Thursday, February 7, 2013

Dear Interviewer of Testers

I have a bone to pick with you after I have spent the last four months seeking new work.  Many of you are guilty of inviting people in for interviews that doesn’t make sense.  I know people who are out of work would love a chance to at least be invited to an interview but recognize the invitation has little to no value if the interview proves to be a waste of time.  Remember, the interview process is a time consuming, taxing and even costly endeavor for the prospective candidate.  You yourself have interviewed for work and therefore know how much effort each interview can take.  Let me share some of the ridiculous experiences I had so you can hopefully keep this in mind for your future interviews.

There Is No Job

One company invited me to an interview via a recruiter I was working with for what I believed was a testing position.  They seemed more than excited to meet me and wanted to know if I could visit them immediately.  It seemed, not only were they impressed with my CV but it seemed two of my former colleagues whom also worked for this company had provided impressive references.  So I get to the interview the next day and the first thing the guy says is “we currently do not have an available job.  I thought you could fill in for someone on leave or work as a consultant or perhaps we will have something in the future.”  In my head I was thinking “WTF!  You rushed to meet me and there is no job!”  Then he continues to add insult to injury by saying “we just wanted to meet you because it is hard to find people with your talent.”  I continued being polite and meeting with them for one and half hours mostly out of respect to my former colleagues who spoke highly of me.  However, in actuality I was quite pissed!  After the interview, he immediately called my recruiter and said “we don’t wish to continue, she doesn’t have enough development skills.”  I said out loud to the recruiter “continue what?  There is no job to continue!  Second, I am not a developer!  I was interviewing for a testing role!”  

During my interview process this happened to me twice.  A second company had not received approval yet for the position so after two interviews and waiting almost three weeks for feedback, they said they solved the problem with students because they never got approval for the position.

Listen interviewers, don’t waste a person’s time inviting them to an interview when there is no job.  Don’t have a person researching your company, preparing themselves for an interview, spending money to travel to your company and for what, to be told there isn’t an actual job you are hiring for!?  Perhaps if you would like to have an opportunity to speak to a prospective, future candidate then contact the person, tell them the purpose of you contacting them and use the phone or skype to meet with them to minimize their investment of time.  For god sake don’t insult people telling them they are not qualified for a non-existing role!

Key Criteria Failure

Some positions have key criteria that must be met for example language.  I was invited to one interview and as soon as they learned I didn’t speak Swedish fluently, the interview was over.  Don’t get me wrong!  We all went through the motions but their body language said it all.  However, I did like the respectful “we need to think if this can work” speech and I never heard from them again.  However, kudos to them for trying to be kind and not asking me to invest more time into the interview process.  

Now here is the thing.  My CV and cover letter were both written in English.  In the section marked languages, it states I am still learning.  This indicates that if there are non-negotiable key criteria the candidate must fulfill then perhaps a phone interview or even a simple email to clarify will help before going into an interview process. This can save everyone a lot of time.

The Testing Exams

Being a QA Manager myself, I understand the reason for wanting to verify a person has the adequate knowledge and skill level to perform the job.  I developed an exam that verified they had the basic knowledge for both testing and test automation.  It included a user story which they should use to define a test approach to meet the requirements of the story.  In my interview experience, people provided the following types of tests, a) the exam, b) requested your test approach based on a diagram drawn on the board, c) ask what techniques you would elect to use given a technology type, and d) the worst, given an actual system to test while the facilitator sat with you giving you instructions.  Let’s talk about the two things I hated the most.

When to Give The Exam

I recommend the second interview.  Usually a first interview is basically mutual introductions.  If the candidate seems interesting enough to continue, then use the second interview to examine their knowledge using the preferred technique you wish to use such as a technical interview, an exam, or a trial run.  If the candidate performs below expectations, there is no need to invest time and energy to continue to a subsequent interview.  On two occasions, I was given exams on the 3rd interview.  Both I did quite well with but if they decide to not continue then look at the additional time, energy and money the candidate invested only to be dropped because of the exam.  I kept thinking I have come to your office now three times, two to three hours each time for one person to disagree with my test approach and therefore decided to not continue.  This is BS!

Micro-managed Exams

This was by far the worst type of exam I had ever experienced.  Now in all fairness, I was told up front about the interview process.  I knew the test would be given during a 3rd interview but I was not forewarned of the type of exam.  Basically the guy put a computer in front of me with the actual application and proceeded to ask me a number of questions that didn’t really have a right or wrong answer to them.  There was no user story and a tiny window for review of the application.  He continuously talked while I was attempting to examine the application and he pointed out where I didn’t give as thorough of an answer he was seeking or where he disagreed with my approach.  Even worse, he rushed me while I was examining the application for the answers.  I didn’t like this at all and I didn’t get the job.

I always respect different approaches and realized other’s perhaps had this exam also and did quite well, in his opinion.  However I did leave the interview with the decision even if they offered the job I didn’t want it.  Why?  Because it left me with the impression that if this is how they worked then this job is not a good fit for me.  I didn’t want someone standing over me micro-managing my work and creatively disagreeing with me.  I felt that this lacked little professional, mutual consideration.  So my biggest advice is, think about the impression this style of test gives your prospective candidates.  Definitely think to do this on the second interview instead of a third.

You Are Too Senior or Junior For the Role

This is where I have to say “read the /&%¤& CV!  The CV should basically outline the number of years they have worked as a tester, what roles they have held and what duties they have performed.  Why invite someone to an interview process if you see from day one their profile is not a fit for your search requirements.  I had one consulting company contact me after seeing my CV on  They seemed like a great company to work for.  They specialized in Quality Assurance and Software Testing as well as providing the courses and exams for the ISTQB certifications.  It was a compliment.  I had four interviews, one personality test and one test exam with this company.  Three days after the final interview, I received a rejection letter stating that they were seeking more junior level testers with less than five years of experience.  I have about seventeen years of experience.  I replied, as politely as I could, thanking them for the opportunity but perhaps you can take this into consideration before inviting people to interview.  I was furious.

My suggestion, understand your recruitment demands and invite those candidates that truly fit your requirements.  Don’t waste people’s time!  If someone looks interesting and you want an opportunity to pre-interview them, be honest!  Consider doing a phone or skype interview. 

I Interviewee

As an interview candidate, this experience has taught me a few things too!  I believe, if I do due diligence on my part, then as the interviewer you should feel obligated to respond to my inquiries before agreeing to an interview.  One company called me for a second time to interview but it was a different manager.  He had received my CV internally.  This time I asked, what’s the position, what skills are important to have etc.  Against my better judgment, I went to the interview without him directly answering my questions.  Again I sat there two hours listening about the company and his background…that began in the 60s.  Two weeks passed and he said he didn’t wish to continue because I didn’t have enough experience with high transaction systems.  Twelve years of my experience was with stock trading systems.  This time, I was angry with myself!  If he couldn’t directly answer my questions then I should have declined the interview opportunity.
As an interview candidate, I learned to inquire about the following things either before the interview process or in the early stages of the interview:

  • If there is no job description, ask for one.
  • Make sure you understand their interview process
  • If they will ask for exams or test, ask for details.  What type of exam?  How will it be administered?  How will the test be evaluated?  One company gave an aptitude test that involved number sequences and the Fibonacci sequence.  If you do not know it, then you have time to learn it prior to taking the exam.
  • Inquire about possible key criteria, e.g. language, certifications, driving license, etc.
  • Will it be a group interview or not.
  • Don’t be shy about asking for a phone or skype interview for the first interview especially if the position doesn’t sound promising.
  •  When do they anticipate making their decision in the interview process?
  • How many positions are they recruiting for and how many candidates are competing for those positions?  This might be a bold question but I found if the position was not a great fit and me and say twenty five other people are competing then I might elect to not continue the interviews.

I am sure more items can be added to this list but this is a good start.


The landscape for testing has changed and the agile methodologies have contributed to this change.  People are specifically searching candidates to fill the following types of testing roles:

  •  Exploratory Tester
  • Unit Tester
  • Performance Tester
  • Functional Tester
  • Agile Tester
  • Test Automation Developer
  • Software Developer in Test
  • Technical Tester
  • Security Tester
  • Test Environment Management
  • Agile Test Coach
  • Web Services or API Tester

The above are just a few.  Some people have the specific background you are seeking while others may have worked in multiple test capacities.  Keep this in mind but additionally think about:

·         Are you actually ready to recruit?  Is there a current, approved position to fill?
·         Match candidates correctly to your recruitment profile or be open minded to a slightly different profile.  You might get more for your money!
·         Be considerate to your candidates.  Streamline your interview process to respect their time.
·         Do not have candidates advance through an interview process that will not go anywhere.
·         Please, give an exam that tests your candidate’s knowledge without insulting them!

Thank you and I hope this will help improve the interview experience for both the interviewer and the interviewee.



  1. I noticed that you did not mention recruiters, how do they fit in?

    1. You raised a good point.
      I think a good recruiter, although being paid by the company, can still ensure a candidate is well-informed about the prospective job interview. In one of my negative cases, where I learned there was no job, a recruiter organized it and therefore failed to acquire enough information to refer a candidate. A good recruiter prepares a candidate for an interview that has the potential to lead to a job.