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Hiring Talented Software Testers: Unraveling the Secrets to Effective Hiring

April 26, 2024Rahul Parwal
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The role of testers is crucial to every project’s success. They act as investigators and quality champions that present insights, helping you understand the state of your software. Most companies struggle to hire talented testers and end up with AI-drafted resumes and rote learners on the top testing interview questions. 

Interested in hiring talented and quality testers for your teams? Let’s dive in.

In this article, we will talk about the art and science of this talent hunt puzzle.

Interviewing – The Neglected Skill

Interviewing - The Neglected Skill

Interviewing is a dynamic process where individuals engage in dialogue, exchange ideas, and explore each other’s perspectives. 

It involves: 

  • Asking thoughtful questions
  • Active listening
  • Understanding each other’s experiences, skills, and perspectives. 

Unfortunately, interviewing is one of the most ignored skills in the tech industry, with most interviewers carrying on without caring about improving this skill. One major reason behind this is that most engineers are never judged or evaluated on this skill. 

So, Why care to improve it?

If you are reading this, Congratulations! you are in the top 2% who really care about interviewing as a skill, thus bringing in talented candidates to your team. You will be adding massive value to your organization if you master the art of hiring talented and quality testers, trust me.

Understanding Common Interviewing Pitfalls

Understanding Common Interviewing Pitfalls

Before we talk about the key aspects of doing great interviews, let’s understand some common mistakes that most recruiters make. Avoiding these pitfalls would automatically position you to filter skillful testers.

  • Asking a question(s) without providing context and expecting one “RIGHT” Answer.
    • Most testing answers vary with context. There is rarely one RIGHT answer in the testing space.
    • Not sharing appropriate context or a medium for clarification can trap good candidates. 

Note: Give bonus marks if the candidate proactively asks you questions that help them clarify the context or break down the problem into smaller parts.

  • Picking questions from Google / Social Media.
    • Candidates already mug up such questions. 
    • It will only help you a little in uncovering the real skills.
    • Such open questions revolve more on theory and do not test practical craftsmanship skills.
  • Not sharing communication protocol for the interview
    • It’s good to explicitly mention that it is fine to ask questions to clarify the context. 
    • This will allow you to witness their questioning, reasoning, and critical thinking.
    • You can also do a role-play exercise with the candidate.
      Example: Take the role of a product owner, create the context, and ask the tester to share their testing approach.
  • Having a fixed questioning list and pattern:
    • An interview is a dynamic process. 
    • It’s important to tune it to the candidate’s responses, and experiences.
    • You can use a fixed list of questions for screening or filter rounds. Avoid using one for the actual interviews.
  • Crafting (Copying) Poor Job Descriptions
    • Your job description is a sales pitch to hire good testers.
    • Most testing job descriptions are poorly written. 
    • Copying any existing testing job description increase your chances of creating a poor one. 
  • Don’t trade theoretical Concepts with Practical Skills
    • Don’t trade off theoretical concepts with practical skills. 
    • A tester who can find bugs better is more valuable than one who knows the difference between White box and Black box testing. Similarly, a tester who explores software better is more valuable than one who knows the Software Development Lifecycle.

Key Components of a Healthy Testing Interview

1. The Warm Welcome

Imagine walking into a room filled with strangers, each armed with questions. 

Intimidating, right? 

As an interviewer, your first and foremost responsibility is to put the candidate at ease. Start with a friendly smile and give a genuine introduction. 

Example:

  • Yourself: “Hi, I’m Rahul Parwal, and I work as a Specialist in the testing team here.”
  • Your Company: “We’re a quality-driven organization that values innovation and collaboration. We have our presence in ….”
  • The Role: “Today, we’ll discuss your potential fit for our [Test Engineer] position.”

Remember, the primary goal of a healthy interview is to develop rapport, instead of bombarding the candidate with technical topics from the start.

2. Testing Challenges & Puzzles: Observing Their Approach

You can use testing games, challenges, and puzzles to observe how the candidates approach them. Games help reduce barriers between the interviewer and interviewee. Games are fun and can help you to access multiple skills at once. 

Here are popular collections for such testing challenges & puzzles:

As these challenges unfold, pay attention to how the candidate approaches these problems. 

Are they systematic or diving headfirst into the problem? 

Is there a method or structure behind their approach? 

Here are some cues to look for:

  • Making Notes: Good testers note down key points. It shows their organizational skills.
  • Using Tools: Proficiency with tools indicates practical experience. Ask them if they know of a tool to help with such problems.
  • Meaningful Data: Do they analyze data thoughtfully? Are they thinking of making diverse test data?
  • Asking Questions: Curiosity is a sign of a growth & problem-solving mindset.
  • Time Management: Asking for time and constraints shows respect for schedules.
  • Hints: Seeking hints demonstrates adaptability. Check if they explicitly ask for hints.
  • Mistakes & Assumptions: We all make them. Making mistakes is fine. It’s important to see how well do they handle slip-ups.
  • Doubts Clarification: Clear communication matters for planning and scope identification.
  • Meticulousness: Attention to detail is the hallmark of a meticulous tester.
  • Analytical Thinking: Testers are architects of logic, dissecting systems with analytical precision.
  • Learnability: In a fast-paced industry, quick adaptability and eagerness to learn are invaluable traits.

3. Seek Past Project Insights

Dig deeper into their past projects. Understand their contributions, the challenges faced, and what they enjoyed. You can ask about:

  • “Tell me about a project you worked on.”
  • “What did you like most about it?”
  • “If you could change something, what would it be?”
  • “What was one key innovation or initiative that you did in your project?”

Note: It’s recommended to communicate in advance that you do not expect them to disclose any sensitive data about their previous employer.

4. Go Deep

Ask simple & straightforward questions but encourage detailed responses. Probe further:

  • “Why did you choose that approach?”
  • “How would you handle X scenario?”
  • “What if constraints Y and Z were in play?”

Observe their reactions when you probe them with additional questions:

  • Do they defend themselves or are open to critique?
  • Do they get frustrated at any point? How did they cope back?
  • Did they question you back?
  • Do you both enjoy this deep conversation?

5. Engage in Conversations

Beyond testing, it’s also important to assess their communication skills. You can also use non-technical topics to gauge these skills. Some sample questions:

  • Movies: “What’s the last movie you watched or liked?”
  • Books: “Any favorite reads? Technical Books?”
  • Podcasts: “Recommendations?”

6. The Coding Assignment

If you want to check for someone who can do hands-on automation, then this is a must.  Focus on their approach rather than nitpicking syntax. Some aspects to focus on:

  • Approach: How do they break down the problem?
  • Pace: Do they make steady progress, or do they rush in panic?
  • Logic: Do you see clear thinking or unorganized work?
  • Problem-solving: Are they trying to break the problems into small parts?
  • Variable Naming: A micro activity that helps you know the overall clarity in mind.
  • Comments: Are they putting insightful and meaningful comments or generic ones?

Don’t judge them on:

  • Syntax Correctness: We all Google syntax. Trust me, even I do 🙂
  • Exact Output: It’s about logic, reasoning, and thinking at the end.
  • IDE Usage: Familiarity varies, and these tools can always be quickly learned.

7. Invite their Queries

An interview is a two-way street. It is important to invite their queries. Questions will reveal insights into their priorities. See if they ask questions on the following:

  • Learning Curve: Are they eager to learn?
  • Opportunities: What excites them?
  • Infrastructure & Logistics: Do they have some practical concerns?
  • Work Environment: What do they seek?
  • Company Culture: What matters to them?
  • Growth Prospects: Are they ambitious?

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Conclusion

Hiring talented software testers is not just a task; it’s a voyage of discovery, a testament to human potential. Embrace the journey, cherish the dialogue, and celebrate the art of finding the perfect fit. As an interviewer, your goal is not just to evaluate but also to make candidates feel comfortable. So, next time you’re in the interviewer’s seat, help them get comfortable—they’ll appreciate it! 🌟

Happy hiring, and may the test of your hiring process turn GREEN soon.

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