Want-Ads for QA that Nobody Really Wants

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contributions well worth the trouble of having to replace them when they moved on. But a test team with nothing in it but proto-developers is lame, and ineffective, like a wheel-reinvention taskforce where nobody has information that the wheel should be round.

    Wanted
    Hands-on QA manager with proven track record in
    Writing automation harnesses and FDA documentation.
    Must know ISO9002 and Six Sigma
    With development experience in C++ and Java.
    MBA with legal and brokerage experience, and double-byte localization.
    Foosball strongly preferred (EOE, but prefer members of the race of X-men)

Well, maybe I'm exaggerating, but you've all seen QA ads like this, asking for a person who doesn't exist. Does the company know they're in search of the impossible? Do they think their QA is too hard for anyone without multiple careers-not to mention multiple personalities?

This kind of ad makes a negative impression on knowledgeable candidates, but it's usually meant as a fishing expedition. The company doesn't know what it wants, but figures it will know it when it sees it over the interview table. Wishful thinking, of course. Most managers who run ads like this have never hired for QA, and irrelevant qualifications only add to the confusion. Anyone remotely like this would be overqualified for their shop, and they still don't know which part of the qualifications they really need.

Pretty soon they just give up and hire "somebody who can just come in and test" (q.v.), or somebody who "fits in," i.e. a twenty-something male with limited experience and the word "test" on their resume. What they ask for is way too much, and what they settle for isn't enough: someone who bails, overwhelmed, after a few days, or fit in nicely but must be asked to leave after making hash of one or two releases. It's a folie a deux in any case. All you ever really needed was someone with decent QA experience. Don't write want-ads like these if effective QA is what you want. But what should you ask for in your ads?

Here's a start: 

  • Hiring skills (Expect your manager to hire test engineers with different skills, not all naïve, not all senior, not all the same. And not all junior/proto-developers)

Companies who write bad ads are actually signaling their inexperience. Luckily, high tech people are smart, and enjoy learning. Ignorance only becomes a problem when people pretend it isn't there. If you don't know QA, hire a manager with solid experience who does know it. And once you've hired that person, don't second-guess her about how to do the job, or about how to hire additional team members. You may assume that choosing domain knowledge over QA knowledge will get your testing done soonest, but this choice is based on a fallacy of which learning curve is the steepest.

Experienced QA professionals can be trusted to become productive on a new technology in months or even weeks, but it takes years for an isolated group to reinvent the techniques of software test. If your software is suffering from test isolation, get someone to help your group set the already-invented wheel rolling smoothly.

About the author

Sheryl Smith's picture Sheryl Smith

Sheryl Smith is Chief Testing Geek at TestDesigns, Inc. She specializes in software test architecture and setup/improvement of QA groups. She shows management how to recognize when QA is functioning effectively, and how it needs to relate to other groups in the organization. Email: sheryllsmith@earthlink.net.

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