Throughout my employment at my (soon to be) previous job, I spent a fair amount of time reviewing résumés and interviewing. I am certainly not an authority on either of these things, but I have a fair amount of exposure. This leads me to a pretty clear idea on most of the things I’m looking for.
Software testing is an odd field. It’s still relatively young and continues to go through some growing pains. One of the most obvious places I see this is in the résumés. Every time I’ve gone through batches of them I’ve noticed a number of things that, in all honesty, hurt my head.
Lack of Distinction
So many applicants load their résumé down with every single responsibility their roles have ever required. Software testing roles, generally, cover a lot of the same ground from company to company. This means that everyone’s résumé, when they churn out their responsibility word salad, looks fundamentally the same. Which is to say entirely undistinguished and indistinguishable.
That absolute truth is that I don’t particularly care what your day to day tasks were. I already know most of them by the job title. I’m relatively comfortable with the knowledge that someone who has been testing for a couple of years was expected to have at least a tentative grasp on test planning, design, and execution. This doesn’t need to be three separate bullet points. It especially doesn’t need to be repeated across multiple roles and places of employment.
I am far more interested in the places where you coloured outside of the lines. What did you do that took you outside of expectations of your role? If you’ve got killer achievements I need you to put them on the page. That’s what I want to know about. If you want until the interview to pull them out as your secret weapon you’re wasting your time. If they’re not on the page you may never get to the interview in the first place.
Length and Clarity
These two always seem to be bundled up in each other.
I have seen enough seven+ page résumés with wall to wall text in 8pt font to last me several life times. These are, in the truest sense, résumé word vomit. While I understand the cultural touch point these spring from and the desire to ensure you’re “more qualified looking” than all the other applicants, it displays a complete lack of a fundamental aspect I look for in software testers.
Contextualized information is, in my opinion, the primary deliverable of software testing. I need to know that you can collect, contextualize, and communicate relevant information in a coherent and concise narrative.
Even the slimmer three page cousins of these monsters typically has much more content that it actually needs. It’s a mess of responsibilities and companies instead of a document representing the individual tester.
Tell me a story about who you are as a tester. If I can’t distinguish you from any other applicant the best you can hope for is luck of the draw.
I hate that I have to state this, but reality has ensured that I must.
Attending meetings is not a skill.
Please. I’ll say it again and hopefully save someone from themselves.
Attending meetings is not a skill.
This includes everything from daily stand ups to company wide town halls. Please, just stop. I would honestly be more impressed with someone who actively worked to attend as few meetings as possible.
I can’t hire you if you bullshit me in an interview and I catch it. Even if everything else was impeccable, this is a deal breaker. If you’re willing to bullshit me in an interview just to get the job I am fairly comfortable in trusting you will bullshit me again. It may be something trivial. It may be something critical. I can’t know that in advance which means I can’t accept that risk.
If you don’t know the answer to something or don’t have experience, be honest about it. Don’t try and bullshit your way through, because…
Being Willing To Not know
Being willing to not know something is ridiculously important. The tech industry is massive. Every little shop is its own hodge podge of quirks and tics and I’ve yet to meet a single person who’s knowledge is limitless, even on a single subject. I’ve known more than a handful who have thought they had it, but none who actually did.
Working in this industry is little more than an endless, applied study sesion. You will constantly be developing, learning, and changing. At least, you will be, if you’re doing it right. A massive first step in learning is admitting when you don’t know something.
The only time I will ever hold an applicant admitting they don’t know something against them is when they’ve touted their knowledge in the subject to get their foot in the door.
I almost always present interviewees with logic puzzles or testing games. When I do I always state that I am not interested in the objectively correct answer and invite them to do whatever they need to work it through. Talk it out, write it down, take over the white board, or iterate through answers. I always indicate that I am interested in how they think, how they problem solve, and different approaches they might have.
Here’s the dirty little secret. I have hired people who have failed every single puzzle and rejected some who have effortless solved them all. I hire people who can think, reason, and abstract out problems. I hire people who can detail out different approaches and lines of thinking, even if they couldn’t reach the “object right answer.”
In those instances where I’ve declined to hire those that got the right answers it is for a uniform reason. They’ve hit the right answer on the first try, without walking me through their thinking, and they’re are single-mindedly blind to any other alternatives.
Being right isn’t a problem. Not walking me through your thinking isn’t inherently a problem either. Being absolutely unable to see any other perspectives or solutions is a massive problem. Testing software and business in general are rarely, if ever, linear. I need the people I work with to be able to adopt different perspectives and find alternative paths that may not be optimal, but are still functional. Starting on the “right answer” and being unable to see anything else is a good way to find yourself miserable and marginalized.
In my recent round of supplying my own résumé I went entirely stripped down. The full content of it fit into a single sided 8.5 x 11” page.
This should be taken with a grain of salt. I gave it out three times and on each occasion it was requested. I didn’t make any blind applications. If was in the position to I’m not sure I’m make any changes. The single sheet said a lot about the responsibilities I tackled outside of my role and the projects I helped drive forward. It was a contextualized story about who I am as a software tester.