried to include the things that will, in my opinion, make the biggest impact. You never know how an opportunity may arise, but if you’re passionate and willing to work hard, then I am positive you will get your chance soon enough.