Peter Nairn

Why is it so difficult to find good testers?

Posted on Wed 16 Jul 2008 at 08:35 in Musings

Who would have believed that it would be so difficult to recruit decent test automation staff?


I have now been looking for someone to beef up my automation team for over 3 months and only just found someone who is worth hiring.  I have not been looking for someone out of the ordinary; at least I don’t think so.  I have been looking for someone who is experienced in test automation, minimum of 3 years, has written automation frameworks and who has a reasonable idea of testing principles.  QTP experience was desirable, but the key attribute was ability to automate.  Salary would not be too much of a problem for the right person.


I have had over 60 CVs to go through, about 20 telephone interviews and face to face interviews.


Firstly, the CVs.  Many people putting themselves forward for automation roles have only used capture/replay.  This surprised me as I had the, obviously mistaken, belief that the days of doing only capture/replay had gone years ago; it appears not and the old myth of capture/replay being the way to automate seems to be alive and well.  And some of the salary requests were outrageous.  Many CVs were from software testing consultancies or outsourcing companies and the level of knowledge displayed by these people was woeful which only went to strengthen my opinion that software testing consultancies and outsourcing companies mainly body-shop and are only interested in placing people not skills.  But, I digress.  Many CVs came from people who had just arrived in the UK from India, which has given me the impression that there is quite a few migrants coming this way; which was interesting but most of the skills were not up to the mark and the CVs were, generally, quite badly written – although, having said that, the person I am going to hire has only just come to the UK from India.


Secondly, the interviews.  I find telephone interviews useful to weed out the obvious no-hopers and people who do not tell the whole truth on their CVs.  Being an interviewee over the phone is as difficult as interviewing over the phone, but the number of people who just could not communicate over the phone was staggering.  The ones I got in for face to face interviews faired not much better.  I don’t much like tests in interviews, but for an automation role, a very brief test was given, to write a short VBscript to solve a common problem (finding one item from one array in another array, finding the maximum of three numbers) and I was amazed at how many either could not do it or got it hopelessly wrong – one candidate even wrote the “VBscript” in “C” and that was wrong!  There were some that had blagged the telephone interview that soon came unstuck.  Most had (or said they had) the ISEB foundation certificate and could not answer simple questions that ISEB poses.


Thirdly, the recruitment agencies.  I was explicit in my requirements, I even provided some sample questions with expected answers for them to ask candidates before I even got to see the CV.  However, the agencies persisted in sending totally unsuitable CVs and people who could not answer the sample questions – not one single agency has been good that we have used.


But the thing that really makes me think about this whole exercise is that there are a lot of people out there who don’t know how to do a testing job and/or an automation job.  They have been working, most for over 3 years, doing a testing job.  The skill level is, therefore, low.  No wonder that some people think anyone can do testing.  It saddens me and I wish I knew how we testing professionals could change that.

Indeed - why is it

Posted on Mon 21 Jul 2008 at 01:46 by sherilyn
I wonder sometimes if the main reason is that there is no formal qualification you can get in software testing (at least there isn't where I come from). Bits and pieces of testing are covered in computer science degrees but its not given the serious dedication it deserves. Imagine if there was a 2 year degree in software testing. (could you even fill up 2 years? I think you could)
A good tester can be vastly experienced after 2 years of testing but a bad tester will only ever be bad regardless of how long they do it for.

You are right!

Posted on Tue 22 Jul 2008 at 08:27 by PeteNairn
Yes, Sherilyn, I agree, there is a lack of training of computer science grads in software testing and what is there is, generally, an add-on to show how to test their own code. It is not promoted as a career path.

The only exception I am aware of is Cem Kaner's course in Florida.

Re: Why is it so difficult to find good testers?

Posted on Wed 6 Aug 2008 at 02:58 by spikyone
I had some thoughts on your post which I will post later this week but for now I just wanted to say I asked a related question on linkedin, interesting replies:

a common cry

Posted on Fri 15 Aug 2008 at 10:55 by philk10
I've put together a list of blogs that seem to be asking the same thing

I was almost lost to the testing industry because I found it so hard to break into especially when I compared myself to some of the people who were employed as 'testers'

look at the other side

Posted on Thu 4 Sep 2008 at 08:18 by Alcozz
I also had the experience with numerous resumes applying for qa job with no realiable qa skill sets. Seriously, no wonder some people think anybody can do qa. But I found it's easier to find relatively better qa engineers from those who have dev experiences. Like those software engineers who can test. And even recent college grads (majored in cs or ce) could be better than those people who have not had any fundamental education about software development but did some "testing" on random stuffs for a year or two

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