Software Testing and Quality Assurance job search advice

  • Just to put the question at top:

    How can I 'break' into the Software Test Lead or Software Test Automation world from being a tester?

    Is there any suggestions for what to study to advance within the Software Test world?

    I am looking for a position in Northwest Florida (Essentially, an IT void). I am currently in QA but I need to move. I am looking for a position there and having very little luck. I was curious as to what others have had luck with and what would make me stand out.

    My background in the field is limited but I have done amazing work at my company. My skill set is closer to a developer but I have a strong passion for testing. I have developed several testing applications for my current company. I am finding jobs for Software Test Lead and Software Automation but, while I feel I am qualified, my resume isn't up to par and I know very little for these positions.

    So, what can I learn, where can I study and what should I know when applying for a test lead or test automation position?

    Is there any certifications or communities that could be of assistance with developing and furthering my career and skill set?

  • In addition to what the other responses have said:

    It's a lot easier to get a position in automation or as a lead if you're already doing the work of one whether you have that position formally or not. It looks from what you've said that you have the experience to claim this in terms of what you've done if not in terms of "number of years experience" (my first year in testing I wound up managing a remote team of testers as well as doing projects from inception through deployment - that year was like five years somewhere with a more sane pace).

    Things you can do to make your ability to do the job stand out (I'm presuming here that you're applying externally, although this can also apply to internal promotions depending on the way your company works):

    • Customize your resume for each position you apply to. If you start with a base document that lists everything and don't worry about how big it is, you can do this relatively easily. Make sure you save the customized version so you have a record of what you said in which application - if you're actively job hunting you can easily lose track of what you highlighted for which job application (been there, done that...)
    • Go through the position description or job ad carefully, looking for the things that they really want. For each of those, you want to give a short description of something you've done that demonstrates that you can do what they want. As an example, say an ad is for a software developer in test and includes high in the list of responsibilities "develop tools for the team to use". You'd include in your resume that as part of position X you built a tool to collate automated test results and post them to the company project management system. Or a tool to automatically collate manual test results and post them to the company project management system. Or... you get the idea.
    • Make sure you start with the things you've done that match the position's needs best.
    • Put the keywords in. You'll need to do this to get past the HR filter (if there is one). In a lot of places, the HR people have no idea what the position actually requires and will simply make sure the resume has all the right keywords before they pass it on (this isn't their fault and I'm not criticizing them. They're doing the best they can in a difficult position, as a rule. Let's face it, software geek, whether programmer or tester flavor, is its own language a lot of the time). If you've built automation against .NET applications, list .NET as one of your skills. You don't have to say how many years experience you have in that skill, but do make sure to include something in the list of things you did at your previous and current positions that covers that skill.
    • Be prepared to elaborate on anything in your resume at any interviews. And I do mean anything. I've had questions about my long-past experience as a field geologist at interviews for software testing positions.
    • If you have gaps in your resume, make sure you can explain them and explain them well - but don't be tempted to lie.
    • If you've got a lot of jobs in a short time-frame (I've found that anything less than 2 years with a job will raise questions) be prepared to explain that. "The company went into bankruptcy" is a good explanation. So is "The company was having financial difficulties and laid off a number of its higher paid employees including me and my manager." (that one happened to me).
    • Wherever possible, try to send resumes to the IT managers, particularly if you're cold-sending (not applying to a particular job).
    • Do cold-send your resume. By the time a position is advertised, the company has usually tried to fill it internally and gone through any resumes they have on file for likely candidates.
    • If your current employer is amenable, you can consider having a position defined around what you're actually doing. Some places will do this, others won't.

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