Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Writing a job description for a Tester Part II

In the first part I described how I started out with the job desciption for a Test Analyst and why the first sentence was so important for me. In this part I'll go through the body of the job description.

This part is both describing what the applicant is expected to do in the job and what working in our company is like.
A new job is always a two way relationship. The employer is looking for the skills, personality, etc to fill a gap in their team. The potential candidate is looking for an interesting and rewarding place to work in so I try and address both.

Again this section is written tongue in cheek to give the potential applicant both an idea of what's required of them and to lure the right people into applying. In that first part I'm describing the part of personality I'm looking for, I mention some skills and hint at what level the candidate should be.
For someone experienced in ET the sentence ..."know your oracles from your heuristics" should be clear. I didn't want to put "Should have exploratory testing experience" as they keyword driven people would just put that in their CV and I'm none the wiser.
Asking the question "If you're not scared away by the above you may want to apply." should convey that yes, I'm asking for a lot but that I trust the applicant to be a confident and good tester and will welcome them with open arms.

The Principal Accountabilities section more closely resembles a traditional job spec. I nearly left it out as an experienced software tester would be able to do these tasks anyway. In the end I left it in as the tasks in there convey that I'm not only looking for a tester but also a facilitator that can make things happen with other teams and people in the business. Many testers do that but not all so I felt that it would explain to the potential candidate that this is a "get out of your chair and make it happen" job rather than one where the test manager or lead tell you what to do.

The Qualification section contains some standard stuff but also some controversial and opposing if not mutually exclusive statements, that Ajay has picked up on. The idea here is that the candidate asks for clarifications or state their opinion about it so that we can then have a good discussion about it during which we both get to know the others skill and opinion better than with standard interview questions. The idea for this came from the book Lessons Learnt in Software Testing which has opposing titles in chapter 6 about whether to use test document templates.

The bonus section for Qualifications is tongue in cheek again. I start that having no ISEB/ISTQB qualification is a good thing for me. The idea here is that
a) it's unusual and people take note - no skimming over this job description, I want your attention here
b) I don't think much of these certification programmes
c) If the tester doesn't have certificates, how do they educate themselves? Another opportunity for a good discussion
d) I want to see if people change their CV when applying for the job or if they send a generic one. Custom build CVs are more interesting to me - I'd like to see if they're interested enough in the job to put some effort into the CV or if they can't be bothered. Since I removed the chance for just putting in the keywords from the job spec by hardly mentioning any the custom CV should more closely reflect their real experiences.
The other items on the list are mostly nice to have's and cover a wide area so that almost everyone can tick one if not several of these boxes.

If the result is worth the effort you ask? No idea, yet, I'll find out soon. From the applications I've got so far I could easily see who read the job spec and who just skim read and send their generic CV. Makes my job easier as I can just bin the latter.


  1. I really liked this series of posts, especially as I am fresh out of a recent job hunt. It's amazing how many testing/QA job postings are dependent upon applicant's having 'xyz software testing certification.'

    I know it's almost cliche at this point, but I think it's safe to reiterate the fact that the people that value these certifications as hiring managers are clueless and the people that value these certification as applicants probably still don't know how to test. Most testers worth their salt that have the certifications only got them because the were forced to by their employer or knew that it would be the only way they could find employment in this certification-saturated job market.

    I also like the fact that you bring to light the fact that you want people that know how to test software. There's no tip-toeing around the fact, if you don't have experience or can't prove that you are able to test well, don't even bother applying. I'll be honest, I just broke into the testing industry, having no prior working test experience (although I was the primary tester on my final project team when I was going to school for game development, but even though it taught me some valuable [what I know now to be] exploratory testing skills, I still wouldn't really count the experience), but I was able to talk my way into the job, and it turns out that I'm pretty good at testing (or at least my team leader and manager are very positive about my abilities so far). Granted, I still have a lot to learn, but I've been working really hard to improve my skills and I was able to show that I was dedicated and willing to do whatever it took to get the job.

    So while at a glance I personally would have hesitated to apply for the job posting you described, I think in the end I would have applied and hoped that my cover letter would convince you to let me demonstrate what testing skills I possessed.

    Anyways, I just wanted to say that I greatly enjoyed reading these posts. Thanks for reading my long-winded (and possibly non-intelligible) reply.

    - Shaun

  2. I wish I'd have read this last week. I think I've ticked some boxes though, and my CV has stayed out of the bin.

    Very interesting read. Your vacancy did stand out from others in the same industry, where I find that simple job descriptions are padded with unnecessary business speak.


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  4. My favourite question comes back with a twist.
    Version 1.2 - How does it feel to be stupid?
    Version 1.1 - How does it feel to be stupid in your domain of expertise?

    Sometimes, in any activity, you can simply cap. No progress. Your post just broke the whole ceiling and I can see millions of ways to improve. I feel also validated. I am not the only one hating "DEFAULT".

    As for certifications, well, you can know the person is more prepared than the cleaning lady. I was in the position to interview people for a software testing role, and most of them were below cleaning lady status.

    But then again, the hardest thing to learn is to unlearn.

  5. Thanks for your comment, appreciate it.

    The unlearn factor is an important one, I think. Boundary testing to me was one such example. The whole -1, boundary, +1 approach in ISEB missing the point that there can be multiple boundaries. To me that's where learning becomes dangerous, where blinkers are handed out and the student sees less of the world than before. Well, that's a discussion for another time.

  6. Thomas,
    Your points on qualified testers for a quality team are exactly what our industry needs to remember. These days, it's difficult to keep in check what's what, who does what with the different tests.

    I'm with QASymphony and we just launched out first product, qTest, a screen capture testing tool. We hope this may be of some help to your agile and context driven approach. Download qTrace at and see if it is as beneficial as we believe it is. If you find it to be worthwhile, please send me your suggestions and expertise on what you think. It would help us greatly.