Having Certifications on the CV

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    Ronan Healy

    For those of you that are job hunting recently or those of you who are interviewing candidates, I am curious what you think about how having or not not Certifications on the CV.

    If you do are you asked why you got Certifications?

    I’m more curious about if you don’t. Are you asked why you haven’t got certification and are you asked to explain it?

    Do Management look at CV’s differently if they have Certification or not?

    I am curious what your experience has been and if you think Certifications makes a difference or not on CV’s?


    As a manager, I often have to go through a large number of CVs, whether for a permanent or contract position. One of the first things I look for are easy ways to filter the candidates down to a manageable few that I can read in detail from which I can make a shortlist.

    I actually have two quick wins:

    1. Are there spelling mistakes and errors on the CV? If so, then it gets discarded. It sounds harsh, but I am interviewing for a test analyst, and I want attention to detail. If you are sloppy on your CV, then why should I expect you to be any more diligent working for me.

    2. Do you have at least the ISEB/ISTQB Certificate in Software Testing? This indicates to me that you at least have a common understanding of the terms used in testing and methodologies used. If I asked you to carry out integration in the small, then I would expect you to be able to understand what I am asking you to do, just as I would not expect you to look at me blankly if I asked you to do Boundary Value Analysis.

    If you have an Advanced Certificate, then all the better. It means you are dedicated to the job, you are keen to progress and improve your own skills, so you are likely to want to do the best you can for me. From experience (I did the now defunct ISEB Practitioner), these aren’t easy qualifications, so it’s a definite tick in the box.

    Similarly, if you have a PRINCE2 certificate, then I know you are going to understand the fundamentals of project work and the objectives we are trying to achieve, which in turn dictates the quality level we should be applying.

    Certificates aren’t the be all and end all, but having the basic levels will at least get your CV past the first hurdle. Additional certificates will demonstrate your willingness to learn. After that, I am going to take personal recommendations and factor in your experience once I have whittled the CVs down.


    I’d start off by saying there’s nothing wrong with studying and gaining certification. However, I am more interested in gaining an understanding of the candidate from their outlined experience – much more than if they are ISEB/ ISTQB certified. Having done most of these exams myself I can honestly say they are not very helpful in a real work environment. You can learn just as much by reading the books on your own. Plus, they are outdated – I’d be much more interested in an agile based certification if I was looking at a list of their achievements.  Or at least if they had no direct agile experience I would expect them to be fluent in discussing the pros and cons of using different testing processes and strategies. Traditional v’s Agile, etc.

    If they do list say a Scrum Masters certification then this will raise my expectation levels of the candidate in this regard. So if they put that down I’d expect to see some real experience here and not just some recall from books.

    Ultimately, I wouldn’t proactively scan CV’s for certifications. I prefer to get a more holistic feel for the candidate based on their personal and technological experience. Have it structured correctly and avoid silly mistakes, disregarding an application for a spelling error is not something I would personally do.


    Certs are an issue for many schools of thought in software testing.  This is because certs can be misused.  Misuse comes when a person who has a cert believes they know everything on a topic and should be hired (or paid more) because of the cert.  Also, the issue comes because certs only represent one view of a body of knowledge, but testing is complex and a body of knowledge represents a simplification.   Those of us that have studied testing for our whole life come to understand the idea of “it depends”, so there can be many answers to any problem in the real world of test.

    With these ideas in mind then, certs can have a place as the earlier postings have pointed out.   As a hiring manager, I viewed degrees, certs, and even some experience as indicating a person has interest in a field, could be trained on my specific testing tasks and might make a good tester.  I did not hire based solely on a CV.  I hired based on personal interactions.  However, I have seen many HR people and web systems that use degrees, certs, types of schools, and experience as “fast filters” to reduce the number of CVs they have to consider.  These filters mean when we are looking for work we need to know what a company wants (or does not want since I know of companies that will not hire based on having certs).  Tailoring a CV may be a good idea to get past these HR filters.  Once I get a CV I dig deeper, but that is me.   So as testers we should study, and if along the way we get a cert that is neither good or bad, it just means to me we are learning and must keep learning forever.  BTW, I have degrees, certs, published writings, research, and I still have more to learn that I have time.  Enjoy learning.


    I actually ignore certifications inasmuch as I am more interested in a tester’s experience. The problem with certifications is that they are not always relevant. For a long time ISTQB lagged behind the world of Agile – I’m not saying its the case now, but it happens. Also there are testers who join organisations as graduates, do a couple of weeks training and pass the exam. Does that make them qualified? Yes in theory, but not in any practical form, so they would be unable to demonstrate actual application of the knowledge in a working environment. That’s fine if you are recruiting a junior tester as you would expect that, but for someone experienced, what relevance does an exam passed 5, 10  15 years ago have to how they perform today?

    I prioritise testing ability and experience over certification and coding ability, purely because you need a specific type of mindset to be a good tester, which I don’t believe is acquired by passing an exam or learning to code in a language. Passing an exam tells you the theory, learning a language helps you execute tests, but the bit in the middle – the defining the tests you need to cover – is the critical thinking and I am not convinced any certificates can teach you that, only working with other testers and learning on the job can really do that.

    Our organisation long ago did away with sending testers for any formal certificates – it must be nearly 10 years since any store was placed in them. I believe the organisations wanting to promote the certifications need to do a lot more to demonstrate how these have relevance, as it seems only recruiters list them in job ads, as a result of hiring managers with no real understanding of the job insisting upon them, assuming that having ISTQB or Agile Tester certificates is a measure of quality and ability (like asking for a degree). It would be great if that was the case but I have interviewed many testers with a qualification who could not demonstrate the basics to me, so I have to say they have shown little value to me.



    CV is not really common amd needed in my opinion. Also there are many services, which can write any CV you need

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