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Interviewing is like dating.

You really just wish the right person would fall into your lap sometimes. Instead you spend hours picking and choosing the right one from a pile of candidates. You get to know them. Maybe you even take them on full time.

Only then you realize that they’re not cut out for the job. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you just knew what to look for? Lucky for you, we’re here to help! Consider this your road map to corporate bliss.

However frustrating it may be there’s no better way to get to know a candidate than to interview them. And when we say, “get to know,” we don’t just mean their technical skill. A professional skill test practically conducts itself and is usually computerized.

It’s true that a good amount of technical skill is necessary for manual testing. However, a candidate’s personality will always be the best indicator for whether or not they will fit into the position.

Traits of the perfect manual tester (2)

Each of these four traits lends themselves to a good tester in different ways.

A creative tester is more likely to come up with interesting solutions to testing problems that you may not have seen before. A “learning” reaction means that the candidate will take in new information quickly. If something goes wrong with a design they created, their first reaction should be “oh, interesting” and not “well, it couldn’t have been me.” A team oriented attitude is pretty obvious; manual testers should feel comfortable reaching out for help. An actual interest in the world of testing means that the candidate is likely to stay in their position, and reduces turnover.

Creative Thinking

The best way to approach a creative thinking test is, well, creatively! For example, these questions can bring out the best thinking skills and processes in your candidates:

  • How many grains of rice do Europeans consume a day?
  • Where would the President go to stay safe if the White House were under attack?
  • How many uses can you think of for a _______? (paper clip, shoe, etc.)

Each of these questions may seem a bit far-fetched for a manual testing interview. “What do any of these things have to do with testing?” you might be wondering. Your candidates will probably wonder the same thing. But that’s the point of these questions!

You want to know how a candidate solves a problem in an unexpected situation. If your applicant demonstrates an ability to run with the issue and present elegant solutions on the fly, they’ve passed the test. If they struggle with it and question its relevance, they may have the same reaction when presented with an odd or uncommon testing problem.

Learning Reactions

When looking for a real learning response, you’ll actually be more active than your prospective co-worker.

The best way to find a learning attitude is first to find a teaching moment in the interview. It could be something as small as a fun fact, or as big as a correction to their method. Look for simple moments in the conversation where you see an opportunity for them to learn something new, whatever that may be.

When you present this information look for reactions like this:

  • “I never thought of it like that before. Interesting!”
  • “Oh, that makes sense.”
  • “That will come in handy later. Thanks!”

The best candidates will react positively to new information. The worst will probably seem peeved that you “knew more than them”.

Team Oriented

A team oriented candidate will be someone who you and your other interviewers get along well with. It is also someone who isn’t afraid of asking questions, or getting assistance. You can instantly tell a team player from a solo artist with a difficult testing scenario.

Just observe the candidate while they problem solve. Present your candidate with a tough testing issue. Let them know you can help them think it through. Take note of how many questions they ask and whether they seem comfortable with accepting your assistance. Here’s an exemplary testing scenario written by Paul Holland over at his blog, Testing Thoughts.

“I tell them they are in charge of daily automated sanity testing of new software builds. It takes about an hour to load the software onto the system and perform the test. They run the test on Friday and everything is fine. They send out an email to the team telling them to promote this code. If they had found an error, then they would have had to send an email to the owner of the failing section of code to have them fix it.

They are going to take a week off, and they ask me to perform the testing while they are away. ‘No problem,’ I reply. When they return from vacation ten days later, they discover that the load does not work. They ask me how the testing had gone while they were away, and I tell them that I completely forgot to perform the tests. They quickly send an email off to the owner of the failing module, and she says that there are many check-ins throughout the week including weekends.

She needs to know the first load that failed. Oh, she is going on vacation in 4 hours. So, they have a load that worked last Friday, and now, ten loads later (we do builds on the weekends too), they have a load that does not work. All loads are available on the server. We need to find out which load first broke so the SI (system integrator in charge of the builds) can review the many check-ins on from that day and locate the problem.

The question is: How would they determine which load last worked and which one first broke in four hours or less. They only have one setup (if the person asks if they have multiple setups – I like that, but the answer is ‘no’).”

The answer is, of course, to perform a binary search. For more information on what his interviewees typically react with, and how he views those responses, you can read more here.

Passion for Testing

This one may seem obvious to you, but it’s easy to overlook when you focus on technical ability. Your candidate should always seem excited at the proposition of working with you.

Nervousness is okay, but boredom is not. If your interviewee seems bored with your questions or with you – they’ll probably be bored on the job too. When you present creative scenarios, challenge their ideas, and ask difficult questions – your candidate should be curious and active.

Many great hiring managers argue that this is even more important than technical ability. Skills can be learned, but passion and curiosity are something that should come naturally to your candidate at all times.

To review, your perfect candidate is…

  • Creative
  • Learns quickly
  • Works well with your team
  • Has a passion for testing

All you need to do is pay close attention, and ask the right questions. Feel free (in fact, we encourage you) to take any of the methods here and add your own spin. The perfect candidate is out there, we promise.