October 9, 2014

Hiring Testers

Finding and hiring great testers is an important consideration for every employers as hiring the right people are an important underlying factor to the success of any company.

In this article, I discuss which attributes you should look for in great testers, which skills do testers need to have, how to implement more effective hiring practices and what you need to know to make smarter hiring decisions.

Three crucial attributes you need to look out for

Of all the attributes that a tester in your team should have, professionalism certainly stands out as the most important one. However, this rather nebulous term needs to be deconstructed somewhat in order to pinpoint better what we mean by it. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, professionalism is:

The skill, good judgment, and polite behaviour that is expected from a person who is trained to do a job well.

These three components combine together to form the whole that is true professionalism and I will expand on each of them later in this article.

Two complementary attributes to the central professionalism characteristic are: curiosity and focus.

The former refers to the ability of the tester to thoroughly question a given situation and expand their mental horizons in order to embrace unusual perspectives, while the latter is the ability of a tester to ‘lock in’ to a specific course of action on the job and see it through till the very end.

Do they have the skills?

There are several skills that a tester has to master in order to be proficient in his or her job. Chief among these is their ability to write clearly , and be able to comprehend and conceptualise what is required of them in the specifications, emails and test cases they read.

This basic literacy requirement with the textual material they encounter on their jobs often has to be bolstered with knowledge of related subjects, such as statistics and mathematics, which should be checked for in every candidate. Similarly, fluency in the pertinent technology and project management skills used at the workplace, including testing applications, are critical factors to look out for in most contexts. And then there are the ‘nice-to-haves’, for example knowledge of programming languages.

I’ve talked in a previous post about themajor certifications available for testers. These certificates, like those offered by the ISTQB, are important indicators of the expected level of competency of a candidate for a testing job, although it never hurts to see the candidate in action dealing with a real-life testing scenario.

Asking the right questions

Reading a bunch of resumes is only the first stage in the multi-step process that ends up with a new recruit joining your testing team. Most of the filtering process will be done face-to-face through interviews and in this case, asking the right kinds of questions is the key to successful candidate selection.

Behavioural questions are questions that do not limit themselves to requesting information about what a person would do in a certain context, but also how they would go about doing it. Some well-formulated behavioural questions to ask during an interview are the following:

1.     Tell me about the manner and tone you used to discuss a recent bug report with other members of the project team.

2.     Tell me about a previous test project that you really enjoyed. What did you like the most?

 3.     On your last project, how did you decide the right amount of time to spend writing a test case or isolating a bug?

There’s only so much you can gather with words. Testing the testers using audition interviews is undoubtedly the best way to predict a candidate’s performance in a sticky situation by giving them the opportunity to demonstrate first-hand how they’d behave on the job. A good routine for testers is the following:

1.     Give them a written test case you know will fail.

2.     Tell them to run the test case.

3.     Ask them to write bug reports on a notepad.

Making smart hiring decisions

Making smart hiring decisions starts from the very beginning of your search for the ideal candidate, that is, when you are drafting a description for the position. It is important that the job description is detailed enough so that in itself it acts as a powerful filtering tool that encourages only the best-qualified candidates to express their interest.

Once the resumes start pouring in, checking them against your list of requirements and making a shortlist of the most attractive candidates is a natural next step. The role of the internet, and social media in particular, cannot be underestimated in this stage as a way to verify the statements made by the candidates, as well as serving as providing additional ‘social proof’ about the candidate’s integrity.

When confronted with one or more promising candidates it may be tough to make the final call on who’s joining the team. Follow-up interviews and auditions can provide the necessary data to accurately discern the ideal person for your organisation; in the long-run, using these selection methods turns out to be significantly cheaper than simply making a job offer and then having to replace an inadequate employee later down the line.


Building a crack team of testers play a very important part in your organisation’s overall success in the business. Implementing correct hiring practices when selecting your testers can help you find people that will make your company truly stand out from the competition and, together with the right testing tools, provide a quality service to all your customers.

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