The testing profession has no set college degree, career path or standard for skillsets, so how do you go about finding exceptional QAs? From innovative concepts like agile hiring and immersive interviewing to classic hiring techniques, I’m pulling back the veil on what it takes to get top testing talent.

But first, what makes a tester exceptional?

At Testlio, we’re not only looking for testing chops but curiosity and passion as well. Curiosity because it leads to creativity and tenacity, thus helping a tester to continuously think outside of the box. And passion because it helps a tester to take ownership for the outcomes of a project and to truly desire to make an impact and add value.

I think a great QA tester understands the user/audience for the application he/she is testing to find the most valuable issues that real users can end up with.

Kristi Kaljurand, Senior QA Team Lead at Testlio

Start by defining your own criteria, both technical and personal dependant on the specific position, be it junior or senior or manual or automated.

Know the nuances of writing job descriptions

To attract the right candidate, you have to include the right information in the job description.

This requires more than listing the details. How do you frame the information? What do you put in and what do you leave out?

On the other hand, an entry-level tester could be putoff by a long list of technical requirements, since most testers learn on the job.

Reduce turnover by getting to the root cause

Here’s an important question to ask yourself, why are you hiring?

But if you find testers saying they’re not getting opportunities to learn and grow and feel the need to leave to expand their career, then this is something you can change.

Satisfy curiosity and promote from within

The irony of spending years in high school and college before getting a job is that what employers want most isn’t any specific (or even highly specialized) body of knowledge; they want employees who can learn on the job.

Kristel Kruustük, Testlio founder.

Before hitting up the outside world, first determine if anyone within your organization is a fit for the job. There may be a tester who is ready to become a test lead or automation engineer. When you continuously bring in new blood for higher skilled positions, you send a clear message that you don’t value the potential of your existing team.

Let every interview be slightly different

This sort of experience can be hard to quantify, so it’s important to create some form of tracking system, like an immersive interview score sheet, ahead of time. Your team can take notes and/or give a score from 1-10 for each area.

If that approach is not your style, then at least allow for some unstructured Q&A after the pre-defined interview questions. Once you’ve got your main questions answered, allow the conversation to wander a bit and see where the tester leads you. Do they take the lead and ask excellent questions? Do they bring up relevant life experiences?

Recruit like a tester (how can you break them?)

A developer makes and a tester breaks. Now, we don’t really want you to “break” your candidates, but you definitely should ask a couple questions that put them under pressure and allow you to see how they think on the spot.

  • How quickly the person reacts
  • How well they trust their intuition and initial instincts
  • To what extent they fill the time with repetitive cases versus taking a wider approach
  • Whether or not they ask clarifying questions
  • How they structure their response (if at all)

While you don’t want the whole interview to be high-stress, you do want a few “on-the-spot” questions that will be revealing of their intellect and intuition.

Discover what the candidate is looking for

Every good hire accelerates your organization; every bad hire is a drag on your organization.

Sean Landis, from the book Agile Hiring

Finding a “good hire” means superseding technical and personality requirements by achieving fit. An often overlooked way to discover if someone is a good fit is to find out what THEY are looking for. What are they invested in and why?

Conventional wisdom says that a good team can absorb a weak member and still perform well but recent research shows that this is not true.

Sean Landis

Above all, make a good impression

Skilled, confident QAs know how to sniff out a bad situation—one where the entire team doesn’t take ownership over quality or where growth and creativity go to die.

Work on creating an environment that fosters excellence and figure out how to show it off.

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Dayana is a QA engineer turned technology writer living in Milan, Italy. She's always down for a smoothie.