Conversations, questions and doing the unexpected: Software Testing Clinic – Session 5: Testing Interviews

May, 30th 2016Simon Tomes

The guy freaked! He'd lied about his two businesses. In a panic he flapped his arms and knocked over the glass of water. The interviewer mopped up the mess with the CV and suggested it was time to leave.

Session 5 of the Software Testing Clinic had afforded me the opportunity to share this story. I hoped my new acquaintance would never experience an interview this bad.

The topic for the evening: Testing Interviews.

What is the Software Testing Clinic and how might've this session helped you? I'll share my experience of the evening and offer some interview tips along the way.

Key learnings and takeaways

1. Conversation creates relationships

Kindly sharing at the session were Elouise Inzani – a people manager at Equal Experts – Dan Ashby and Mark Winteringham, both testers with a tonne of interview experience.

One thing was clear, conversation beats the tradtional approach of interviewer asks and interviewee answers.

Dan took us through his excellent "How I interview testers diagram". Keen to highlight its use as a heuristic, he prefers to use it to support the conversation and not script it.

I appreciated an excellent tip that will break the ice at the start of an interview: share your story of how you got into testing. Dan uses this all the time to much success.

Context is everything during a conversation. A senior should know their stuff and a junior should show eagerness to learn, something both interviewer and interviewee should appreciate.

2. Interviewees ask questions

Dan emphasised the importance of interviewees asking questions and a group exercise helped explore this.

I believe asking questions is the foundation of all great testers. An interviewee who asks questions provides insight into their ability as a tester.

I'm inspired by Aaron Dignan's Operating Model That Is Eating The World. It's a powerful way to model organisational behaviour and one way to trigger questions.

Dig into these and get a better understanding of the company you might join:

If the answers don't resonate then it's likely not the place for you.

3. Do something unexpected

Emphasis was placed on an interviewees ability to talk about "what" and "how" i.e. this is what I know and this is how I do it.

I felt there was an opportunity to talk about the "why" i.e. this is my belief that inspires me to do what I do. The why helps candidates stand out.

"People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it" — Simon Sinek

We didn't have time to try out the "How would you test this piece of paper?" exercise, something Dan uses all the time. It explores lateral thinking and questioning skills. It sounds like a fantastic technique.

As an interviewee there's opportunity to stand out by doing something unexpected.

Try one of these:

The magic of listening and sharing

"We’re here to help provide an open and safe environment for junior testers to learn the craft of testing and to help senior testers learn the craft of mentor." Mark Winteringham — Co-Organiser

This was my first clinic and I'd signed up for a "Mentor" ticket. I had a hunch I'd learn tonnes and this session delivered.

Something magical happens when you share your experiences. Rather than shove an idea down someone's throat I switched between coach and mentor. The magic seemed to happen during three individual chats and a group exercise. Each time I asked if what I had shared was useful, a resounding yes blew my mind.

You'll learn something at a Software Testing Clinic no matter what stage you're at in your career. You'll build connections with a bunch of passionate people.

Dan and Mark have created an incredible forum for testers to learn and the sessions are completely free!

Get involved

Want to join the next session? Head over to the Software Testing Clinic meetup and sign up!

Over to you

Were you at this Software Testing Clinic? What did you learn? What interview tips can you share? I'd love to hear your thoughts below.