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Strange as it may sound, it is possible to become a furniture tester; it’s one of the most unusual jobs you can get. You’re going to want to sit down for this though…get it? Sit down? But, before you run off to search “furniture tester jobs” the official title is usually quality assurance technician or engineer. No matter what you call it, though, the job description is to literally spend 8 hours a day, checking the comfort levels of furniture and also the safety.
Let me start by saying that it is a very niche job, and these roles aren’t being handed out left, right and centre. But like anything, if you really have a passion for it and do all the right things, you’ll eventually get the job you want.
Let’s start with a quick synopsis of a furniture tester’s role:
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1. Research the job
Furniture companies like Lazy Boy, take huge pride in the comfort and luxury associated with their reclining products, and always aim to get things perfect. Although all companies have a quality assurance department that tests the durability and resilience of the materials used in their products, Lazy Boy takes an extra step towards customer satisfaction. Although machines undoubtedly do the job, they lack the human touch and ultimately the ability to feel if the piece of furniture created has any hot spots or pinching. That’s where a furniture tester job comes to complete a company’s quality assurance.
What a furniture tester does:
- Ensures products are comfortable
- Makes sure that the product does not have any hot spots or pressure points
- Evaluates ergonomics
- Writes reports with suggestions and impressions of furniture tested
- Checks how safe the furniture is
In short, you’ll spend your time testing a variety of different chairs, couches, tables, etc. to ensure their comfort and safety. You’ll sit, stand, look, test each and every feature of a new product, then write a report (or a scoring system) depending on your findings. To be good at this job, you do need to be analytical, have a keen attention to detail and have a particular love for sitting around on couches, etc.! You also have to be self-motivated, you can’t expect someone micromanage you as you plop down and get up and plop down again.
2. Things to keep in mind before applying
Types of furniture testers:
- Quality Assurance Engineers/Technicians
Before we delve further into the world of practical furniture and ergonomics, it’s worth pointing out that furniture testing is largely a self-employed job which involves working many different temporary contracts (although some lucky people do get employed by companies full time), so essentially you’ll be a freelancer which requires perseverance and self-organisation.
The best way to get a job is to enter the impressively large furniture designing and manufacturing industry which is frequently looking for employees. So, if a testing job opens up, you will be in the right place at the right time to recommend yourself.
Full-time positions will usually be in Quality Assurance and when there isn’t furniture to be inspected or tested you most likely do other, testing furniture related, activities. This can include overseeing manufacturing, materials or even finishing.
3. Expected salary
The life of a furniture tester can have many ups and downs (excuse the pun!). After a little research, I can confirm that the average salary for a furniture tester is around £26,000, but like any job or trade, there are variables. So it is possible to earn a lot more and sadly, if work is slow, less.
Average salary range for furniture testers:
- Hourly £5-8
- Annually £26.000
For small temporary contracts, furniture testers generally make between £10- 15 per hour, so per day, you’re looking at between £80 and £120 before tax, but again, there is the potential to earn a lot more.
4. Essential requirements
Now, apart from some fundamental furniture knowledge (reading up on the subject is key), a keen eye, some passion and attention to detail, you don’t have to get an official qualification to be a furniture tester, but they are available. Beyond these, if you want to improve your odds you can work on your communication skills because you will have to able to report both in person and by writing about your assessment of the furniture’s comfort and safety levels.
Helpful skills for furniture testers:
- Communication skills
- Organizational skills
- Attention to detail
- Interpersonal skills
- Self motivation
- Money management
If you are looking to go into this field, I’d strongly recommend enrolling in a FIRA course or for an Intertek certification. Not only will you learn every aspect of the trade, it will give you the skills and confidence to compete in this tight and cutthroat job market - so don’t scrimp, get certified!
Also, another thing that will give you that all-important competitive edge is by taking an official ergonomics course. Not only will people take you more seriously, but a working knowledge in this field can also widen your scope for career progression. This will also serve as an extremely valuable backup if in case there is never a furniture tester position open.
Here a few useful furniture based resources that may lend a helping hand…
- Furniture news zine - up to date info on all things furniture
- Alison Online - free online ergonomics course
- A must read furniture testing book!
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Whatever way you look at it, furniture testing is an interesting to make a living, and if you’re good at it, there’s a lot of scope to further your career in ergonomics and increase your earning potential.
Have you ever been a furniture tester? Let us know about your experience in the industry and things young aspiring furniture testers should look for.
This article was first published in September 2014.