Finding a Job After Courses: The Testing Journey of a Novice - A Tale of Tears and Triumph

Finding a Job After Courses: The Testing Journey of a Novice - A Tale of Tears and Triumph

In the competitive job market, it can be disheartening for aspiring QA professionals to discover that the number of QA interns graduating from courses in the CIS region is 3.5K, while the available job openings are only 0.9K. As a result, many newcomers find themselves searching for employment for months, facing the pressure of limited opportunities and resorting to desperate measures such as pleading with companies, "I am willing to work overtime, just give me a chance..."

My name is Cheslav Gerasimovich, and I have 11 years of experience in manual testing. I have contributed to enhancing the quality of the world's best solitaire game, mobile tanks, turn-based strategy games, and a dating service specifically designed for Californian Indians. Currently, I serve as the Lead QA at, a networking platform for distributed teams.

In this article, I will share my insights on how to navigate the post-course testing landscape and successfully transition from a novice to a junior QA professional who reads this very article out of curiosity, seated with a corporate MacBook in hand.

How long will an intern tester be searching for a job?

The website "Marketplace Course #1" offers 65 QA courses. If we filter out only individual companies and non-manual QA courses, we are left with 22 courses. The school admits 20 students each month.

We won't consider offline schools in the area, courses within companies, courses outside the RU region, and courses that haven't paid for placement on the marketplace.

So, with 22 courses admitting 20 students each month, a total of 259 whole students and 6 tenths of a student are graduated every month. We also take into account that 59% of the students successfully complete the course.

There will be a total of 215 graduates entering the job market. Out of these, 16.3% have already secured employment with the company where they received training. This company follows a structured program that provides training and employment opportunities.

For the remaining 79% of graduates, they will actively search for employment for a period of 4 months. Additionally, each month, a new batch of 215 graduates will join the job market and begin their job search alongside the previous batches.

This information indicates that there will be a continuous influx of graduates entering the job market over the course of several months, with a portion already employed and the majority actively seeking employment.

How many job openings will be available each month?

A large job vacancy website indicates that there are 132 junior positions available each month. Additionally, I will include 23 intern positions and assume that all of these are for manual QA roles.

Now I will illustrate with visuals how to navigate, search for, and find a good job without burning out.

Why do companies need entry-level graduates?

Companies seek entry-level graduates when they want to delegate disliked tasks to someone who will enjoy them. The dislikes of each tester may vary, such as:

  • Writing test cases
  • Reviewing support tickets for bugs
  • Testing payment systems
  • Checking localization bugs in languages like Japanese or Arabic
  • Writing automated tests
  • Creating documentation
  • Testing VPN functionality and sniffers
  • Conducting acceptance testing on bug-filled builds

Somewhere out there, a newcomer is searching for a job and may enjoy doing what no one else on the team likes. For example, I enjoy diving into analytics and crash logs, as well as writing documentation. However, sniffers can sometimes throw me off track.

Identify what you love from the common dislikes of testers. In advance, include this information in your resume and be prepared to mention it in cover letters.

In addition, here are the advantages of having newcomers:

Enthusiasm: Who would stay behind and say, "Guys, you go ahead, I'll stay and calculate the chances of critical damage in a thousand strikes"? It's the newcomer who brings enthusiasm and a fresh perspective.

Fresh Eyes: In a game about tank management, who wouldn't want to actually control the tank? The newcomer, without preconceived notions, might notice that the tank's turret automatically turns away from a wall when the tank approaches it up close.

Lower Salary: Sometimes, newcomers are willing to accept a lower salary, even if it seems unfair at times.

Gratitude: Newcomers often express their gratitude openly, writing in the chat, "Thank you so much for hiring me. I won't let you down." Seniors, on the other hand, may not express their gratitude as explicitly.

These are some of the additional benefits that newcomers bring to the table.

Why don't companies hire newcomers then?

Enthusiasm: Who stayed behind saying, "Guys, you go ahead, I'll stay a bit longer," and ended up counting damage chances until midnight, only to be useless during the release in the morning? The newcomer.

Fresh Eyes: An inexperienced newcomer may report a bug like "Wrong color of the registration button" instead of "Registration doesn't create a user in the database."

Relatively lower salary: A newcomer receives a lower salary, but the senior benefits from higher productivity due to better equipment and the cost of mentorship, ensuring product quality. There are also costs associated with further training and creating a safe environment for the newcomer to learn and not harm the product.

Unpredictability: All newcomers are resilient and responsible. One year later, one newcomer may discover that we write white text on a white background in the dark theme login field. Another may approve a release version where it's impossible to pay for premium features. There's no time machine (the one without guitars) to know which newcomers will achieve this today.

Newcomers require onboarding: Not all companies excel at onboarding. Often, companies that are aware of their inability to provide proper onboarding prefer hiring non-newcomers. However, some companies that lack onboarding capabilities take risks and hire many inexpensive, grateful newcomers. But risks emerge for everyone. Initially, the company experiences rapid growth. Then, technical debt and missed deadlines force them to lay off newcomers and invest in experienced professionals to save the project. This doesn't always succeed. I've worked on a project where ten newcomers joined in one month, but a few months later, all except one were let go. Today, the company's website doesn't even mention that project—it didn't survive. Having 2-3 months of work experience (not internships but actual work) on a resume raises suspicions for recruiters. I assume that having three such short-term experiences would significantly diminish chances in blind selection.

How to write to a prospective employer

Resume - you already have one - in an ideal world, you have crafted and refined it with a mentor. However, there is no mentor who will write 50-100 cover letters for job applications.

To attract the attention of employers, you need to attract the attention of recruiters. And to do that, you need to think like a recruiter.

Let's imagine that I am a recruiter. I open my email and find 215 responses, like 215 search results. First of all, there is a temptation to choose the first suitable candidate and not go through all of them.

But that's not how I work. I filter. Here are the candidates who sent resumes that I need to download, open, and review. And here is a smaller list - candidates who also included a cover letter. I can choose from them.

Among those who submitted a cover letter, I can further filter out those who have actually read the job description.

Some employers ask applicants to include a specific heading or a keyword from the last line of the job description in their application. I have also been told that recruiters check if the job title in the cover letter matches the job title in the job description.

In simpler terms, when looking for an intern QA, they expect to see "Hello, I am an intern QA" in the cover letter, rather than "newbie QA" or "beginner QA."

Skills with specific tools mentioned in the job description can also serve as a filtering criterion. For example, if the job description states, "We are looking for someone experienced with Postman and CharlesSSL."

However, sometimes companies include certain tools in the job description just for the sake of it, such as when recruiters copy and paste technical requirements from another company's job description.

Include certifications.

I was once selected for an interview at a company based on a shortlist of candidates who held ISTQB certification. ISTQB is an international certification for quality specialists. I have often heard that this is how specialists are selected for foreign clients. Why ISTQB? Clients may not understand our local schools, but they have at least heard of ISTQB.

Highlight relevant experience that will contribute to testing.

For example, if a company develops a running application, and you are an avid runner, or if it is a telemedicine service and you are a medical nurse interested in testing, mention this in your cover letter. Once, I got into a company because I played their game, and that became an advantage for me.

However, after working in the gaming industry for six years, I found it challenging to get hired outside of gaming. I would receive responses like, "Since you worked in the gaming industry, you might not find our work interesting." I believe it could be the other way around, but I haven't come across such stories in the testing field.

In a tank game I played, my teammate was not only a QA tester but also an excellent player in the game. His input on map changes and tank balancing was valued, and his suggestions worked! He was eventually promoted to a product manager.

Once, an app for truck drivers was looking for a product manager who could effectively communicate with 50-year-old truck drivers. Experience took a back seat, and the ability to connect with that audience came first. There were thousands of product managers, but only a handful who were former truck drivers.

Social media should convince others that you are awesome.

Yes, all things being equal, as a recruiter, I will definitely take a look at a candidate's social media profiles after going through all the screening stages.

Some candidates have raised serious doubts during this stage, causing them to transition from the "let's check them out quickly" list to the "let's consider them if all other suitable candidates run out" list. Therefore, your social media presence should either showcase you as an impressive candidate or be protected from prying eyes.

Take a look at the websites of the companies where you would like to work.

Companies often post job vacancies on their websites. The section is usually called "Careers," where you can see the current open positions. Large companies often accept general applications to build a talent pool and make selections from there instead of specific job listings. In the "Careers" section, you may come across a line that says, "If you don't see your position listed, feel free to submit your resume anyway."

Sometimes, I couldn't find the "Careers" section but really wanted to work for a particular company. In those cases, I would find the "Contact Us" link and send my resume to the provided contact email. That's how I received a response with a test assignment from my very first company, and I eventually progressed from a newbie to a department manager there.

If I were to write such an email now, I would attach my ISTQB certificate along with a functional test suite for their product and a couple of bug reports if I found any issues. The message would convey: "I admire your team, and here's how I would contribute to your product if given the opportunity."

You have been invited for an interview after submitting your application. What could go wrong?

You mentioned that this interview is your last chance to avoid being left without any means to support yourself in a month's time.

As an interviewer, when I read or hear someone say, "This is my last chance," it makes me feel uncomfortable. I can empathize with the situation, but it creates an uncomfortable dynamic.

If this is indeed your last chance and the job doesn't work out, how do we part ways?

How can I provide you with feedback and suggestions for improvement without it feeling like criticism?

What will you do if you feel that you haven't been adequately saved or supported?

The right mindset to approach this is, "I would be glad to discuss the position."

These questions have a hidden agenda.

The question "What other job offers are you currently considering?" is essentially asking, "How desperate are you?" I rarely encounter this question nowadays, but it was asked about a year and a half ago. The right answer would be, "I have a few offers and I'm currently undergoing testing," which essentially means "I'm not desperate."

The question "How will you choose a position?" is asking, "Are you just here for the money?" The correct answer would be, "The team, the project, and of course, the compensation," which translates to "You are an amazing team, and your compensation is great."

The question "When will you be ready to start working?" is usually about how you leave your previous job – whether you leave it in good order or in disarray. If the job is good, it's appropriate to ask a counter-question: "When do you need me?" If you don't get a clear date, then the right answer is "Within two weeks" or "Within a week. I have already tied up loose ends and prepared a replacement."

You are invited for an internship

So, the first layer of interviews is complete. You have received an offer. Hooray?

You might feel tempted to accept quickly after months of searching! But hold on, it's not just a hooray moment. You still need to discuss the details. Otherwise, you could end up in a bad internship or a bad job.

A good internship has a time limit, for example, one month. In a good internship, you will have a mentor, specifically a mentor in QA. On one hand, the skill of testing and the skill of imparting knowledge are different skills. On the other hand, the more experienced your supervisor is, the more likely they have mentored someone before. In my interviews for leadership positions, I was always asked about my experience in mentoring a team.

In a good internship, scheduled meetings with your mentor are planned. During the first week, as a mentor, I would meet with the intern daily to discuss skills, adaptation, and applying knowledge to real projects. After that, we would meet three times a week, and then once a week.

Discuss the situation with overtime and night shifts. How often do they occur and how does the company compensate for them?

One can hope that a reputable company handles such matters appropriately. However, as the sunrise of July approaches, you and your team are finishing off cold pizza, while rays of light fall upon the bed of your sleeping loved one. And you are not on that bed.

By the 14th hour of work, two superpowers of a tester - inventiveness and attentiveness - become depleted. And gradually, they lose the world in their heart. Several consecutive overtime shifts render a tester utterly ineffective.

Don't burn out in the early stages.

Get enough sleep, bond with your team, and eat well. Set aside other tasks that may hinder your ability to rest, connect with your team, and eat well.

During my testing courses, I was an average performer, and I even failed the final assignment. Meanwhile, our top student aced the final task and went on to a paid internship. He was precise, detail-oriented, diligent, easily identified critical bugs, and created excellent bug reports.

After a month of internship, he left the field of testing and became a chemistry teacher. Forever.

Avoid overloading yourself whenever possible, especially without permission.

Ask questions.

When I invite a newcomer or an intern to join the team, I tell the team, "Our new guy will probably ask a lot of questions at first. Even silly ones. Please, answer them. It will help him understand the project faster. And most importantly, he will find things that we stopped noticing." Your mentor will likely say something similar.

Phew. That's all for now.
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