Quality Assurance (QA) Resume Advice

I am currently and have been in the past involved in reviewing software QA resumes to determine who I recommend we interview, and hopefully will hire.  I don’t claim to be the best writer out there (probably not even close), but I do try to use as proper of English as I can.  I grew up in the Midwest where ending with a preposition is required even though it is not proper English. 🙂

My background:  I have been in the Software QA industry since 1998, and I enjoy doing manual testing.  I would love to learn an automated test suite, but I feel that the software QA industry is flooded with automated testers.  I have an Oracle programming background which makes me a valued commodity in the QA industry.  I mean how often do you see a QA person with a programming background that enjoys manual testing and is good at it? Plus I can write a SQL query that puts the database administrator to shame. 🙂

At some point during my tenure at most of the companies I have worked for, I will get asked to review software QA resumes.  It absolutely amazes me at how many resumes I receive with misspellings, typos, grammatical errors, etc.  I circle each and every one of them with the dreaded red pen.  This is my very first impression of your abilities in the software QA position, and you just failed…big time!  I won’t hire you because I just realized that you have no attention to detail.

The other thing that baffles me is reading an objective that is meant for a programming position when you are applying for a QA position.  When writing a resume, you should tailor the objective to the position being applied for or make it very generic.  I’ll forgive a generic objective, but not one meant for another position because if your resume is for another position, then I know you plan to leave as soon as you find something else.  This is a point that I feel many people see recommended, but don’t take the time to do and then wonder why they aren’t called in for an interview.  We saw a lot of these during the recent recession where people were just looking for any job.

To help you get your resume past people like me and called in for a job interview where you can plead your case, here is some advice:

  1. Use a Spell Checker – It’s there, it’s free, it’s easy to use, so why in the world would you not take advantage of it?  If given a format without a spellchecker, I will copy your resume and place it in MS Word to check it myself.  I do not ding for alternate spellings like ‘e-mail’ or ’email’ as an example, but I will hold it against you if you “have a typo”.  Also, for people where English is not your first language, this holds true for you as well.  English is the language of the United States of America, and I fully expect you to be able to communicate with the people on your team in both written and verbal form.  If you show this to me in your resume, you are one step ahead.
  2. Read your resume backwards – Believe it or not, this works.  Why you ask?  Well, reading a resume backwards makes your mind read each word rather than when reading normally, your brain sees what it wants you to see and not necessarily what is there.  I know because I found typos in my own resume this way.
  3. Have someone else read your resume…preferably another QA person – I did this and the QA person ripped it apart, but for good.  This person also told me why certain lines were a problem and suggested ways to make it sound better.  On some of the items, I had to explain where I was going with a thought in order for the person to give me a suggestion.  The result is an awesome resume that has not one iota of a problem.  If you don’t know another QA person, for pete’s sake don’t ask a developer as they are, in general, horrible at writing documents.  🙂 There are exceptions to every rule though.  🙂 Also, don’t just have a significant other as your only reviewer.  A significant other will help you with selling yourself, but not necessarily with the information that you need to provide regarding your job.
  4. Tailor the objective and the job experience to the position you are applying for – If you will take any job in the software industry, you should have a resume tailored to each job.  A person who is currently a developer, but is applying for a QA position, should take their job history and find QA qualities that they exhibited in each development position that they held.  This will show that you have always had a QA mind while working in another position.  Then write a simple objective to cover the position you are applying for.
  5. Tailor the cover letter to the position you are applying for – Don’t forget to keep the cover letter to one page as most people don’t need a recitation of your resume.  Look at the attributes that an employer is looking for in a candidate, and briefly (and I mean briefly) describe how you think you fit each specific attribute and use brief examples.  I usually pick at least three different attributes from the job description to use and I find an example in my past where I have exhibited the attribute.
  6. Give full contact information – There was one resume that we received that had only the candidates’ first name and an e-mail address.  There was no phone number, address, or last name.  Why didn’t they want to give out their contact information?  Are they hiding something?  I have no idea, and the candidate did not make it past my desk.
  7. Suggested: Use MS Word formatting in your document – Please note that this is a suggestion only.  I always look at the resumes using the “Show/Hide Paragraph Mark” option.  There was one resume where instead of using bullet points the candidate typed it all including each and every single carriage return. 🙂 This person also did not use a table format (you don’t have to put a border around it) which would have helped with the indention.  I told my boss that there is an easier way using MS Word bullet points that you can configure and tables to accomplish what probably took them a long time to format.  Note that I did not necessarily ding the person for this, but I knew from looking at the resume that they probably wouldn’t be writing any documents for me.

Hopefully, you have seen some of the tricks that are used to gather information about you just from your resume and cover letter.  In the software QA world, everything you do from the time that you apply for the job all the way through the interview process is evaluated to determine if you have the QA skills needed for the position you are applying for.

Happy job hunting!!

2 thoughts on “Quality Assurance (QA) Resume Advice

  1. hye..is it necessary to attach together my resume with cover letter? Can i just state the position that I want to apply in my resume ? FYI, I have
    7 months experience as a secretary and now I want to apply for QA assistant position. I do not know how to write a cover letter and how to relate my past experience with this job that I want to apply. I have degree in Environmental Science from UKM and I really want to have a job which is related with my field.

    1. I would argue that it is actually even more important that you include a cover letter with your resume. The cover letter is a way for you to take the requirements for the position and state how you have the skills to meet each requirement. You don’t say if you have worked in any other positions, but seeing just a resume with only secretarial work doesn’t tell me as a hiring manager how you meet the needs of the QA position I am trying to fill. If you include a cover letter, you can take my requirements and explain to me how you fit my needs.

      For example, let’s say that one requirement is “attention to detail”. You might say something like “My attention to detail has been recognized by my boss. I have often made spelling corrections for documents that needed to be put into a Word Document, and prevented those issues from being seen by the customer or a competitor. I have often take care of…” x, y, z issues. You are showing attention to detail because you found typos or other gaffs that might have made it to the customer, but because you found them; they did not. Another example might be for a requirement for “organization”. Well to be a secretary you have to organized. Give examples of how in the secretarial position you have kept your boss organized throughout the day. Maybe you instituted a way for people to let you know beforehand when office supplies are low. Use anything that you were good at to give examples of how you meet the primary requirements, but keep the cover letter to one page.

      QA managers are looking for people with the skills; not necessarily prior experience in the position. So if you can show you have the skills to satisfy those requirements in a cover letter, you have gotten your foot in the door. Throughout the interview process, rely on those examples and maybe some others to show how you had the QA skills in your prior positions.

      I had an aunt that had never worked before, and she was wanting to find a job, but she said to me “Why would anyone hire me? I have no experience.” I told her that she did have experience…in raising four kids. That takes organization, great communication skills, and diplomacy. She went out and found a job within a week. I tell you this to show that it is a matter of perspective and all in how you sell yourself. The cover letter is your first chance to show yourself off. Use it.

      Good luck!

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