April 10, 2020

Hiring Software Testers: The Balance Between Technical Skills and Cultural Fit

Hiring Software Testers: The Balance Between Technical Skills and Cultural Fit

Hiring a software tester is not a regular task for recruiters. There are no specific university degrees or standardized lists of skills required for working in the industry. What do you, as a recruiter, need to know about this specialization to find a suitable candidate for the position? Here are some useful tips. 

Hiring Internally

Before diving straight into recruitment, try to determine if any existing members of the team are interested in software testing, and potentially promote them. This is practical for a few reasons: 

  • Current employees are already familiar with the product or service as well as your corporate culture. 
  • You will show trust in your employees and appreciation of their skillset. 
  • You might unveil the great potential of a particular employee and refresh their outlook on the company.
  • You can lower onboarding costs.

On the other hand, there are certain cases when hiring from outside makes more sense. Sometimes your project can benefit from a fresh set of eyes and new approaches to the problems. 

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Know Who You Are Looking for and List the Job Accordingly

It all starts with a proper job listing, but there are certain nuances in advertising a testing job that you need to consider.

First of all, you need to understand if you are looking for an experienced specialist or a novice tester. A candidate with previous work experience will understand the job profoundly and will be more interested in what distinguishes the opportunity you are offering from the rest. An inexperienced candidate might be not well-versed in spotting the job specifics right off the bat. 

Both cases imply that listing generalized duties won’t be helpful to every candidate. The ones with no experience will be most likely discouraged by the number of responsibilities they are not familiar with, while experienced individuals will be repelled by the absence of in-depth project details. 

The job description should be about the daily tasks your tester will be solving, the team structure, and your company’s methodologies in use. Write about how exactly a tester fits into the development process, emphasize the importance of their role in it, and mention who they will report to. It doesn’t mean that you should completely exclude the technical requirements and basic qualities from the job listing, but you need to emphasize the importance of cultural fit and make it clear what their regular working day will consist of. 

Also, while preparing the job listing, you need to keep in mind that there are no specific academic degrees in quality assurance and testing. People with a solid technical background in a similar field but no relevant education may not even understand they are a good fit. The majority of testers learn on the job, and this has to be especially clearly stated in the job description for an entry-level position. 

Moreover, you have to be precise about what role exactly you want a candidate to take: an automation engineer or a manual tester. Mentioning this information will save you the trouble of interviewing the candidate who is the wrong person for the job in the first place. 

Immersive Interviewing 

The tester is one of those jobs where technical skills are best demonstrated in real working conditions. Immersive interviewing is one of the most appropriate methods for that purpose. After basic interview questions and a friendly chat, invite a candidate to join the team for a few hours of the real working practice. This way you will see how the candidate adapts to the environment, how they react to and solve real tasks—all while proving their technical abilities. 

If you are hiring an experienced software tester, you can verify their technical skills to the fullest by setting a mildly challenging task. For example, this could be collaborating with your existing team members to resolve an ongoing issue on the project. Make sure they feel comfortable prior to the task and don’t overwhelm them with too complex problems. 

Testers Also Need to Be Tested 

If the method of immersive interviewing is not suitable for you, then you still need to find ways to properly test the candidate. 

If you are hiring for an entry-level position, you can give them a simple task. For example, ask them to come up with all possible options they can think of to test user authentication in a mobile app in 15 minutes. This way you can see how fast the candidate reacts, whether they ask appropriate questions and have any theoretical backing to support their solution.

Read More: Using Software to Improve Employee Onboarding

What Soft Skills Do You Need to Look For? 

Besides technical skills, there are certain soft skills you need to look for when hiring software testers. Let’s take a look at each. 

Attention to detail: This is probably the most obvious one, but it can never be overlooked. A person with a natural predisposition for a quality assurance (QA) and testing job will always be meticulous. Although some tasks might come down to following exact test cases, an exceptional tester will always try to go above and beyond the requirements. 

Self-organization: Testers always have multiple tasks to solve, and it’s of the highest importance that they have the ability to prioritize. The lack of this skill will also likely result in inefficient and sluggish work. 

Out-of-the-box thinking: This is especially relevant in the context of manual testing. Most after-launch bugs appear due to a string of unexpected user actions, and only creative testers will be able to anticipate such situations. Good software testers don’t just report bugs, they are looking into the very root cause of the problem. 

Determination: Bug reproduction is one of the most challenging tasks software testers can face. It takes numerous tries before a tester can recreate the conditions for a bug to reappear. Hiring the one who shows persistence when solving these particular problems will bring tangible benefits to your project. 

Adaptivity: The IT industry as a whole is a fast-changing environment, and software QA is no exception. Your candidates have to be able to adapt to volatile deadlines, workflow changes, and any last-minute requirements, all while staying on par with the development team. 

What Is Your Team Looking For? 

Years of experience and profound technical abilities are very tempting qualities for immediate hire, but cultural fit is definitely one of the most significant success factors in the long run. Employees who share the same values with the company tend to stay longer and perform better. 

According to Natalie Davis, VP of Talent at IMPACT, in order for their company to approve a new hire, every single person who might be working with the candidate have to say ‘yes’ first. This is a particularly safe way to understand if the person fits culturally. A good cultural fit will result in a healthy environment within the team and more value contributed by the new hire.

Final Thoughts

Hiring software testers differs from hiring for other positions, and there are many nuances to consider. However, careful preparation for the hiring process makes wonders. Make it clear what kind of tester you need for the job, and always pay attention to the soft skills of the candidates. Try to opt for internal promotion if possible and don’t ever underestimate the power of cultural fit. 

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Elena Yakimova

Elena Yakimova is the Head of Web Testing Department at software testing company a1qa. She started her career in QA in 2008. Now Elena’s in-house QA team consists of 115 skilled engineers who have successfully completed more than 250 projects in telecom, retail, e-commerce, and other verticals.

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