Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Don't Claim It If You Only Read It

I've been hiring on behalf of a client lately, looking for a head of QA. One of the trends I noticed as I was reviewing resumes was that a lot of candidates had a list of languages on their resumes: C++, Perl, Ruby, Java, etc. "How cool!", I thought. It's great to see the testing profession attracting people who are capable of writing code but for whatever reason find testing a better fit, Maybe that profession is finally overcoming the stigma of "not good enough for dev" and "tester == manual tester".

And then I started the phone screens.

I've screened 12 people so far who listed languages on their resumes, and so far not one of them has actually been capable of writing code. Nope, that language list? That's the languages they can read. As in, "I can follow along on code written in C++ or Java."

Ouch. Now I'm disappointed in all of them. Here I thought they had some skills they don't have.

I understand what the candidates were going for. They're "technical testers" rather than testers who work purely on the business level and don't understand how software works. I get it. I really do. That such a distinction has meaning is sad but true.

But don't claim languages if you mean you can read them! You're an engineer, darnit! Claim a language if you can write it. There are enough engineers - and enough testers - who can write code that to claim a language without qualifying it means people will think you write it.

If you're trying to say, "hey, I'm a technical tester", then please do so in your resume. Just do so without unintentionally telling people that you're more technical than you are. The right way to say, "I can read but not write C++" is to say: "Languages: C++ (reading), Perl (read/scripting)" or something similar. That way hiring managers don't start with higher expectations than you can meet... And that's good for candidates, too.


  1. 12 out of 12 could only read the languages they listed, not write them? I think that's a trend, rather than a surprise...

    When I see a language listed on a tester's resume, I don't assume they can code in that language, unless they specifically indicate that they can (in the resume, or in a cover letter). That way, I'm not disappointed.

    If I need coding ability in a role I'm trying to fill, then I list that on the Requirements I post, and expect that in the candidates. Otherwise, I don't.

  2. I think some of the confusion comes from the fact that before hiring for this position, I was hiring for devs. On a dev's resume, "Languages" definitely means "I code in this language". So I saw "languages" and made a - bad as it turns out - assumption.

    I say don't expect the hiring manager to make the same assumption you - the candidate - do. Be explicit.