CV with no certifications

Recently, I found myself on the job-hunting path again. I am one of the testers who have no certification specifically related to software testing. Further, I do not plan on getting such a certification.

In the past, I included the line in the certification section of my CV, “I do not have an ISTQB certification, and I would be pleased to explain why.” This statement led to a high percentage of refusals to interview me. The few who did usually wanted me to explain why, sometimes to the exclusion of what I thought was more relevant information (like my accomplishments).

This time around, I changed the statement. Instead of with the rest of my certifications, I included the following statement in the descriptions of my activities for a previous job:

I actively helped improve their ISQTB-based testing strategy to testing methods which better fit our needs.

The idea behind this change was that most companies have a big testing problem. Their testers waste their time planning and documentation of tests and not enough time testing. In my statement above, I imply that there is a better way, and for the previous organization, I have found it.

When I put out my CV, something happened which hasn’t happened since I started testing as a full time job. Companies approached me asking for interviews. They had a problem (testing can be better!) and I offered a solution. A topic of conversion switched from “Why don’t I have a certification” to “How can I help you improve your testing?” At the end of the job-hunt, I had the unique position that I had to turn down some really decent job offers because more than one company wanted my help.

Of course, this wasn’t the only improvement I made to my job hunt strategy, but it was an important one.


So not having it in your certifications didn’t scare off the companies? That would seem to indicate that people are actually reading the CVs before dropping all obvious non-starters. That would be a definite change for the better for many companies.


That falls under the category of “other improvements”. For the job I accepted, we were introduced through probably the best headhunter I ever worked with. Through our interviews and his networking skills, we were able to create a lot of possibilities.

Other possibilities:

  • networking contacts get (most) interviews
  • Auto-reject looks for the letters in your CV, and not necessarily where in your CV
  • Some HR/management combinations might not understand testing enough to ask for a certification
  • Some recruiters overlook small holes in a CV because of outstanding motivation letters.

The phrase about non-certification mostly helped to guide the topic of conversation more than to get a foot in the door in my case.


great story @brian_seg - thank you for sharing this openly. :slight_smile:

@olaf.meys: you also wrote this supporting comment.

Very nice story. I love the way you put this at your advantage. I’m job hunting too, and there’s definitely a correlation between recruiters that don’t understand testing and those who ask for certifications, at least in France which is a country historically very keen to diplomas.

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Hi Brian,

That’s a great way to frame your abilities and skills! I’m really glad it worked out positively for you as well.

Thanks for sharing this experience so that others in a similar position can try it out too :slight_smile:


I guess whether or not you need a cert depends on the place. I wouldn’t think in Luxembourg they’d feel alright about hiring someone without a cert. That said the cert alone does not help and providing a potential improvement is of greater value to HR.

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I have to say that the testing certifications are not something I necessarily look for, as I am aware that it is possible to send a trainee tester on a course and gain a certification with just a few weeks experience. A certificate does not a tester make!

I look for experience, as that is what is most valuable. Sadly there are companies who insist on having degrees, or ISTQB, without really understanding why that would be a benefit to the post holder. They see it as a guarantee of a certain level of ability and skill, which is not necessarily the case.

The positive way to look at it is that if those companies are so blinkered, then the tester pool that they fish from is smaller. That means more forward thinking companies and managers can take their pick from a wider pool.


I see brain’s story and the reaction to it to be very interesting> I have been hesitating to comment because of my affiliation with International Institute for Software Testing, which is specialized in what we what we call “education-based certifications”. I already know that some might per-judge the reply to be self-promoting. I just need to make sure to say not all certifications were created equal. In fact, my support and involvement in education-based certifications is mainly because of all of this bad rep out there about certifications. please read my article on Linkedin. Let;s simply say that certifications in their own do not make you a better professional and many people who do not have certifications can perform far better than many of those who do have certifications. It is not the acronym you put after your name that makes a difference. It is what you do to get that certification. If all that you do is to take a an exam prep course and pass an exam, then I would say don;t waste your time and money. If in the course of achieving a certification, you must complete a specific course of study that fits within your job and teach you stuff that you can actually use in your projects, that is different. I will leave it at that.

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I do have to say that being self promoting isn’t, by itself, a bad thing. In a way, we’re all doing that here.

I also very much like “If all that you do is to take an exam prep course and pass an exam, then I would say don’t waste your time and money.” That’s very close to my entry point to this discussion. Where I live, many companies look to two types of certification, and of the two types of certification, both are the “take a test and get a piece of paper” type. And of the two institutions, neither actually require testing anything to earn a testing certification. As that is the case, I do not believe that it is worth my time as an experienced tester to worry about. But that does mean that I need other ways to get potential employer’s attention.

Since I believe that I have found a way (at least it worked for me), I thought I should share what I have done for other experienced testers who have faced the same issue.

Thank you for sharing. Your comments, your article, and your institute have certainly given me some food for thought.


I am giving a webinar on testing certifications on this Thursday, October 5th. If you do not mind, I would like to share your experience with attendees. For those who are interested, you can register at here

Interesting post.

I definitely liked the way that this was used to your advantage. I think often in applications/interviews its good to make the employer see something that they may not have considered/wanted before entering into the selection process.

Exactly the same here in Australia Stephane.

I just went through nearly 3 months of having to communicate to the worse recruiters. I was lucky to apply for a position that interested me and met the most amazing recruiter ever. That led to now working with a team that makes awesome seem boring :smile:

Nice one Brian, it’s a difficult time when your trying to find the right company/team to work with and your suggestions had a positive outcome. :+1:

Interesting… Thanks so much for sharing openly :blush:

I’m going to guess one of the big wins was just having the string “ISTQB” on the resume so that the CV passed the initial HR/recruiter screens/searches (assuming that the string in the body of the original post is a typo, i.e. that they didn’t have the Q and the T switched around :stuck_out_tongue: ) .

The way the string is phrased, a recruiter could also read it as the author does have an ISTQB cert.

I always find my ISEB/ISTQB certifications are more important when working with recruitment agencies but not so relevant when applying directly to the actual companies.
I assume this is due to some agencies(not all) just looking for buzzwords where as the actual company are looking for skill sets.

Hi guys! I’m a company recruiter looking for QAs, and since we are struggling with finding the right people, I’ve started reading this forum to better understand QA and the community behind it.

We are a relatively small company (50+ employees) based in Italy. We’ve been looking for QAs twice since we were born 5 years ago.
For us, experience - or even good cover letters! - trump certifications. We found that certifications (for QA, but also languages or ECDL ones) are in no way guarantee of the skills of the person, and decided to mostly disregard them. If a candidate has them there are bonus points for showing commitment and interest, but lack of them won’t affect chances of an interview.
Rather, we focus on looking for people loving QA and realizing the impact it has on a business like ours (we develop applications for end-users), which is why we love receiving cover letter explaining why the candidate stuck with QA and fell in love with it. Those make our day :slight_smile:


Here in the UK, we’re noticing a number of recruiters engaging with the testing community to do the same thing. Our local testers’ meetup is sponsored by a recruitment firm, and there were even a number of recruiters at TestBash this year - not there trying to drum up business or poach new candidates, but just to understand the skills testers need and the sort of people who have them, because so few employers really understand what they want in a tester. The recruiters have probably noticed that there is no such thing as an “average” tester, no “cookie-cutter” model, so it is helping them to help us find rewarding roles as well as helping their clients find the right person for the job they really want doing (even if they don’t know what that job is themselves).

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I think this article is also relevant to the discussion, based on degrees that are not tech focused.