QA jobs: resumes and interviews

I am currently hiring for a part time QA position and have been doing some research on other people’s experience on the process of resume screening and interviewing.I recently read a great post by Eric Jacobson on what a good QA resume looks like.

Here is a snippet from his blog:

“However, the candidate would have probably gotten an instant interview if they had included any of these:

  • My approach to testing is as follows…
  • See my software testing blog for my opinions on how to test.
  • My favorite testing books and blogs are…
  • I enjoy testing because…”
  • I think he makes a great point. It would be great to see some passion and originality come through in a resume. Even if people had  different philosophies on testing, it would be great to see someone who is thoughtful and interested in their work. Maybe the place for that is not in the resume, but in the cover letter? Coverletters are hard. Trying to be direct, knowledgeable about the company and passionate about your field in a few short paragraphs takes a lot of revision and editing. It is worth it though. Where better to get an idea of yourself as an employee and a person across to your potential employers?

    There is the interview- perhaps the best way to get a sense of someone’s interest in the work as well as their skill in it. Programs and languages can be learned, but the right thought process should be there in the first place. I have answered a lot of QA interview questions – good and bad and some just plain unoriginal. In my opinion, anyone can search for “top Microsoft interview questions”  or “Google interview questions” etc and come up with a list – but that doesn’t make them good. They aren’t all bad. I am not even saying you shouldn’t use some of them. I do advocate taking a moment to decide if they are right for your company, for the position you are interviewing for and for the specific interview you are doing before launching into a predetermined list of logic questions. “Why are manhole covers round?”  or “How many piano tuners are there in the US?” seema little cliche to me, at this point.  I’d kind of hope that the person I was interviewing had heard of it before. Some of those logic questions are fantastic though, and very well suited to QA.

    The best interview questions I’ve ever gotten?

    “Pretend you are writing a test plan for a vending machine. Describe what you would test, where your risk areas would be and who you would consider as your users.” It is relevant. It is just difficult enough to throw someone off in an interview, but not too difficult that they shouldn’t be able to recover. The answer will tell you a lot about how a person will approach testing and how they will problem solve.

    “Write reproduction steps for how to make an omlet.” – Want to know how someone will write bug repro steps? Ask this question. Are they detailed? Helpful? Easy to follow? It also lets you know how organized their mind is when pulling out reproduction steps on something they are very familiar with doing.

    “What is the best bug you have ever found?” (this seems to be fairly well known in the QA world and I have defiantly gotten it in an interview) They might not know one offhand. Thats fine. But can they talk to you about the types of bugs they find? Where do they look for bugs? Whats important to them when testing? Great question.

    “How much testing is enough?” Where do they draw the line between thorough testing and meeting deadlines?

    What do you guys think? What do you look for in a resume? What are the best interview questions you’ve ever gotten?

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    5 responses to this post.

    1. Posted by Sean on January 19, 2010 at 9:21 am

      This is a really good post, I am glad someone posted something like this. I used to work in QA a few years ago, so I can definitely relate to what you are talking about. Everyone has worked with “that guy”, and honestly to be good at QA it shocks me some of the people I’ve worked with in the past. The questions you listed above are a great start, that line of thinking to answer questions on the fly will show good problem solving skills. The worst thing they can do is not ask for help if they know. I would say the 2 worst things an interviewee can do when asked a question is throw their arms up in defeat, or be 100% certain they are right they will not take my input. If they quit, they probably will not be able to handle the work to come, and if they are 100% sure they are right despite anything I would say then they probably would be a work rogue and not work well in a QA team. If I were interviewing someone and they were stumped on a problem, but asked me for help while working through it, I would probably hire them on the spot. It shows they are not afraid to take on the problem, yet shows they need help and would use the support of a QA team. Anyone who has done QA knows you will miss something eventually because you did not test some functionality, and often when someone find what you missed you scratch your head wondering how they found it because “no user would ever do that”. Been there…

      wish I could think of the best interview question I ever received. I noticed a couple years back when I was interviewing that people started asking the famous Microsoft/Google question in interviews (that being why manhole covers are round), and looking deeply smug when they ask it. Anyone who has ever done a search for interview questions has found that question out there, so it surprises me people ask it so profoundly. I personally do not like this question. I understand it’s relevance to making you think differently, but I think it is overdone. A question I would want to ask in an interview is why milk/oil/whatever trucks have cylinder containers. It seems like a lot of wasted space when they could use something more square. This way it would utilize more of the space but still have rounded corners so the transported liquid would not sit in a corner. I am not an engineer, so I imagine having a circular cylinder is probably the most structurally sound method for transporting liquids over road terrain, but I would love to see a QA answer that (mainly for my own curiosity, but also because the question deals with something which the interviewee may not have full subject knowledge, so their answer and how they got to their answer would be interesting). I have found some crazy bugs which would not have been found by a programmer because the code was wrong and the button or whatever did not behave as a button should. Take away comfortable computer knowledge and throw them an engineering question and watch their brain work.

      In my experience, the best QA’s I have worked with were honestly not the ones who on paper stood out as being the best. They were english majors, and business majors, and people who came from a background in chemistry. Do not get me wrong, I’ve worked with some fantastic computer science and tech background people, but do not instantly disregard someone from another field if you are a software company. Read their resume, but if at all possible meet them in person if they pass your first resume review. One minute with them should can easily make or break a person, even before you ever ask them an interview question. See how they behave, see how they act, see what they talk about. They can be the most qualified person in the world having 30 years QA lead experience, 57 majors, speak 7 programming languages, play 14 instruments, the ability to talk to dolphins, and have 16 PhD’s… but you may hire yourself a Milton.

      If you are looking for an position I would strongly recommend finding a college kid in the area. Look to see he is passionate about what you do, check that he understand some of the processes, but I think finding someone young (while inexperienced) will have that fire someone older might lack. I am not saying turn down someone with a few years QA experience, but for a part time QA position, find someone with fire, with that excitement to be working, and a little bit of that need to find a bug. There is nothing more satisfying than finding a bug. I think when you find that, you’ve found yourself an awesome worker.

      Sean

      Reply

    2. Hi there,

      if you are looking for someone who would also be working on automation, then I would suggest you you to interview someone who is not a tool expert, but an automation expert…

      Because an automation expert is good at the basics of automation, who would be able to replicate the success that one had with one tool with any other tool with higher percentage of predictability.
      more at http://proudtester.blogspot.com/2010/01/tool-is-tool-is-tool.html

      Reply

    3. […] can write clear bugs. Reproduction steps are one of the strongest tools we have. One of my favorite QA interview questions involves getting candidates to write reproduction steps for an unexpected action. It is a really […]

      Reply

    4. […] group you already have. Last time I went through this process, I wrote about QA cover letters,  resumes and interviews – but this time, I am  thinking more about how to find that perfect […]

      Reply

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