Interviewing Testers

We’re hiring! We’re in the process of looking for a new team member in QA and there are some candidates that are nearing the interview stage. Panic! What are good questions to ask a candidate for a testing position?

Generally speaking, we’re looking for people who will fit in well with the team. So a big, important part of the interview should be asking yourself “is this somebody I can work with?” Can you have a conversation? Are they personable?

The second big question to ask yourself is “are they able to communicate ideas clearly?”. Some folks aren’t great talkers (raises hand) and are better communicating ideas through writing — that’s fine! We have a smoke test where we can see how well they communicate in writing. Everyone should be able to talk for at least a short while about a topic that interests them — so I think it’s really important to try to engage the interviewee and find out about their interests. Ask them about one of their hobbies or interests and listen to what they have to say.

Eventually, the discussion will have to turn to the technical side of things. So what are some good questions to ask somebody who is applying to test software? Luckily, this question came up recently in a Slack group that I’m part of and some folks linked to a couple of great posts on the subject.

The first, by Dan Ashby, pretty much sums up how I’ve approached things in the past. There’s a lot of topics in testing, so I’d have a mind map similar to what Dan included in his post. I wouldn’t try to check every box, but I would pick and choose from the various areas and ask questions about different concepts. The goal, again, is to try to have a conversation about a topic and hopefully try to surface some real-world experience in that area.

I think this approach is still valid, and so I’ll definitely be cherry picking a few topics in the upcoming round of interviews. The second post that I found really interesting is by Paul Holland and talks about his “3 killer interview questions”.

I have to admit that the first time I read through Paul’s post I thought that it was way too industry-specific. I thought that it required some knowledge of telecom networks (which is fine for Paul, because that’s where he was working). After reflecting a bit, I realize that’s not the case at all.

I’m not a big fan of his first question because it assumes a development process that’s very dissimilar to our own. We don’t produce builds and releases and have long stretches of time between them. Because that isn’t a world that we live in, I wouldn’t feel right asking questions about it.

Paul’s second question is one that I had written off as industry-specific, but in retrospect, it isn’t about that at all. He’s drawing a network diagram and asking the individual to troubleshoot a network problem. You don’t need in depth knowledge of TCP/IP in order to do that, you just need basic problem-solving skills! I may try out a version of this question in the upcoming interviews.

Finally, I really liked his third question. He talks about an online delivery service with an online order form. He first asks how the interviewee would test the logic behind that form, how many scenarios they’d need. He then asks for ideas/clarifications/improvements to the logic behind the form to improve business.

I really like this question because it not only dives into the analytical thought process, but also into creative thinking. Ultimately, our job isn’t to “build a form” or “build a report”, it’s to build a tool to help our customers run their businesses!

Written on September 5, 2019