If you’re interested in software testing, you don’t need robust tech skills so much as a heavy dose of tenacity and a strong service mentality. “It’s still a young profession so there are a lot of misconceptions about the role,” says Ben Yaroch, President of the Association for Software Testing and Senior Software Quality Engineer for ExactTarget, an Indianapolis-based digital marketing platform.
When he’s interviewing, Yaroch asks these questions to test a candidate’s aptitude for software testing and their understanding of the position.
Why are you interested in software testing?
- What Most People Say: “I need work, so I’m willing to do testing until I find something in development or business analysis.”
- What You Should Say: “I’ve had some exposure to testing and I enjoyed it. I’m looking to stay in testing and improve my skills over time.”
- Why You Should Say It: Companies want to hire someone who’ll stick with the job because it takes a while to develop the appropriate skills. You need to show that you don’t view testing as a stepping stone to another technical role, but rather as a much-needed and challenging role in and of itself.
Describe software testing and what you’re doing to learn the profession.
- What Most People Say: “The purpose of testing is to look at software and make sure it’s bug-free and meets specifications. I haven’t really studied the role.”
- What You Should Say: “As a tester, my job is to find potential problems within the software. I do this by doing a technical investigation of the software and providing the results to my stakeholders. I’m always learning and trying to be better: I follow some testing experts on Twitter, read books on testing and so forth to stay current.”
- Why You Should Say It: Testers aren’t responsible for quality. Instead, their job is to provide information about quality. Better information about the software means more informed decisions can be made about whether or not to release it. Also, most companies will hire someone new to testing as long as they’re willing to learn and improve.
Here’s a dialogue box and an input field. Tell me how you would test them.
- What Most People Say: “Simple. I’d perform these five functional tests.”
- What You Should Say: “Can I ask some questions about it first? For instance, what is it for, who will be using it, is this a new feature or an existing one? Knowing this helps me better understand what needs to be tested and how.”
- Why You Should Say It: Time is of the essence and testers need to take the initiative. However, they also have to understand customers and their needs before launching a series of tests. “I don’t want to hire someone who is quick to jump into testing before understanding the context and stakeholders needs,” Yaroch says.
If I give you a piece of software with no documentation, no manual and no specifications, can you test it?
- What Most People Say: “No, I can’t. I’ll just wait until the developers finish the technical specs.”
- What You Should Say: “Perhaps. I’d talk with the developers, product owner, project manager and UX designer to find out what the software is supposed to do, who will be using it and so forth. If I can’t talk with them, I’ll start using the software on my own and do as much testing I can.”
- Why You Should Say It: A tester can’t rely on documentation. Sometimes it doesn’t exist, and other times it’s incomplete. So again, you must take the initiative and seek out information. If there isn’t any to be had, you may need to learn as you test.
You found a bug that you think is important but the developer won’t fix it. What would you do?
- What Most People Say: “I wouldn’t let the product ship until it was fixed.”
- What You Should Say: “I’d meet with the developer to better understand the reason behind his decision and maybe bring forward new information that would make a fix more compelling. Alternatively, I might request a second opinion from an outside expert or someone who is close to the customer.”
- Why You Should Say It: Sometimes fixing the software poses too high a risk or impedes a fast-approaching deadline. It could also be that the developer doesn’t fully understand the impact of the bug and an outside opinion might convince them otherwise. “When a developer works very hard on something and a tester reports a problem it can feel like they are calling the developer’s baby ugly,” Yaroch observes. “Providing facts, not opinions, can soften the blow.”
How much structure do you like in your daily work? Do you like working from a to-do list or would you rather take things as they come?
- What Most People Say: “I need to have a to-do list and I get very frustrated when things change.”
- What You Should Say: “I’m somewhere in between. I like having a to-do list but as things come up I’m perfectly OK scrapping it and heading in a different direction.”
- Why You Should Say It: “You have to be flexible to work in testing because your day rarely goes as planned,” Yaroch says. “Our days are filled with things that don’t work and changes in direction. If you don’t like change, this probably isn’t a good fit for you.”