Hiring a tester – First part: preselection

Hiring a tester – First part: preselection

Evaluating a Software Tester with a hiring process is not easy. A very experienced candidate with a resume apparently fulfilling your needs might be a very bad team member. Unlike a newbie with the right mindset, the will and a true passion who will become an asset to the project and the team.

What should you do to avoid the former and not miss the latter? The question is interesting, and no single answer exists but I suggest you a series of articles to help thinking about this and find the proper tactic.

I personally had hard time when trying to hire testers. I couldn’t find a good process to use and repeat with all kind of candidates. As a candidate, I could also see how the hiring process is broken and inadequate for the very specific role of Software testers. You cannot evaluate a tester like a developer and most of the time this is what is done (without the programming test).

This first article will be about the selection of candidates, the one you should interview or audition later.

Application form

Let’s talk about CV…

ResumeThe first piece you will probably receive will be a resume (CV), and sometimes a motivation letter. Read them, because as a candidate, no-one likes to be face-to-face with a recruiter who didn’t take any time to read the material you sent. It will give you a first impression which, however, may contain cognitive biases.

Personally, I wouldn’t be very happy to work with someone making a lot of typing errors, given that a lot of (specifically if my future) interactions will be via writing. A tester must be rigorous, the candidate has of course little chance of being hired if its resume is not clean, readable and accurate.

Equally, the latter may contain a list of technologies and a meaningful range of varied experiences, note a few of them for further questioning. By using those first guidelines, you can easily find out if the candidate is trying to impress you and if he really knows what he is talking about rather than just mentioning standard buzz words.

Because a tester must be very curious, the resume should emphasize that he is reading about various subjects, and maybe also have lots of various hobbies.

…and motivation letter.

hire meWhether requested or not, we can already deduce that the candidate definitely made an effort by writing one. Now, is the content interesting? Did he understand who is he talking to and is he motivated by what you may offer him? Motivation letter is a very useful document as it refines further the interesting candidates and subjects addressed.

You can also use it in order to cross-check information available in the resume. Contradictions will have to be checked later.

 

 

Be it the CV or the motivation letter, it might opt out with candidates that obviously don’t match or does not seem to be motivated at all. It’s up to you to see if the quantity of applicants is high enough to exclude these ones, because don’t forget that there’s a probability that you are eliminating a fitting candidate who unfortunately did not have time to sell himself efficiently.

Should a good tester be certified?

certifiedIt’s a long debate, but I think that a certification can be reassuring if you are hiring a junior tester: he will at least know the basics, the adequate vocabulary and will be able to engage discussions with professional testers (you).

Don’t forget that for ISTQB certifications, the exam is a MCQ with 3 possible answers each time. I did not take the exam myself, maybe that I will one day because it’s often a requirement in our country (France), but when I tried online fake tests, I remembered having the same feeling than when taking the theoretical exam for driver’s license. You can be an expert, you often hesitate between the 3 answers because none seems the good one, and the fourth best one is missing, the one that says “It depends”.

To find the correct answer, you should be able to understand the philosophy of the certification and what the interrogator wants to evaluate. And just like the driver’s license exam (in France, we must attend classes), you will have to pay several hours of training to organizations to be sure to pass the exam. It looks like a well-grounded business.

 

To do before hiring

Define requirements

NeedsYou need help, you are looking for a specific profile, but did you think about the exact skills you need to add in your team? It is very important to think about them, but also about personality you want to spend time with, and mostly the one you want to avoid. A good team is a diversified and complementary one. Don’t be limited to find the perfect candidate; assuming that he exists, he may already have a perfect job and don’t want to change.

At least a junior tester should have the following qualities: curious, ability to learn, good communication skills, persevering, critical thinking, analytical skills, ability to explain an issue even if very technical and even if it’s to a stubborn developer (or manager).

For a more senior position, the candidate should have leverage himself and have more qualifications like being able to do his job in a stressed environment, ability to not be weakened by his own cognitive biases and proficiency to deal with those of others, management skills if it’s part of the role, competence for producing efficient and clear report and capacity to discuss about these results with all stakeholders (including top management).

Attract candidates

Work beachNow you have to write a job offer that will draw attention of good candidates, or if you pay a headhunter or a recruitment firm, you should be able to list your requirements which is not easy. Do you really need a certified candidate (see previous paragraph) or could you be content with a well made brain? Do you really need the applicant to be a python expert in order to help writing your automated checks, or is a good experience in java and bash scripting enough for him to be quickly efficient and be able to take in charge your framework? I’ve never been hired because I was exactly matching. You’d better be a bit vague, not too much demanding in order to not frighten the candidate who won’t write to you because he read “high level in python programming with a minimum of 5 years of experience” and only have 3 years of practice.

 

Do not hesitate to mention your company’s or team’s particularities which may highlight you from other companies. Imagine that only a few candidates will see your job offer, and that you are in competition with a lot of other companies also hiring testers. Your job offer needs to be shiny and appealing. Personally, I would really appreciate those following points:

  • training, coaching, help for personal development. This is very important for testers who needs to be up-to-date
  • attending conferences paid and recommended. Essential for testers who need to interact with others in order to find advices and new stuff
  • flexible working hours
  • work at home or remote OK. Testing should not only done with the same environment and network being too close to developers
  • unlimited holidays or at least more than the legal minimum
  • meal, snack, fruits, tea/coffee free
  • comfortable workplace with high-performance equipment (add details)
  • bonus, social advantage
  • etc

To be continued…

All the advices I gave here may not apply in all cases and are not exhaustive. I hope that they will help you to find the keys for this first hiring step; there is no universal method; everything will depend on your needs and your capacity to attract good people.

In another later article, we will talk about the first contact with the candidate and how to avoid the traps that would give a distorted impression of this one, and that would waste your time with a candidate not matching your search. As usual, don’t hesitate to comment with your own experience (as a recruiter or as a candidate) or if you want to share some job offer that particularly made an impression on you, positively or negatively.

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