Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Interviewing and Tips

I strongly dislike the interview process having gone through it myself many times. I find it very difficult to tell the story of your testing journey in an hour or so.  Plus trying to prove that you are worthy can be disconcerting. I have been lucky in my last few jobs as I was recommended by developers. Even though these interviews were still grueling and merciless, job offers were extended.

Depending on the article you read (123), anywhere from 60-90% of jobs are landed through internal or networking referrals.  So it helps to build good relationships with your co-workers and friends.

I managed to make a fool of myself at a couple of job interviews (luckily they were not referrals). The most disastrous was when I attempted to sit down in a chair but landed in a paper wastebasket instead and got stuck (talking about being nervous and disoriented). Despite the fact that it served as a great icebreaker I was unable to continue and decided not to pursue it, as both of my interviewers could not stop laughing. 

I have also sat on the other side of the table and interviewed candidates for openings at my companies. I dreaded participating as I vividly remembered my own fears and anxieties during interviews. Still I wanted to be helpful to my teams and was curious to learn about the competition, other companies’ projects, what kind of testers and testing practices they employ, and just broaden my horizons by talking to colleagues.

It is what it is – job interviews are not going away and are a necessary evil. I am no expert and not a big fan of either side of the interview process but want to offer some tips and recommendations based on my experience and observations of interviewing in the US.

The Interview
1.   Of course you love testing and are looking for a glamorous testing opportunity. However, one, and possibly all, of the factors below may be the difference maker in helping you make the final decision of accepting or rejecting an offer.

·      Better pay
·      Work Life balance
·      Work culture
·      Career growth
·      Better commute

Before you get to the interview, have an idea of what to say when asked  “Why are you looking to change your job?” Ask appropriate questions yourself at the right time during the interview to get a better idea of what the company is offering. This could be the type of work environment, road maps, expectations, people, training and whatever else is important to you. Please only ask your peers questions pertaining to the job. Do not ask how much money they make, what the work hours are or whether you can work remotely. These questions can be raised with recruiters and human resources when you have a verbal offer.

2.  Be prepared to answer questions on what you know about the company you are interviewing          with and its work culture. Not only can this information be found on corporate sites, but also            LinkedIn, Twitter and Glassdoor. In case you do not know or were unable to read or form an          opinion about a company just say so. Typically the first person that interviews you gives you an      overview and you can take notes and then turn them into questions.

3.  You are being evaluated from the moment you walk into the company office or reception area. Be prepared and focused.

a.   Do not show up a few hours early. One time we did not know what to do with a candidate who came from out of town and showed up 3 hours early. We had previously scheduled meetings and other conflicts, and were unable to accommodate. 

b.   Do not show up late. That is worse than showing up too early.

c.   Remember firm handshakes (yes, many pay attention to it); having a professional look and friendly attitude are appreciated. Please do not wear perfume or cologne. I had to excuse myself to leave the room a couple of times as I could not breathe or focus due to overbearing cologne. And it turned out I was not the only one.

d.   Bring hard copies of your resume. Many people review resume copies in advance and highlight areas that stand out or they have questions about. Some do not as they were asked to interview in the last minute, did not notice the resume, or were too busy or forgot to do it.  Devs are known for it. They may take a few minutes to review your resume right there and then. And even though it comes across as rude or unprepared please show good grace and help your interviewers. Believe me it will be appreciated.

e.   If you do not know an answer to a question, just mention so and offer an alternative answer or solution. For example, when you are asked whether you have done automated testing and you have not, tell them if you worked with automated test data generation or helped your team with ideas for automation. You may tell the interviewers what you know or have read. (e. g., Agile Test Automation) or have learned about it on your own. They will appreciate your honesty and initiative.

f.   There are some questions that every tester should have an answer to or an idea about. For example: What is your favorite bug/finding?’ Testers typically brag about bugs and developers about cool code solutions. Get your story straight. ‘What type of developers have you worked with?’ For example talk about the ones who care about what they do or not. ‘How/what methods did you use to convince your stakeholders that a bug needs to be addressed?’ This is Bug Advocacy.  I have interviewed a few candidates that got upset at me over these questions.  Yes, I want to know what made you a kick-ass tester, or not, for finding a bug or issue that either earned you credibility or ruined your reputation. After all my current co-workers and I could be working with you if you are the one selected! 

g.   You may not know all the answers but your interviewers care more about how you think, make decisions, come up with and apply solutions, debate, communicate and deal with stress, challenges and uncertainty.

h.   Interviewing for a tester position to get your foot in the door or switching career paths.  This is for the interviewers. I have interviewed a number of developers who wanted to switch to testing because it seemed easy… Yeah that’s what they said. ‘I want to take a break from programming and switch to testing for a bit.’ A counter question is: ‘What makes you think that it is easier than programming?’ Some answers to this were: ‘It seems that almost anyone can test these days.’ or ‘Testers at my company had not really done much.’  What a great reputation testers have in the industry!

When evaluations were made for candidates we interviewed, I initially felt badly because many others on the interview team would like these candidates that I rejected.  It made me question if I was missing something or was being too harsh in my assessments.  Perhaps. However, other teammates (who are not testers) usually will not know what is really needed from a tester, and it’s actually easy to BS about it to a non-tester. But don’t try it with a seasoned professional. 

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