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9 practical tips for finding a QA job that's right for you

Amy Reichert QA Engineer, RxMxUSA

It's a good time to be a QA and testing professional.

As of last year, IT organizations are spending 26% of their annual budget towards quality assurance and testing (QAT). Nearly every company is evolving into a software company and needless to say QA professionals are a hot commodity in this digital era.

If you're looking for a new job, there's plenty of advice out there to help you, but most of it is not specific to QA jobs. So I put together a quick list of basic tips to help you find a QA job that is a good fit for you. Below are nine fundamental tips and advice for finding the right QA and testing job for you.

1. Update your resume (duh!)

OK, let's get the basics and obvious things out of the way. We all know that the first thing you need to do when searching for a new job is to update your resume. But don't just spend five minutes updating it and call it a day. Take the time to truly think back about all the work experiences you've had over the past 10 years. If you have great performance reviews that are older than that, use them to gather more information from prior employeers, as needed. Spend time with this process, and make sure you're using language that you would actually use in person. Don't try to sound "smart."

Keep in mind hiring managers are busy people, who don't want to decipher your resume for finding the relevant information. Make it easy for them to find what's most important. If needed, reorganize your resume based on the position you're applying for.

Try out different styles and see which generates the highest number of responses. I once followed well-meaning advice to update the style of my resume to something more modern, only to find that the vast majority of employers and recruiters contacted me when I used the older format.

2. Get feedback on your resume before submitting

Ask friends and former co-workers to review your resume—a second set of eyes may notice critical formatting or grammatical errors. Another way to get feedback is by going to different job descriptions and comparing what you find to what anyone can read on your resume. You might be missing some important points that many job descriptions mention.

Once your resume's in shape, you're ready to start searching and submitting.

3. Develop your MVJ ("minimum viable job")

Yes, I completely made up that word but the point here is simple: Before you check what's out there, put together a list of the things that, for you, are must-haves and nice-to-haves. Keep in mind that your must-haves, if not met, are deal-breakers. It's important not to mix the two. This might come in hand when trying to decide between two competiting offers.

I recommend starting with aspects that can't be easily changed or negotiated, like geographical location or industry. For instance, maybe you just bought a house in Seatle and you absolutely want to continue to work in the healthcare industry. From there move on to "big" items like salary, company culture, etc.

Then think about the must-haves and nice-to-haves related to your actual role. What are you good at? What kind of skills do you want to develop? What do you enjoy doing? For example, automated testing requires QA pros to write the scripts that execute the tests. If that's something you enjoy doing, look for jobs that reflect that.

Finally think of the smaller items like vacation days and company-provided cell phone. Some of these are easier to negotiate after you have an offer on the table.

4. Create a list of potential employers and companies

Are there companies that you admire? Maybe a product or product segment that you are passionate about. Put together a list of all the companies you would like to work for. From there look into some of their competitors to exapand your list. This exercise will help you understand the types of companies you want to work for and why.

Perhaps, you want to move on to a smaller company where your work will have a more immediate and perceivable impact. Or you might be looking to join an organization that has mature quality assurance and testing practices.

5. Explore different job searching websites and online resources

There are an alarming number of job sites out there. Here are some that I find the most useful:

Indeed appears to be one of the current favorites for QA and software professionals. Dice is also useful, and it publishes helpful articles and tips that are worth looking over. For those in the U.S. who can access their county or state unemployment site, these sites tend to list jobs not found online elsewhere.

I generally use Glassdoor to glance through reviews. Keep in mind that you should take employer reviews with a grain of salt, especially when you see reviews that swing wildly from the extremely positive to the extremely negative. I simply jot down common themes in a dozen reviews and determine if they're conducive to my list of must-haves.

Some sites, like LinkedIn, offer a premium account that includes great features. The costs are often small in the grand scheme of things.

Quick reminder: If you post your resume anywhere online, make sure you don't include any confidential or personally identifying information, such as your address, phone, or ID number. Your name and a valid email or LinkedIn URL is enough. There are hundreds of professional recruiters out there, and anything you list as contact information will be bombarded after about five days. Professional recruiters are useful, but you'll need to be prepared to be contacted by potentially large numbers of them.

6. Network like crazy: Tap coworkers, QA groups, and LinkedIn

It goes without saying that you need an updated, professional LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is the number one way to get contacted for jobs, possibly related to the QA job you're looking for. LinkedIn also provides a a general job board, as well as job boards within groups devoted to QA professionals. Check out the LinkedIn profiles of other QA professionals to get an idea of how to present your skills and experience.

Be sure your LinkedIn profile matches your updated resume. Many recruiters suggest that you only list information from the last 10 years. Use your best judgment. Personally, I list every position relevant to QA or the type of job I am seeking. Keep it accurate and concise. Ask some coworkers and friends to look it over, and get their feedback. Give coworkers recommendations and ask for them in return as well.

Make sure you connect with people you meet. You'll be amazed at how often you find some connection with a hiring manager. That might help build trust with the hiring manager right away.

Finally, reach out to former coworkers and attend QA group meetings in your area. Co-workers may know about job postings they're willing to share. Do the same. If you get a job contact they may be interested in, share it, because networking is a two-way street.

7. Build relationships with recruiters

Once the recruiter contacts start piling into your email, make time to respond. You can create a form letter that you can quickly copy and paste as your response (don't forget to change the details before sending). Respond to all recruiters honestly. If it's not in your commuting range, tell them that.

You'll soon be signed up on dozens of tech company recruiting systems. If you don't want a lot of junk later, make sure you give them precise information about where you want to work, including the commuting distance and any other QA job must-haves from your list. It's your QA job—be as picky as your situation allows.

8. Prepare for the interview

When you get an interview with a company directly, take the time to prepare. Read their website, look up employer reviews, and search for recent press releases or news articles. Read enough to be able to ask three to five questions related to QA and the company itself. I suggest making a list of QA process items, management styles, and any aspects of previous jobs that have annoyed you in the past. For example, when interviewed I asked approximately three questions about QA, two about management styles, and four about the company itself.

Remember that interviews are a two-way street. You are interviewing the campany as much as they are interviewing you.

Watch for non-verbal cues while you listen closely to answers. Sometimes people tell you more from their non-verbal cues than they do from their verbal dialogue. Check the vibe of the office when you're there. Does it feel stuffy, negative, lighthearted, goofy, or pleasant? You'll run into all types of office environments during the interviewing process, so note which ones you prefer.

9. Benchmark the company's quality assurance and testing practices

Ask about future goals and current QA practices and methodologies—basically anything that's important to you for identifying the best employer.

Does the company utilize test automation? Have they adapted their testing practices for agile development? What percentage of their overall IT budget is devoted to software quality assurance and testing? At what stage of the application delivery lifecycle does the company engage QA and testing teams?

And don't be too quick to say "yes"

Job searching is never a straighforward experience. If possible, hold out for the QA job that meets your needs. Keep an open mind in comparing benefits, salary, atmosphere, and other aspects of the job. Remember—they should be considered perks if you're actually going to use them. Sometimes, environment is more important than salary, or vice versa. You want to find a job you'll enjoy long after the first few transition months are over.

Before saying "yes" to the hiring manager, do the due diligence and pay attention to every step of the job search process. I hope these tips are helpful. Is there anything you would add to this list?

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