Software Testing Interviews – Oh, the Pain, the Pain

Posted: January 26, 2013 in Testing Career, Testing Profession

…as Dr Smith so brilliantly put. But while he was professing anguish about some trivial injury or situation (really, what’s the big deal about being stuck on a distant planet, lost somewhere in the galaxy with a wardrobe that has an eerie resemblance to 1960s garb… OK, fair enough), I’ve had the same thoughts over the past week as I reflect on a recent encounter in trying to broaden my horizons / skillset / experiences in the world of software testing.

Last week, I went to a job interview for a test analyst position. It’s been a long time since I’ve last been interrogated for career advancement, and I was looking forward to it, especially the “how would you test a wine glass?” challenges (or similar hypotheticals – thanks Testcast!), specific questions about how I test, experiences I’ve had testing, maybe even an actual “audition” testing a simple app.

Unfortunately, no such luck was to be had. The test team leader issued a fairly desultory interview, stuffed with the usual “Tell me about your mother?” “Tell me what you did in your last job?” or “Who has been your favourite team leader?”* questions. I emerged somewhat nonplussed, though I felt my answer on how I test (one of two slightly interesting queries, the other being how would I test something given a week in one situation and three months in the other) was a little weak, so it had provided a learning opportunity in that respect. I have since sat down, ruminated deeply on the matter and committed some thoughts to paper, but that is fodder for another time, perhaps.

It turns out I didn’t get the job, but I wasn’t particularly distressed. I can’t make any real judgements on how working there would have been, but based on the thin evidence presented at the interview, it may not be the mega-exciting, ultra-happening place that I’m hoping to find. More importantly, it has been over three years since my last interview and nothing seems to have changed. It was frustrating to run into the same-old, stock-standard thinking then, and to find it that still permeates the profession that we have a passion for today is even more exasperating.

It’s good to see I’m not the only one who’s suffering from “lack-of-interesting-and-relevant-test-related-questions”-itis (yes, that really is an AMA-recognised affliction). Ian Pestolos talks eloquently about it here, and I sympathise with his predicament. It is saddening to think there is only a tiny minority of testers out there who want to take the time to further their skills and their craft, to engage their brains on a daily basis and add real value to their software development team. Our brave little band of intrepid adventurers are struggling to shine adequate light on the misdeeds of the nameless, faceless, thoughtless “tick and flick” hordes.

But we shall battle on!

P.S. On the narrowest of tangents, it has been annoying to note the number of “testing” job ads lately with 101 different technical skills… oh, and “experience with functional testing”. Great, thanks for throwing that in right at the end – I was starting to think I was in the developer section of the job ads. This also feels a very rant-worthy topic, if only to make me feel slightly less annoyed for a minute or two.

P.P.S. I recently found this very handy resource on interviewing software testers from Elisabeth Hendrickson. While I’m on the other side, it’s provided a very enlightening view on the matter. If only Australian businesses were sufficiently progressive to pick something like this up…

*Really??? My favourite team leader?

  1. ianp says:

    Great post, Dean. Cem Kaner also have an interesting take on recruiting testers which he wrote back in 1999 I found some of his points useful. Elisabeth Hendrickson also has some ‘exploratory’ approach to it in her recent book, Explore It!

    • Thanks Ian! Appreciate the link for Kaner’s take on recruiting testers, his material always makes for an excellent read. I finished reading ‘Explore It’ a couple of weeks ago – some of the best (especially practical) stuff I’ve ever read on exploratory testing.

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