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  • Writer's pictureIan Wells

How to hire a top tester

Updated: Dec 3, 2018

I have managed testing  for Telogis NZ, for the Trimble Mapping & GIS division,  for a Hewlett-Packard compiler group, and  managed testing at a variety of compiler software companies. As a test manager, I have  interviewed over a hundred candidates for testing roles and hired many.


What is the best way to find, interview,  and keep top testers?

As any hiring manager, choosing who to hire is one of the most important decisions you will make. As  comments by the Google People Operations VP Laszlo Bock in the New York Times illustrate,  it is extremely hard to do, even for Google.

How can you find  top testers that  best fit your  company culture?

Top companies know  that hiring top testers is crucial to meeting quality and schedule objectives in today’s complex software environments. Testing is a very challenging job and a career path.

Where to find candidates:

For new hires, work with universities and technical schools.I  especially recommed hiring student interns.

Internships as a tester give students a fantastic introduction to software development - they get to see first hand the impact of quality, they make a rapid contribution, and they get to experience  the full scope of software development process. Internships meet the need Google recognizes to do actual projects in the company culture.  Internships give both candidate and company  an extended interview process for both company and candidate doing real work. Brilliant.

What are the drawbacks? Many testing tasks take full time concentration with the team over extended periods but during the year, interns also need time to  study.  I would love to see longer internships provided by New Zealand universities, such as is done in other countries. Longer internships, for example, sandwich study years or co-op programs,  would allow even greater learning and contribution opportunities for students.

What to ask at an interview

As  Laszlo Bock also found out after sifting through all that Google data, its very difficult to predict how someone will do in a job, based on the interview. Nevertheless, here are 3 things I have found useful in interviewing testers.

Ask behavioural questions. Behavioural questions help you determine how the candidate approaches actual, not hypothetical situations. Have the candidate  test  an actual programGive  the candidate a black box program and ask them to figure out the pattern of inputs to outputs.

I look at the results with the candidate and discuss them. What matters is not so much how candidates do on these tests, but their critical thinking process.

4 Kinds of testers

  If you have a big enough company, then you have the opportunity  to specialize in your testing role hires.  Here are 4 kinds of testers I look for:

The Accountant. Accuracy and book keeping are essential to keep track of the myriad of combinations and tests that can be run. Accountant-testers are meticulous and make sure no details are missed. The Tester Developer. ¬†Building up automation is crucial to preventing regressions. The worst kind of bug is a corruption error ( Silent Deadly) and computers are ideally suited to examing thousands of numbers and watching for changes. In my opinion, automated test suites need to be higher quality than the code they are testing. So hire top ¬†developers to build up quality automated tests. Automation can be broken up several ways. Breakers. Testing is a different mind set than writing code. Developers get their ¬†job satisfaction ¬†by making code work. But Breaker testers get their reward by trying to break code. Breaker testers have a special mindset to know where to look to find bugs, how to debug, how to avoid finding bugs that ‚Äúdon‚Äôt matter‚ÄĚ and how to interact constructively with developers and managers who made the code. Enjoyment but not gloating. Breaker testers often apply exploratory testing approaches. The Doctor Tester. The skills of a top tester are similar to those of a doctor. A doctor has a limited amount of time to investigate what is wrong with a highly complex ‚Äúsystem‚ÄĚ ( your body), what tests to run, and to suggest remedial action. Of course a doctor has been trained for years how to ¬†debug the ¬†human system. As ¬†testers become more experienced, and rise up in their profession, the organization relies on them to diagnose a ¬†complex software release, so it can be healthy when it ships. Doctor testers have deep knowledge of systems, are critical thinkers and perpetual learners. ¬†

Top Testers are crucial to the success of any software development team. We have a growing pool of top testers in New Zealand.  These are the ideas I use to find, interview and keep top testers on my team.


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