5 Agile Methodology Interview Questions To Find Your Next Testing Superstar

By 30th June 2016 July 2nd, 2020 Testing

It is true. Talent is paramount to success. You and I both know and are painfully aware of this universal reality. Abundance or lack of talent in your team/department/organisation can make or break your fortunes. Innovation is impossible without talent.

No wonder then that we put in significant effort day in and day out to recruit the best talent.

When recruiting for Agile Testing talent, I’m sure you agree that testing their Agile and Scrum knowledge is essential. Asking solid and probing interview questions about Agile and Scrum methodology will help you zero in on the Agile Testing talent that you need.

But you’re probably wondering: which interview questions on Agile and Scrum will help you evaluate your candidate better?

I’ve pulled together the best Agile Methodology interview questions and answers for experienced Testers, so you can conduct efficient interviews and grab the best talent out there in the market.

In this blog post, we’ll look at simple questioning techniques to test your prospective candidate’s knowledge and proficiency in Agile and Agile Testing hacks.

Want to make your quest to find your next testing superstar easier? Read on…

1. What is Agile, or What is Agile Testing?

Yes, this is a fundamental question. And yes, the answers are also fundamental. Yet, there is more to asking this question than there is to any other.

Why do you need to ask this question?

Especially when you’re recruiting for the more senior positions in your team, asking this Agile methodology interview question can unseat the candidates a bit.

With experience, the average Agile Test Lead/Test Manager stops expecting such questions during interviews. They prepare for the more complex Agile and Agile Testing questions – like exploratory tests, test-driven development, etc.

Probing your prospective candidates with this fundamental Agile interview question will push the best among them to pause and think about what they want to say. More than getting an expected answer, this question is a good way to push your prospective Agile Testing superstar out of their comfort zone.

Being an open-ended interview question, you allow the candidate an opportunity to express their Agile experience and thinking freely. In this way, this Agile testing interview question also helps you measure the prospective talent on their ability to articulate Agile thinking clearly.

2. Do testers sit within or outside the Scrum team?

Again a fundamental interview question. This time, however, there is more to it than meets the eye.

Because, the answer is: It depends.

It depends on how agile a team really is.

The easiest answer is that the testing team sits within the Scrum team, and deliver to sprints. This is true for well-run Agile test initiatives. Having the testing team embedded within the Scrum team helps drive code development to primarily pass test cases.

By nature of how Agile and Scrum work, a Scrum team is expected to possess all the skills necessary to deliver an Agile project – including Testing. And, we all know that anyone in the team can deliver any skill – when the team is truly Agile.

Obviously, there are pros and cons to this approach of a multi-disciplined, multi-skilled team – as opposed to one in which individual are identified and earmarked for particular skills like Business Analysis, Development, Testing etc. We won’t get into that today.

When embedded within a Scrum team (and even otherwise), the hallmark of a good Agile tester is that they help reduce the defects count and percentage of defects found per line of code written.

How do they do this? By working with the rest of the team to deliver to requirements. And what better way to do this than by working day-to-day as part of the Scrum team.

On the other hand, the more experienced agile tester knows that at times, traditional test cycles need to be run outside the Scrum.

When Traditional test cycles are at times necessary

For instance, if you work for a large multinational company that is overhauling its mobile app for all of its markets, they probably have a product team that is delivering some ‘core’ features for the app, to then be customised for individual markets before deployment. The ‘core’ team’s focus will be on fixing major bugs that block progress of product development; not make the code 100% bug-free.

Depending on which release of the product is being deployed to each market, it is quite possible that a release needs to be thoroughly tested before deployment to ensure the code is almost bug-free. This is when you will need traditional System Integration Testing (SIT) and User Acceptance Testing (UAT) cycles to ‘clean’ the code to make it deployment-ready.

Unless the candidate has worked primarily in self-contained projects where there is no dependency on teams external to the Scrum team, you should expect to hear about dedicated traditional testing cycles outside of Scrum. Knowledge of this seemingly non-Agile way of working demonstrates valuable experience in working on distributed Agile projects and working Agile alongside Waterfall teams.

“Ability to make progress despite challenging and non-ideal work environments is a hallmark of a good candidate — and a pre-requisite for your next testing superstar.”

This agile methodology interview question and the answer you receive in response, is important because it helps you measure the length and breadth of experience a candidate brings, and the level of exposure they have to working in non-ideal Agile working environments. The ability to make progress despite challenging and non-ideal work environments is a hallmark of a good candidate – and a pre-requisite for your next testing superstar.

3. Burndown chart is a popular Agile technique. What is a better alternative for reporting Agile Testing, and why? Explain with real-life project example.

This a tricky question to handle.

You’re acknowledging the importance of the Burndown chart in the Agile pecking order to the candidate. You’re treating the candidate as an equal in this knowledge – that they know and understand the Burndown chart and its uses. You’re also not giving them an opportunity to demonstrate that knowledge because, well, it is assumed that they possess it.

The kicker? You’re asking your potential Agile Testing superstar to go further and elaborate on what can better the Burndown chart and why. You’re making it clear that basic responses about how the Burndown chart do not interest you. This is in stark contrast to the fundamental questions you have been asking so far. It’s a bit like switching from the first to the fourth gear without shifting through second and third.

You expect a knowledgeable and considered response to this question.

The answer could, of course, be anything. Some of them could have had exposure to the Burnup Chart, and its many uses and advantages over the Burndown. They could tell you about how they used Defect Trends to augment Testing Burndown reports, to present a more holistic view.

By challenging them to go beyond the routine answer (and by taking the routine answer off the table), you will push boundaries with your candidate. And you will discover how hands on they have been with leading a Test function. For prospective Test Leads and Managers, this Agile interview question and its answer is a great way to measure maturity and depth in understanding. This interview question in particular will help you gauge the level of responsibility your candidate can take on from day one.

“You should expect candidates to have prepared well to discuss project examples in general. But rarely have I seen someone that had a well-prepared answer to this one.”

The clincher in the answer to this Agile and Scrum methodology interview question is the real-life project example.

You see, you should expect candidates to have prepared well to discuss project examples in general. But rarely have I seen someone that had a well-prepared answer to this one.

By trying to provide a real-life project example, your candidate is forced to think on their feet and be spontaneous.

This act of stepping outside their comfort zone will cause them to display their original personality traits. Any concerning individual traits will show up. It gets better: their response to this one will be original and not sound premeditated, so you can get to see and hear how they talk, sound and behave in reality rather than what they have shown you of themselves so far.

This way, you get the best of both worlds: an assessment of their experience level, and a peek into the real them.

4. Explain how you manage Requirements Traceability on an Agile project?

Requirements traceability applies universally. For a tester, even more so.

Why, you ask? Let me tell you why.

“A good Test Lead or Test Manager optimises their team’s efforts towards designing and executing just the right amount of test cases necessary to cover the requirements scope for their project.”

What this Agile and Scrum methodology interview question seeks is to understand, quite simply, how committed your prospective testing superstar is to Requirements Traceability. I normally expect the candidate to explain in straightforward terms, the tools and processes they use to minimise the number of test cases their team need to execute, and yet maximise requirements coverage.

The fundamental necessity for testing is simple: to check that the requirements of the Product Owner have been met. If your candidate can demonstrate ample knowledge and experience with gearing their testing towards achieving this basic purpose, don’t let them get away!

Test Case Management is an art in itself. I have covered Case Management in detail previously. See if they bring up Case Management in the same breath as Requirements Traceability. If they do, they have worked on or managed large and complex testing assignments, and understand how good Case Management goes hand in hand with ensuring Requirements Traceability.

5. What is the best way to reduce defects count in an Agile project?

Look: we need good Agile Testing talent. No doubt about it. One of the easiest ways to evaluate talent and potential is to assess how lazy the candidate is. The lazier the better.

Yeah you heard me right – you have to go for the laziest of the lot. This is crazy – I know. But hear me out.

“One of the easiest ways to evaluate talent and potential is to assess how lazy the candidate is. The lazier the better.”

Talent isn’t about taking the wheel and making a better, more efficient wheel. Yes, that is improvement. But just making improvements alone doesn’t deserve the tag ‘talent’. There is more to talent than that.

Talent is about taking the wheel, and making the cart. Then, it is about moving on to a carriage. Going further, it is about imagining and building the automobile. That is talent.

And all that came about because – I postulate – talented lazy people thought, “Hmm… now that I have the wheel, I wonder how I could use it to make my life easier?” Someone else that was equally talented and lazy put an animal in front of the cart so they could luxuriate in the laziness of it all. And so on until we hit the automobile.

Talent is about taking what you do and completely transforming it, so in the best case, you don’t actually have to do it anymore but still derive the expected outcome.

When you ask this particular Agile and Scrum interview question, you’re testing your potential candidates to see if they’re mere doers or innovators.

The innovators will tell you they’d like to adopt Test-Driven Development (TDD) to help reduce defects count. The innovators will think about minimising the actual number of test cases they need to execute. They’ll further look at ways to reduce the amount of testing necessary to unearth all the bugs in your system.

Innovators will first and foremost look to make their jobs easier and simpler to accomplish.

This attitude of doing the least necessary to achieve the desired results is what will produce transformative ideas. Such ideas will free up your testers to focus on enabling the rest of the team to build a product to the Business Analyst’s specifications. Testers will have more time to build a Case Management repository and maintain it diligently. Testers will execute lesser test cases. Defects will be found sooner during development. Your testers will be free to do exploratory tests to make the system better.

Now It’s Your Turn

As much as it is crucial for a candidate to prepare diligently for an interview, it is equally important for the recruiter to be prepared as well.

You need to be prepared to ask the right Agile methodology interview questions that will help you judge a candidate better. Tune your Agile and Scrum interview questions to elicit responses that give you an insight into your potential testing superstar’s experience, capability and psyche.

The questions I shared in this article will help improve your chances of making the right decision when recruiting for Agile Testing roles.

If you found these Agile methodology interview questions useful, why not share it with friends using one of the options below?

What other questions have worked for you when recruiting Agile or Agile Testing talent? Share your views in the comments section.

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  • Mark Stephen says:

    ULF ERIKSSON – Thanks for sharing the beneficial info about the questions which could be asked from an agile tester. The above mentioned agile methodology questions are really helpful for me to prepare my self before applying for my next testing job as an agile testers.

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