Hiring Testers with or without Certifications

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    Last month, Rob Lambert wrote about how he believes certifications create lazy hiring managers. Read it here!

    A quote from the article:  “I’ve interviewed 100s of testers and I’ve yet to see any direct link between excellent candidates and their possession of a testing certification. Period.”

    Rob’s experience has led to a robust approach and it obviously works for him but for everyone else I’d like to know two things:

    1. If you are someone responsible for recruiting in your organisation – would you be more or less likely to hire someone with a testing certification?
    2. If you are tester – do you think a certification (or the lack of one) was a decisive factor in getting a job (or not getting a job)?

    I totally second this statement.
    Managers who hire based on the certifications do not do their work right.
    Even the worst tester or developer can pass those test and fail to perform com[lex task or incompatible with the team spirit.
    The only value of certification is a prove being on a training course and maybe a sign of a very basic knowledge in the specific technical field.


    If you have a certificate I expect more from you: For me as a tester and a hiring manager a certificate tells me that the candidate should know the terminology and speak the same language as other testers with the certificate. i.e. the ISEB Foundation is only good to me as setting a common language. So if the candidate can’t use the same language and either gets terms wrong or doesn’t understand them, then the certificate is useless. Candidates without a certificate get some benefit of doubt with regards to specific terms. Both will still get an equal chance at an interview and a similarly probing/testing interview. I would recruit, and have recruited, testers without certificates; even candidates without testing experiance. If I’m honest the worst recruit I’ve employed had a certificate and the gift of the gab, and the best recruit I had was a testing novice who needed to prove themselves and stepped up to the mark.

    Generally though the certificate helps me set the tone of the interview for that candidate. So maybe if you apply to me, it might be better not to mention the certificate; you might get a slightly easier time. I shouldn’t say that but it’s true: Certificates can set false expectations.


    I don’t pay much attention to certification when I am reviewing CV’s. I don’t see that it is really relevant and certainly it is not relevant to exclude candidates simply because they are not certified. Certification merely proves that they were willing to pay their money and answer some multiple choice questions.

    I want testers who are curious, confident, and able to challenge the norm. Sure, they should also have relevant technical skills as well, but these can to a certain extent be learnt on the job. Being able to learn simple terms and general techniques, pigeon fashion, doesn’t show that someone is a good tester, in the same way that learning to drive and pass a driving test does not make one a good driver.

    What makes me sad is that certification companies sell their product based on fear, and the testing recruitment industry takes the easy route of making a certification the minimum, in order to have one’s CV even make the hiring managers desk. I blogged about this a while ago (http://stephenjanaway.co.uk/stephenjanaway/blog/certification-new-job/), and while things are changing they are not changing quickly enough. As hiring managers we need to improve our approach.


    Thanks Pini and Stephen(s) – from your comments there seems to be a consensus that certificates don’t really matter. That’s interesting – in a recent study we conducted (people who attended EuroSTAR 2013 will remember it, the full report will be available later this year), we asked how testers felt about qualifications and 74% of them said their certifications were something they valued and a similar number said they were a worthwhile undertaking.

    Are these numbers at odds with what you guys are saying?


    Engineers may value their certification but that is of no use for me as a manager. I value more their knowledge and personal compatibility to the team. They should really think this too.
    Agile manifesto says: we value X over Y, and it doesn’t mean Y is not important. It means that X is MORE important.

    I would always prefer to hire young excited hacker without RedHat certification over medium engineers with half a dozen of certificates.


    That could be dependant on a number of factors – sample size and background/ experience of those sampled being the most relevant I’d have thought. It could potentially also depend on the nature of the industry we work in as managers.. If testers who filled in the survey mostly come from an area of the IT industry where they have managers and recruiters who are asking for certification then I’d not be surprised if their answers showed they thought it was required.

    From my point of view, I don’t discriminate either way. If someone impresses me during an interview then that’s great, whether they have a certification of some sort or not.

    Derk-Jan de Grood

    Funny enough, a survey done by ISTQB among 779 test mangers resulted in the following statement. On the Question: What percentage of your testing staff would you like to see certified, 33% percent said I want 50-99% of my staff certified and 55% wants their whole team certified (100%). The source is of course ISTQB’s own research as presented in the 2013-14 ISTQB effectiveness survey, but it seems to matter.

    For me personally I’d like to hire a professional that takes his learning and shaping seriously. So I require some sort of story how the candidate improves himself as a tester. This can be anything test gatherings, reading, etc. And of course trainings. So a certificate might mean that he did take his profession seriously, but other means of learning and shaping might be more effective, it depends per case and depends on the role i am hiring for.
    I require some methodical knowledge, would expect the tester to be able to explain how some test processes work (either the SCRUM, session based ET or waterfall e.g. T-map process). For more experienced testers or test managers I expect an opinion: so he/she should not only be able to explain these processes, but comment on them as well. Furthermore I expect him/her to know some design techniques, and be able to explain some to me. Once more it’s about the story, not the certificate, that convinces me, but it happens to be stuff that is in the ISTQB as well.

    Finally I’d like to state, that I know some organizations where candidates are filtered by the HR department. So, if you do not make it through this round, you’ll never get to see your future testing boss. The initial filter is often done on criteria that have nothing to do with your quality, but more with specifications like “does the candidate have a certificate” Unfortunate, but true.


    I find recruitment difficult and am going to be drip feeding my top 10 issues on my blog (https://stevethedoc.wordpress.com), so I wont repeat bits here, but certification does not and should not come into it.

    I am prepared to go out on a limb here and state that I do not believe that the ISTQB certification as it stands equips testers to be able to fit into the the current world. We are working in more Agile (and agile with a deliberate small ‘a’) ways, and testers need to be more technical too. It is not about writing big strategies and test plans, test scripts etc – in my experience no-one reads them anyway. A testing certification should help the candidate to be a good tester, working in a team that is either Waterfall, Agile (Scrum/Kanban), distributed Agile, pairing with off-shore models, etc, but it doesn’t.

    The fundamental issue is that candidates arrive who have literally swallowed the syllabus – but are unable to put what they learn into practice as what they are taught doesn’t fit with how an organisation necessarily works. They learn enough to pass the exam, then go back to their day jobs and ignore it. I chuckle when I see job roles that insist on ISTQB (good luck with that!), or Test Manager roles that insist on a degree – as if something you did 15-25 years ago could possibly have any bearing on your management ability!

    Far more important is the candidates attitude and experience. Do they know how to system test, can they tell me what regression testing is, have they done performance, load, security testing? have they supported business users doing UAT? Can they work from a user story and add in the test confirmations needed? Can they automate (if that is a requirement)? I want to hear examples of approaches, tools they have used, and examples of where they have improved testing.

    So no – I am not a lazy Test Manager who asks for ISTQB and that’s it – I look for specific skills, attitude and aptitude, and if they have certification then that’s all very nice, but adds no extra weight as far as I am concerned.

    Dispense with the obsession over certification and look at the candidate for who they are and what they can do.


    I very much agree with the points made by Steve Watson. I don’t believe not having the latest or more advanced testing certifications has held me back at all in securing job offers. When reviewing CV’s and interviewing people I take no notice of whether or not the candidate has testing certifications. After making sure the candidate has the required testing experience we look for I then look for the right attitude and approach that fits our organisation and team. Those skills cannot be learned on a course.


    I personally would not hire somebody who has certification but not enough technical or core knowledge about testing.but I would like to mention that certifications are not useless either.

    I would like to mention my example over here.
    I started my career in testing around 6 years ago and did certification right after 1 year i got hired.As I had bechelor degree in computer engineering I knew the technical term but not the advanced terms used in testing field so i opted foundation level certification(ISTQB) and I found myself more clear with all methodology,terms and implementation of new and different methodologies into organization.
    so I would conclude that certification are useful if you put all the concepts learned into implementation.

    I would also like to mention one thing that some organizations always prefer candidates with certification beacause they dont want to spend more time in training that person with basic concepts.



    I believe a Certificate does add to the C.V.
    It gives you an extra level of confidence that they having being working as a Test Analyst and have the basis of an understanding in testing.

    However all aspects of a C.V., an interview and person are ranked, when thinking of whom to hire.

    Certification is just one of them and probably is lower down the order, than say experience or personality in an interview


    Test certification only gives 2 advantage,
    1. a better looking CV.
    2. force the students to get familiar with the certified terminologies , so that may reduce the communication people with other certified people,

    Current test certification is nothing related to test itself..

    Richard Forjoe

    I think now it doesn’t matter so much to be certified because the industry has matured a lot more. People understand that ISEB doesn’t teach you how to test and companies are coming round to this. Not all of them but those that are taking up Agile approaches to delivery.

    Company A) Companies that ask for certification i don’t think are necessarily asking for better testers but for testers that can jump on board and start running with minimum effort ie Their processes are built on ISEB + Prince 2 theory. So they want people that already understand that lingo. They can come in understand their processes and apply it. Usually these companies put project teams together, deliver a project to a client, get paid and move onto another client delivery. So there’s a lot more focus on people management , delivery and costs, than on quality.

    Company B) On the other hand are companies that value good testers hence for them being able to do testing is more important. In these cases they don’t usually bother with certification because they want people that can add value, who fit in their teams, who bring something new/fresh to the table. Attitude, drive and passion is usually important here which beats certification.

    There’s also a mix of both.

    Certification is a good thing in my eyes when done properly. My concerns with ISEB being its lack of change and it doesn’t stand up to being challenged which is not good for the industry. A good tester with certification is still a good tester.

    Personally a candidate having certification only gives me more ammunition to challenge their thinking. Its easy to spot someone that knows a word from someone that understands the concept behind it and is capable of applying the concept.

    If 2 candidates both had bad CV’s and one had Certification i wouldn’t pick either but a non-tester might still pick the one with certification. This is another problem with non-testers hiring testers. It’s probably due to a general assumption that certification proves what candidates are qualified at doing. In the case of testing it doesn’t.


    Will try to answer question 2: If you are tester – do you think a certification (or the lack of one) was a decisive factor in getting a job (or not getting a job)?

    Probably this point of view was mentioned before: if the company that hires knows what testing is and does they shouldn’t care about certifications, if the company that hires just heard about testing and think it would be a nice addition to what they do, they will most probably as inexperienced recruiters base their confidence on someone that has some certifications.

    Going to the right company – preferred type – depends on career perspective and luck (being in the right place at the right time).


    Doesn’t matter person has the certification or not. I saw persons (which was hired by me), which was brilliant on testing and doesn’t have certificate, but as well I saw totally bad testers with certification.
    Main thing is soft skills: how person are able to communicate, how fast are able to catch main idea, what is an attitude on quality….


    I was invited to take part in this thread.

    1 – I recruit testers and I have no preference. I need certain skill sets, and these certs will not cover those skill sets. If you have them, fine, but you will not be considered a “better option” than someone without.

    2 – I have been a tester for well over a decade and progressed my career through to management. I have not taken one single certification. I have looked at the curriculum for the certs and, imho, it is nothing more than an exercise in proving common sense. Unfortunately there are far to may companies – who do not understand testing – hung up on “certs = excellent tester. No certs = bad/lazy tester”.

    I recently interviewed 2 testers 1 with certs, 1 without. The one without certs was able to resolve the scenarios better than the one with certs who was too hung up on process to be responsive on a fast moving project. I recruited the one without certs.


    A quote from the article: “I’ve interviewed 100s of testers and I’ve yet to see any direct link between excellent candidates and their possession of a testing certification. Period.”

    I think the quote is suggestive; same can be said the other way around. I have yet to find the link between NOT having a certificate and being NOT excellent or NOT having a certificate and therefore being an excellent candidate (or whatever combo is thinkable here). Is the possession of a certificate a guarantee for an excellent employee or is it the other way around. Is having a certificate blinding the employer, making lazy, so that excellence isn’t top on the list and every nitwit with a certificate gets a job because questions aren’t asked.

    Off course having a certificate doesn’t make you an excellent tester, same goes for not having one. And it also depends on WHAT certification you have I guess. The certification referred to in the article are perhaps the certification schemes as ISEB/ISTQB?, it doesn’t say (but I could have missed it) in the article. What if a certification explicitly certifies a certain amount of practice would that make a difference?
    Everything a certified tester (or what profession for that matter) can do or knows, a uncertified person can do or can know too. The “problem” isn’t the certification but the way recruiters/ employers utilize them. I know testers that have no certifications and are excellent craftsmen, I also know excellent craftsmen with the full packages of certs; I also know testers who are lousy at their jobs and have respectively no or all certifications. ..

    If you are someone responsible for recruiting in your organisation – would you be more or less likely to hire someone with a testing certification?

    Depends; firstly if a resume has a certain pizazz/ x-factor, I consider a certificate a plus/ bonus and not having one is no problem.
    If a resume gives me no warm feelings at all, having certifications makes me consider an interview, while not having a cert. will not be invited for an interview. Same goes for the interviews themselves; if the candidate has the software-testing pizazz I don’t mind if the candidate doesn’t have a certificate, although I would ask why, because it might point out some different (attitude) problems. It also depends on seniority; f.e. someone who is fresh out of school is not expected to have a certificate in software testing.

    If you are tester – do you think a certification (or the lack of one) was a decisive factor in getting a job (or not getting a job)?

    Yes and no: When I first started at Capgemini I got a training to become a software tester: I didn’t have a certificate so I got the job without one. To get the cool assignments (and more salary) I needed certifications, so I got them (besides the fact that I found it a personal prestige to receive them).
    When you get to a certain amount of expertise (and can prove that), a certificate isn’t mandatory anymore. I think I would have gotten the job I got now (non Capgemini) even if I didn’t have the certificates I have now.


    I agree that getting a foundation-level certification early on helped me gain confidence and a better understanding of testing. I truly provides a foundation. Actually doing the testing and applying the methods are where you really learn it.


    I’ve interviewed a lot of testers in my career. Early on in this experience I did pay attention to qualifications but I soon realised that it didn’t really matter. I’m not a huge fan of ISTQB so it makes no odds if it’s on the CV. Imagine you’re on eBay and you’re filtering the search results. ISTQB is a filter and if it matters to you then of course filter by it. However, eBay has plenty of unnecessary filters so just bear that in mind – you might be missing out on an amazing purchase because your filter is too refined. An awesome tester should shine way beyond a basic certification.

    I believe my ISEB (yes, old school) foundation certificate in Software Testing has never been a decisive factor in getting a job. Yet before I had the certificate I’ve certainly missed out on job offers but I’ll never know if that was down to lack of certification without going back to those recruiters. Now that would be an awkward conversation – “Hey company who I can’t really remember the name of. Remember me? I interviewed with you about 10 years and I’d like to know if I didn’t get the job because I didn’t have that certificate?”

    Ronan Healy

    I came across this article and thought it an interesting contribution to the debate. The article by Dean is about this notion of “de-certification”. He states that declaring on CV’s that you have de-certified (i.e. no longer wish to acknowledge that you have taken the course) would make a good talking point in any interview. It would suggests that there are testers who are questioning the value of certification later on in their careers.

    You can read the blog post here

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