Would You Survive These Test Manager Interview Questions?

by Ulf Eriksson / 31 October 2016 / 1 comment

So, you’re a Test Manager – or aspiring to be one. You’re looking for a new job. You’ve done your homework – you’ve identified a set of really good prospective employers. You’re excited about the opportunities they offer. You’re looking forward to taking on a new challenge – be it working for a different type of organisation, different type of product, change in domain, technology, methodology.

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You probably want a change of scenery. It’s probably a new city. You’re looking to meet new people, make new friends. The possibilities are endless.

The role itself is familiar to you. You’ve already put in enough time building experience and expertise in Testing. You’re going through the motions of preparing for the interview for that exciting new role of a Test Manager.

Then again, you could be looking to move internally within your company – in a multinational environment, it is common for people to apply for roles within the organisation and move to a new, better, or similar role with a different team – within the same city, to a different city, to a different country, to a different continent. If your company provides this flexibility, then good for you.

No matter your circumstances, when you’re preparing for an interview for a Test Manager role, you want to be as well prepared as is humanly possible. You surf online forums, brush up on fundamentals, you talk to friends about the role, about the department, about the company.

Yes – let’s agree that despite your best efforts, things could go wrong on the day. Your car may breakdown. There may be a delay on the subway. Your clothes may get soiled by a passing car carelessly splashing stagnant rain water. You may feel unwell. You may clam up in front of the interviewer. The interviewers may have had a bad day – and (unprofessional though it is) take it out on you.

Anything could go wrong. Unforeseen circumstances could derail things completely. Yet, you can’t let what can be paralyse you. You want to do the best you can, prepare for all eventualities – and hope that the worst doesn’t happen.

In the spirit of preparing for the unforeseen, I’ve pulled together some simple yet (what can be in the moment) challenging Test Manager Interview questions. Today, we’ll look at these patently challenging Test Manager interview questions, and how you can tackle them should your interviewers decide to throw them at you.

This is not an exhaustive list of all the interview questions you can expect to be asked when interviewing for a Test Manager role. The internet provides ample resources for the basic questions.

In this blog, we’ll look at some of the trickier ones, and how you can handle them with aplomb, and come out shining.

Why are they tricky? Not because they are difficult to answer, but because it can at times seem like whatever you say doesn’t satisfy the question or the people that fire the question at you. So, we’ll look at how you can avoid the uncomfortable silence either side of the table that can sometimes follow the question, or the response.

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If you join our team/organisation as a Test Manager, what are the first three things that you would do?

This is a trap. Why?

You probably don’t have enough understanding or appreciation of the team or organisation you’re looking to join, yet. In which case, you don’t clearly know what challenges the team are facing currently. So you cannot provide an informed response that suits the particular situation of the team or company.

While they don’t really expect you to provide world changing ideas in response, they are open to the possibility.

So what can you do? Not provide a response? Well, in that case, the interviewer might question the value you bring to the table. After all, how can they be sure that you’re the right candidate if you don’t provide a considered response?

Does ‘between a rock and a hard place’ sound familiar?

This is where conducting prior research on the company or the team can help – immensely. Invariably, you’re being asked this question because the interviewers are trying to measure how much effort you have put in to understand what they do, and how you can help improve things if you join.

While they don’t really expect you to provide world changing ideas in response, they are open to the possibility. Some of the best ideas I’ve picked up are from brilliant candidates that I interviewed for a role in my team.

So this question isn’t a blank bullet. It’s quite possible for you to create a great impression with your response, if you’re sufficiently prepared.

Go with a few commonly applicable ideas. Like ‘I’d encourage everyone in my team to take up Agile Testing certifications’.

Before you answer this question, however – remember: you’re probably already half way through the interview. This Test Manager interview question usually surfaces during the second half of an interview.

So you should try and understand as much as you can from the interviewer about their team, department, organisation.

In my experience, the best interviewers spend most of the interview silent – and make the candidates talk. And the best candidates get their interviewers to talk and divulge more about the job role, team, company. If you made your interviewers feel comfortable enough to talk about the role, team, organisation, you may already know some of the challenges they are facing day-to-day. And you will be able to respond knowledgeably to this question.

Note:

On some occasions, you might understand the role, the team, their challenges beforehand. How? This is applicable for situations where you have closely worked with the team you’re applying to join. Therefore, you’re able to demonstrate sufficient understanding of their common challenges. And provide a suitable response to each.

Don’t stop at three – rattle off as many as you believe are apt for the question. Then again, remember, it’s not about how many – it is about how helpful your ideas are going to be.

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What Testing tools do you use, and Why?

This is perhaps the most testing of all Test Manager interview questions. And I’ve covered this previously. Tooling as an enabler is important in making a tester’s life easy and simple. The idea behind tools is that they take up the repetitive, redundant and repeatable activities; that they improve the flow of information across the organisation.

Tools essentially help free up some of your time, so you can spend that time thinking. That is, so you can focus on improving your Testing processes and practices, so you can come up with better strategies for managing the Testing function in your organisation.

In that sense, yes, Tooling is important. Because with Tooling, you’re free to focus on the top of the tree and leave the low hanging fruit to the tools.

But (of course there’s a but!), the challenge is to not get too hung up with Tools.

Remember, people have preferences.

I love Honda cars – why? My first car was a Honda, and I remember friends complementing me on my choice and the silent yet powerful performance of my car, which by the way had a youthful look and feel, yet was sensible (and light on my purse) as a family car.

Every single car I subsequently purchased, I tried to get that particular combination of feelings from. It didn’t work out that way. Even when I bought a Range Rover, even when I tested out a Tesla, the experience, the satisfaction I had with my first Honda was missing. Every time we see a new version of my Honda on the road, my wife and I reminisce about that car that we used to own. And how no other vehicle – not even a Rolls – can ever give us the same satisfaction and value.

The takeaway here is, that where people are concerned, everything can be tainted with emotions. Emotions are involved even with matters like Tools that enable Testing in your organisation.

“Emotions are involved even with matters like Tools that enable Testing in your organisation.”

Maybe you use a particular Software Testing tool (despite it not being the top three in the industry), because your Global Head of Testing loves the product simply since they have had it since it’s first release, and their career success coincided with similar success for the tool. Even if the tool doesn’t make business sense today, at least in comparison with better alternatives readily available in the market, they may have personal ties with a product that they may not want to severe that easily.

Or, maybe that character is you. Let me explain:

You like A better than B because, well, you know all the intricacies there are to know about A, and will be able to use A more effectively than others can. You may not like B because it’s A’s competitor, and is rated better than A (yeah I know – it sounds counterintuitive).

Leave personal preferences aside when discussing key Testing enablers like Tooling. Tools are important, yes, but more important is whether the Tester that uses the tool can really make it work for them.

How do you decide the channels, devices, OS we should test for?

When it comes to customer facing systems, device strategy is paramount. Especially if you are in the Digital line of business (yes, Digital is now a Line of Business – it is being recognised as it’s own Business Function), a sound device strategy will help you manage product support effectively.

Do your apps still support Android Ginger Bread? Really, you do? What about iOS 6? You should continue to provide support for Samsung Galaxy SII right?

An image showing Android usage statistics

Android Usage Statistics (Courtesy: Developer.Android.com)

 

There’s more to device strategy than a techie or tester arbitrarily deciding to cull older devices, operating systems from support. This is a business decision.

What percentage of your customers still use Android 2.3.3? Or Android 3.1? Are you going to try and support such customers? Or are you going to politely tell them to upgrade to a better phone, tablet and OS?

Do your regulators have a say in your device strategy?

There are a lot of firms that still provide employees laptops with Windows 7 and Office 2010 or 2013. This is simply because their staff continue to use specific software that won’t yet work with Windows 10. Or, their IT security haven’t yet figured out how to fix all the vulnerabilities that a new OS version introduces to their internal systems and servers.

Device Strategy is a complicated beast, and is a decision not made lightly or by one individual. It’s a collective decision that has far reaching implications for your customers, colleagues and regulators. And your response to this question should reflect that thinking.

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What do you know/think about Automation?

Automation has been a hot topic for well over a decade now. Ever since the benefits of Test Automation were demonstrated visibly, there has been a clamour for more and more Automation in Software Development.

While the wider Automation efforts include other disciplines like Coding and Integration, this Test Manager Interview question tries to test your understanding of, and experience in, Test Automation.

Don’t get me wrong – not being experienced in Test Automation isn’t unacceptable. It’s quite understandable that so far in your career, your employers may not have provided you a platform to automate Testing. If that is true, you should say as much.

What the question tries to also bring out, is whether you understand about Test automation, and whether you’re open and willing to give Automation a chance to make people’s lives better. And, more importantly, whether you have a balanced approach to Automation.

Why is this question important?

You’d be surprised at how many candidates have either gone the full monty with their support for Automation, so much so at times it sounded like they prefer working with machines more than humans. While others have shown unfathomable opposition to the idea, without providing clear justification for their hatred of Test Automation.

At the end of the day, Automation is here to stay, and when done right, can make people’s lives better. Test Automation can improve your team’s productivity manifold by taking away repetitive and redundant activities, allowing your team to focus on the higher value activities.

What do you know about our organisation, and our software testing practices?

You’re probably thinking, “Hmm, is that a question extraordinaire? Isn’t that a staple for all interviews?”

Well, sure it is. This Software Test Manager Interview question is quite fundamental, and common. Yet, time and time again, I’ve sat in an interview talking to a candidate who has no clue about what my company does, or how we conduct testing.

See, matters like internal Testing practices are naturally going to be hard for a candidate to uncover or understand. Unless of course they have friends within the organisation that can provide this type of information.

Demonstrating that you understand how Software Testing works with your prospective employer is a good way of emphasising your networking and research skills.

Your ability to know and understand a team or process that you are not necessarily involved with shows your skills in gathering information that is hard to come by. That is a skill in itself.

Yet, not many candidates put in the effort necessary to understand enough about a target employer. Knowing my organisation’s history, or key leaders’ names, or our client database or our press releases doesn’t equal knowing how my Software Testing operations work in daily life.

What is the difference between Agile and Scrum?

Yup – fundamental question. Yup – you’d think it’s simple enough to answer.

Really, if you’ve got any experience of Agile, you should know the difference. If you possess an Agile certification, well, this one’s a no brainer.

Yet, I’ve noticed how many candidates totally clam up when it comes to this one question. Hence it has a special place in my list of go to Test Manager Interview questions.

Even if you do understand the difference, how much do you know? How experienced are you in Agile and Scrum? Have you worked on ‘real’ Agile projects, or the typical ‘Waterfall in Agile clothing’ ones?

This question is usually a precursor to more prodding discussions about Agile and Scrum, and the other Agile development methodologies out there. A good interviewer doesn’t stop with asking you about the differences. They will try to test how much depth and breadth you’ve accumulated in knowledge and experience of Agile methodologies.

The interviewer is really interested in what value you can bring with your Agile experience. The demand for Agile coaches is at an all time high currently, and no wonder. As more and more companies adopt what is inarguably the most successful software development methodology out there, there is a need to help organisations go through an Agile transformation. Software Testing is no exception to this rule.

Try to provide an answer that leads to further discussion about Agile methodologies in general, and Scrum specifically – if you want to demonstrate experience in these topics.


Bringing it all together

No amount of preparation can beat knowledge gained through hard experience. While I have attempted to provide you a quick reference guide of the trickier questions out there and how you can navigate them, I cannot help you come up with a fluent, congruent response that works in the moment. That comes out of experience gained through diligent hard work, and preparing thoroughly for your interview.

If you do not possess the experience, try to gain some first. Or, demonstrate why and how you can succeed if given an opportunity to gain experience as a Test Manager. A half-decent interviewer will see through scripted responses and lack of experience in no time.

Do you have other tricky Test Manager Interview Questions to share? Let’s discuss in the comments section below.

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About the author: Ulf Eriksson

Ulf Eriksson

Ulf is the founder of ReQtest and as the Product Owner, decides what features are added to the product, and makes sure that ReQtest is of a consistently high quality. Ulf has written several books and courses as well as a library of articles on the subjects of testing and requirements management, as well as speaking publicly on a number of subjects related to the world of testing.

One Comment

  1. Santhosh says:

    Well my question would be ;
    How do you keep track of the multiple projects status and the deadlines it approaches? Would you wait for the leads to raise the flag or any other ways?

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