Friday, 27 August 2010

How do I interview a new tester?

I'm bound to get my baptism in fire in the field which I have no previous experience. I'm going to interview two would-be testers ja pick the most qualified (or suggest to take both if they are both very good, no point cast pearls before swine). He/she/both (yes there is a male and a female applicant coming) is/are applying for an intern from university re-educating program where people are trained to be software testing experts. (Yeah, no one can be an expert without proper practical knowledge. But to become expert straight from the school bench! Huh?) This is a great opportunity for me to try my wings as a test manager and as an interviewer. Because I'm the one and only tester in our company (or fully involved in testing) I get to have a say in the selection.

Now I should find the right questions to dig out the info about occupants' testing skills. Because the information is scarce and hard to find (at the time of writing I searched stuff in Finnish and everybody seems to keep these things to themselves), so I decided to write mine down for later use. After I had searched far and wide for the perfect reference material I started writing... only to later discover some really useful material. These were in English, so they support the re-writing more that the original post.

I managed to find a funny eBook about building a testing team by STC. The book is hilarious because it portrays the interview process as a scripted, unintelligent process where the true merits of testers are irrelevant. However it contains a fragment of truth, which I incorporated in my interview material.

Also I found a document written by some guy called Kaner *wink* and I briefly had look at his thoughts about recruiting. He had some great thought about forming the right kind of questions like:
"What would you do with a product that came to you without specifications?'

Instead I ask,

"Have you ever worked on a product that came to you without specifications? Tell me about the challenges this raised and how you handled them. (And then, as a follow-up question,…) What do you think you did particularly well in that situation? (And then…) What did you learn that will help you handle this better in the future?"
The document contains PRETTY good information concerning large scale recruiting. This however was about recruiting a test intern for two and a half months. So I took a quick look at the document and buried it deep in my mind, and it popped out while I was rewriting this post! (Man! was I dumb not to read it fully through! Next time, baby... Next time. We got a good intern 'though.)

Off to the interview!

First of all the applicant should tell about his/her experience in testing scene and IT-world. This should include at least:
- project models (SCRUM, Waterfall, etc.) bonus is always to include one one your company uses most of the time
- testing levels (unit testing, integration testing, system testing, etc.)
- techniques (manual, scripted, automation, etc.)
- methods (exploratory, experience based, bug catching, test case based, ets.)

If the applicant does not include all these in the story, the interviewer should feel free to ask about those. Depending of the possible future role, one could also enquire the following:
- test tools (what has the applicant used, how and to what purpose)
- test planning and designing experience (test cases, test plans, test level plans, automation architectures, etc.)
- experience in code writing and project managing (PERL, LAMP, .Net, Java, etc.)
- test managing (reporting, managing team, customer support, etc.)

If the applicant has education, taken classes or what ever that may support the testing, it could be enquired if it has not come up. In addition possible certificates (although overlooked by some ranking testers out there) in testing genre and IT in general can give indications of the persons capabilities if the needed amount of information has not yet presented itself. In addition if the applicant has some examples to show from test cases he has designed or scripts written they might prove useful.

Even though the applicant has the merits to support his selection he must be valuated as in fitting in the team. If you have a group of tester at their twenties, a world-seen tester may change the dynamics in the team and break the successfully running engine. Whether looking for team with diversity or as must similar personalities and skills, the key is to make sure the "new guy" fits in. This raises the verbal and written skills of the applicant.

Whether the applicant is suitable or not the most important thing there is about a would-be tester is that he/she must have passion for the craft! If you have an applicant with considerable skills and merits but no passion what-so-ever he'll only hinders the test team and makes a good thing plummet to ruins.

1 comment:

Pekka Marjamäki said...

As this is my first post I have learned a lot about interviews. The way I interview not tends to veer towards "OK... But can you test?" If the answer is yes then he/she will be doing some testing! =) "What do you have in your pockets?" What ever comes out: "If I told you to test that thing, what would you do?"

Everything after that reveals a great portion of the testing skills the applicant has. You just can't tell if a person can test if you don't see him test!