Software testing interview

How to interview a tester

A Test Manager will rarely be able to hire the perfect team members. Even if the team members are perfect for the current project, they may not be for the next one. This is why a test manager must know how to prepare and how to interview a software tester.

This is why we know that the likely software testing candidates should be:

  • Intelligent
  • Curious
  • Adaptable
  • Willing to work
  • Able to work effectively as part of a team
  • Willing and able to learn.

As a software Test Manager, you are first of all a manager and should use the below tips for the interview with a tester:

  • First talk about the structure of the interview
  • Usual interview duration time is 45-60 minutes
  • Remember the 30-70 % ratio. Use open questions to let the candidate speak.
  • Ask for evidence and examples

You should also check with your HR department if there are any illegal questions in your area. For example in the European Union there are some countries where it is illegal to ask about:

  • Color / race / nationality
  • Sex or pregnancy
  • Actual or perceived sexual orientation
  • Disability
  • Age
  • Family status

Once the above are done, the test manager should prepare a list of predefined software testing interview questions in order to assess the skills of the candidate and determine areas of strength and weakness. 

Before diving into the skills that we should look for, a test manager must also take into account:

  • Testing team dynamic
  • Complementing of the software testing skills of the existing team
  • Complementing the personalities of the test team
  • Achieving a mix of technical and personality traits within the team

The above are required because a strong testing team must be able to deal with multiple projects of varying type, but also handle interpersonal interactions.

Predefined set of skills a software tester needs

Even though the below is not a complete list, the aim of this guide is to provide a predefined set of skills that we should look for in a candidate for our test team. A test manager should also consider the fact that skill requirements vary between environments and organizations.

  1. Can handle high pressure activities
    • perform well under stress
    • can deflect frustration
    • can concentrate on the work even when the schedule seems impossible
  1. Finish their tasks and ask for more
  2. Technical Skills
  3. Soft Skills

A test manager should also keep in mind that team members that are assimilated by the team and there is a good team dynamic, then not only informal training will occurs across the members, but the work will be better balanced within the team without the need of specific allocation done by the test manager.

Technical Skills to look for

  • Derive test cases from a requirements document
  • Review technical documentation
  • Write review comments in a clear, objective and understandable way
  • Apply various software testing techniques appropriately to given scenarios
  • Assess a failure and documenting it accurately
  • Demonstrate an understanding of defect classification information
  • Demonstrating an understanding of root causes of defects
  • Use a tool to test a given API, including positive and negative tests
  • Use SQL to find and alter database information to test a given scenario
  • Design a test automation harness that will execute multiple tests and gather test results
  • Execute automated tests and troubleshooting failures
  • Write software test plans and test specifications
  • Write a test summary reports that includes an assessment of the test results
  • Create a Test Report
  • Define an Entry and Exit Criteria
  • Specific application technical tests or questions

Soft skills (interpersonal skills) to look for

  • Presenting information regarding a test project that is behind schedule
  • Explaining a defect report to a developer who thinks there is no defect
  • Training a co-worker
  • Presenting a problem to management regarding a process that is not effective
  • Reviewing a test case created by a co-worker and presenting the comments to that person
  • Interviewing a co-worker
  • Complimenting a developer
  • Explain a complex issue
  • Provide a recommendation on a situation
  • Lobby for support from you peers for an issue resolution

How to interview a tester

A test manager guide on Pre... by Lucian C on Scribd

For a broader article on this topic, you can check our Test Manager School or further browse our software testing blog.

This article is based on the ISTQB Advanced Syllabus version 2012 and it also references the ISTQB Foundation Syllabus version 2018. It uses terminology definitions from the ISTQB Glossary version 3.2.

In late 2019 we have launched A Test Manager’s Guide eBook that stands as the base for this article. You can check out more useful test management lessons by enrolling for free to view Chapter 1 – Back to the basics.