Over the past two years, the economy has taken various tumbles and turns, and companies are doing radical things with their IT departments. Outsourcing, offshoring, and layoffs are throwing good, senior testers, back into the interview process. If a tester has had little experience with interviewing, it can be a difficult transition.
I attended a conference recently where a topic track was ‘How to Assess Tester Skills in the Interview Process”. I learned some valuable tips as an interviewer, but it got me thinking, what is it that testers need to know, or be aware of that can affect their success in an interview? I regularly interview candidates, and I am continually amazed about the quality of the interview versus the strong testing skills of the candidate. Often times I see candidates with respectable experience and excellent skill sets, lacking a strong interview presence. Three things pop out immediately during a candidate interview: Appearance, Attitude, and Answers. A candidate who pays attention to these three items presents themselves as the complete package, helping positively influence the manager’s decision to hire or not hire the candidate.
I cannot say this enough, first impressions count! Do not show up to an interview looking sloppy and unkempt. Wash and comb your hair, groom any facial hair, brush your teeth, and be sure to take out any abnormal visible piercings. Well fitting, pressed clothing does well to polish an interviewee’s appearance.
Dress appropriately. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you must wear a business suit to each interview, but dress for the position you are interviewing for. What is meant by that is, don’t show up to a Test Manager interview wearing business casual clothing – dress the part by wearing a sports jacket, or suit and tie. Think about what it is that the position will be asked to perform. A test manager will regularly be subject to dealing with other managers, and should display his or her comfort with the appropriate attire and interactions during the interview process.
On the flip side, it’s not always expected for test analysts to show up in a business suit and tie – a relaxed business casual look will do for this role because the interviewer is more interested in getting to know what testing skills and experiences you bring to the company. Again, think about the tasks you will be asked to perform with the company, and how you will dress and act on a regular basis.
One area that this may get tricky is if the company you are going to be working for has a strictly business professional dress code. You do not want to show up wearing business casual attire. As a rule of thumb, when speaking with the recruiter, be sure that you fully understand the position you are interviewing for, then simply ask about the company’s regular dress code. Take a few moments to think through the position you are interviewing for, and the company’s dress code, and decide the evening before the interview, what you will wear. If in doubt, err on the side of caution, and always over dress.
Attitude is so important during an interview. Would you rather be working with someone who displays positive ‘can-do’ traits, or someone who has already determined what they can and cannot do? Don’t tell an interviewer what tasks you will and will not do. Instead, if a skill question comes up that you are not familiar with, explain that you do not have experience with that skill, but you are willing and able to learn.
Be on time. Nothing shows a poor attitude more quickly than tardiness. If you know that you will be late, call ahead and explain the issue, and let them know what time you can be there. If you will be more than fifteen minutes late, offer to reschedule for another time that is convenient for the interviewer.
Take a few moments before the interview to think about what questions the interviewer may ask. If it helps, write them down, or start by Google searching some examples of testing interview questions. Now think of how you will answer these questions. It is key to thoroughly and creatively answer the questions, and where necessary use specific examples that display your skills. For example, lets look at interviewee #1 and #2.
Q: Give me an example of a conflict you’ve had recently with someone on another team. How did you work through the conflict and resolve the issue?
A #1: I had an argument with a developer about whether or not my defect was relevant. I told him it was, and he told me it wasn’t.
A#2: I recently disagreed with a developer about whether a defect I found was relevant or not. The defect was found by inputting a set of numbers into an equation, and verifying that the equation computed properly. We argued back and forth via email for a few days, and I realized that the defect was no closer to being resolved through that method. I scheduled a face-to-face meeting with the developer so that I could display the defect, inputs, environment, etc. Ultimately, we worked together to determine that the defect lied in the rounding technique employed by his algorithm, and the defect was resolved in the next build.
Delivery of your answer is also to be taken into consideration. In an interview, it is not appropriate to swear or use slang terms. Additionally, racy, racial, gender, or sexual orientation discussion is never acceptable. Remember that you are in an office setting, and that six-inch voices are appropriate for conversation in that environment.
Taking all economic factors away, companies are looking for solid, driven, and innovative raw talent. Paying attention to the three A’s, Attitude, Appearance, and Answers before and during an interview helps showcase your talents in a positive way. Attention to these details will help you quickly put your job search to an end.
About the Author
Daven Kruse My background consists of 8 years of IT experience in varying roles. Most recently, my time spent as a software testing consultant has lent itself to experience with various industry verticals. Whether it is the pharma industry, the energy industry, the insurance industry, or anything in between, the value of software testing throughout organizations continues to grow. I have a passion for test management, and feel great accomplishment when a team I am part of delivers a completed project.
I strive to help customers realize their needs, and communicate that into a buildable solution. I enjoy developing test strategies, and incorporating continuous improvement techniques to improve test team efficiencies.
I am a lifelong learner, and continue to educate myself through conferences, workshops, online courses, discussion forums, and formal classes. I am a high energy individual whose flexibility and drive help me succeed.