Interviewing software testers is not as easy as you might think. Here, Jon discusses some potential interview questions for experienced candidates that can make the process smoother for both sides.
For many years I was under the illusion that interviewers were wise, calm and unflappable people. They knew what they were doing and that every question they asked was well planned, researched, tried and tester.
Then I became an interviewer myself and learned that I was oh so wrong.
Interviewing can be very challenging, and unfortunately there is no one-size-fits-all list of questions available, particularly when it comes to interviewing experienced candidates. Here, I suggest some questions that can help you to learn what you need to know about the experienced software testing candidate in front of you.
How would you define software testing?
This may seem like a straightforward and easy question for an interviewee to answer. However, it really isn’t and could prove to be the turning point in an interview. Everyone defines testing differently, and by asking this question you get an insight into what they see as important aspects of the profession, which you can then compare with your own priorities. The likelihood is that you will be looking for like minded testers for your team and this questions does wonders for gauging where you both stand.
What does a well written bug report look like?
This question is another that looks simple on the surface but is really a great indicator of the interviewee’s priorities and their ability to communicate information clearly. An experienced tester should easily be able to recite their method for logging bugs.
What have been the biggest achievements of your career?
A lot of people default to asking people about their skills, but achievements are a much better barometer when you’re deciding if you want to work with someone. You see a person at their best when they’re talking about something they’re proud of, and you will get a snapshot of their passion and enthusiasm for the profession.
Whether the achievements are personal or technical, ask them to elaborate so they talk more about them. As well as getting to see their enthusiasm and positivity, it is also useful to find out what they deem to be an achievement. If one of their top achievements was a pay-rise, their heart might not be in it.
What else do you want to achieve in your career?
As tempting as it is to ask someone where they see themselves in five years, it’s a tired, cliche question that will either get you the expected ‘humorous’ answer, “in your chair” or a cop-out answer like “I just want to be here still growing as a tester.” Instead, if you ask what else they want to achieve, you should hopefully get an answer with more substance. You’ll find out how they want to grow, progress and develop.
In your opinion, what makes the ideal boss?
This one works two-fold. Not only does it tell you what they will expect of you, should they get the job, but it also shows you a lot about their competency and confidence in the role. If you’re looking for someone to be autonomous but they answer saying they want a manager to give them tasks each day, you’ve learned something valuable. Also, if their answer goes directly against your own approach or company policy (flexitime for example), then you have the opportunity to think about and address it promptly, rather than allowing it to become an issue in the future.
This is just a list of suggestions designed to help you. However, you still need to think hard about the role you’re hiring for and ensure that you craft a bespoke list of questions each time to suit you and the candidate.
Interviewing people is not an easy process, but you can make it easier for everyone by avoiding the cliches and being more creative with your questions. You will often find that a candidate’s personality and attitude are more important than their experience and specific skills, so your questions should reflect this.