16 June, 2010

Auditioning for a Tester’s Role – Part I

Suppose that you have a friend who asks you to interview a tester for your team, How would you do it?

Here are a few sample questions:

What is the difference between smoke and sanity testing?

What is the difference between verification and validation?

What is the difference between regression and re-testing?

What is the different between a product and an application?

I can’t stop rolling my eyes for the last one though. I have worked on products all my life. Now, what the heck does an application mean for heaven’s sake. OK, I am a nerd.

Did you know that within Regression testing, there are 3 types of regressions. Ah! We don’t read testing books. Do we? “Testing for 9-10 hrs a day itself is deadly boring. And I tell you to read testing books again? After all, Testing is not a sexy sport” At least, I thank you for reading my blog. You are better than many of those ignorant testing souls who don’t read anything about testing at all. Or maybe, you are here to judge my work (a shameless grin!).

Objective and Subjective Tests
Give a written test to testers where all they have to do is select/guess the correct answer to get through the test. Some questions might ask you to list the scenarios to test or even find a few bugs in the login screen that is included in the test paper. Login Screen seems evergreen! It is as good as writing multiple choice answer exams by mugging up model question papers. Meet any tester today and ask him some definitions. There is a high probability he/she will mouth all the important definitions a.k.a. ISTQB style!

Losing good candidates
Go to any ****interviews.com sites. The testing questions are so common that anyone can learn them and clear the tests for a testing job. You may argue “We do have 2-3 face to face technical rounds to evaluate testers where they will be judged on their knowledge”. What about testers who failed the tests simply because they didn’t know the definitions you were looking for. What if they were extremely talented, inspite of not knowing some crude definitions? We don’t care. Good candidates will find a good job anyway, not our headache. Isn't it?

Selection Criteria
There is no doubt that we need outstanding candidates to work with. There has to be some criteria to filter such candidates: number of years of experience, list of reputed colleges, list of relevant degrees, marks they scored in 10th, 12th and graduation, the company they are currently working for, the maximum number of buzzwords in the resume (Automation, QTP, Windows, Unix, Mac, Java, .NET, Perl, Shell Scripting, blah blah blah), how much salary they are drawing currently, How far do they stay from the office (by the way, we expect people to work long hours!), Is the candidate married (if yes, they may leave office after working for 8 hrs. Worst case, they may even plan for a baby next year), Do they have kids? (they may decline to work on weekends) and many more. If the candidate clears this list and is still alive and patient to join the organization, he would be offered. Let me warn you, if you are a woman interviewed in India, few interviewers look for Mangalsutra and Toe rings to confirm if you are married or not. Amazing professionalism!

Round 1
If some candidate comes till here, he/she is extremely lucky. There will be another round of definition/terminology checking session. The first round is cleared as the interviewee knows the definitions including full stops, commas and punctuation marks. After all, he has attended about 35 interviews so far in 35 different companies. And to top it all, he has model interview papers of this organization as well. Obviously, he memorized a lot of stuff last night.

Round 2
Another interviewer comes along. He has an important release that night. In spite of that, his manager forced him to take the interview as he had to leave early to his home town (Smart Manager?). This interviewer is frustrated with his work, with his manager and now this candidate who came out of nowhere to make his life more miserable. Ask same old meaningless questions. Give him a tough puzzle which takes a long time to crack. While the interviewee starts working on the puzzle, this guy makes a phone call to his childhood buddy. Sooner the puzzle gets cracked, angrier the interviewer will be. However, the candidate is shortlisted for the next round.

Round 3
A typical managerial round follows. He would be asked similar questions as in Round 1 and Round 2. The interviewee is asked to solve the same puzzle that was given in Round 2. He is lot more confident this time as he knows the answer already. After all, this was the same puzzle discussed in the Hiring meeting recently (and the sheep present at the meeting followed it blindly without looking for new puzzles). Once this is cleared, its over to HR round and offer letter is issed. It’s all over.

The team believes that the candidate is outstanding, else they wouldn't offer to him/her. What if he isn't? What if he prefers monotonous work to challenging work? What if he is not interested to learn anything? Was he ever tested for some of these attributes during the interviews? Was there feedback of any kind flowing in from the first round to the last one?

As people who want to hire good people for teams, we end up finding people who are very similar to us. We fear to find the ones who can challenge our work and add value to what already exists as well as to what we do. Eventually, the team becomes a group of 'Yes Men' who hardly question anything.

What kind of people are you looking to hire?

Parimala Shankaraiah