Difficulties in hiring QA pros

Hey everyone,

I’m a QA pro based in London and have been in this field for a few years now. I’ve worked for a few companies during my time as a tester and I’ve noticed that quite a few companies face challenges when hiring QA people (especially automation folks).

There seems to be a high ratio of unsuitable candidates to qualified candidates.

I am just a bloke sitting in his bedroom who is curious about whether hiring managers in this space are indeed facing these challenges. To be honest I want to speak to hiring managers who are to see if there might be space for me to build a product that can somehow help solve this problem.

If any of you are hiring managers who are facing this problem, can you please let me know? It would be great to have a chat with you.

Thanks for your time!

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I’m not a manager but as the senior tester in my group I’ve done a lot of resume screening and interviews and I can confirm that high ratio, unfortunately.

Specifically on the automation side I think there are a lot of people whose only exposure to programming is learning to write some Java tests in Selenium, so they never learned the fundamentals of how to write good code. But more generally, the prevalence of a lack of critical thinking among candidates in a field where that’s one of the most important attributes is quite discouraging, and I’ve gotten to the point of tending to prefer candidates who are fresh out of college because they haven’t acquired bad habits and confirmatory mindsets.

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Hi @c32hedge , would you mind if I connected with you on LinkedIn to ask you a few questions about your experience? Thanks

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Are you in the MoT Slack? That might be a better place for the discussion–I find LI’s messaging system a bit clunky.

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What I’ve seen in the market is often due to a very broad view of what testing is about so very different expectations on what that testing will do.

Lets start with automation. This is script focused testing usually on the single regression risk. Often script focused testers are encouraged to switch to automation but its a very different skillset and really does require coding skills to do it well.

What I often see is automation people who can design good tests and grind all the basic things out. If its a team of automation engineers with a good lead this can work. I’d probably even put myself in the former category when it comes to automation.

Challenge is when things get a bit complicated or you need some level of architecture in the framework, re-usability, optimisation etc which are generally good coding practices alongside the need for good coding skills. Then we have the decisions on what is suitable for automation and where in the stack it should be automated. On top of this I’d expect good automaters to be able to go beyond regression risk, creating scripts for system monitoring, CI etc. This is the level I’d look for if I was hiring.

Maybe only 10 percent of candidates I see fit this and when they do they often switch to product development. Consider how many Selenium UI automaters would push back and say we should be doing 80% of this lower in the stack for example.

Testing itself has very different challenges. Script focused testers is still the main stream offering basic value. Highly technical exploratory focused testers are rarer and generally offer much higher value.

Often a company does not know the difference, they might even stick the word manual in the job advert so they attract all the basic script focused testers and are then surprised when they do not get a good match.

There are loads of basic testers and Automator’s often driving by false marketing that anyone can test or by codeless Automation that convinces them they do not need coding skills.

In many mainstream companies this level can work but I suspect companies are looking for more. The basic scripted tests gravitate towards automation, the basic automation often moves to developers for efficiency levels. This transition will takes years so no immediate worries for many candidates.

Over time though that then leaves good technical exploratory testers and architect level automation engineers in high demand but low supply.

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Thanks @andrewkelly2555 . Are you in the MOT Slack? Would be good to ask you more about your experiences.

You are not alone. Some companies go through a phase when they fire all testers and get devs to do all testing, which is a healthy thing to do; but also helps you if you are hunting for people with experience. But if you cannot wait, find someone from college and train them, after a year you know what you have in an employee who does things your way. But it’s going to take someone investing in them before they are a pro or architect, someone has to pay that raw cost.

And for me that explains the rarity of these people, we demand them, but we don’t want to train them. Hardest of all is that most often, you don’t want a skilled coder or a Cucumber guru, you probably really want a person who can talk the talk and also get teams working together better to deliver faster and better. You really want someone who can make process changes and actually implement them, and most often your job description on the job boards lists tools, not people skills.

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Curious what you are thinking there. You can DM me if you don’t want to elaborate publicly here, or even not respond to my curiosity.

As far as I’m aware, if this was an easy problem to solve, someone would have made a product for it already. This is no easy problem to tackle, and also the specifics to the problem and how to tackle it is more nuanced than a generalization to the problem. You may often need to deal with things on a case by case basis per hiring company and/or team, etc.

Maybe the labor market changes from time to time and in different regions of the world. I think some folks touched upon it here. My summary response to your question is that it’s not a matter of difficulty in hiring QA professionals or QA people (you mentioned those in automation), it’s more a matter of finding good ones you desire that meet your needs. The same dilemma applies to other roles as well like software developers, it’s not solely for QA pros.

The easy answer to the question is lower your standards for the position, then you can hire more easily. If you have a high bar, it will be more work to find the right candidate.

One problem, elaborating upon Conrad’s comment, is that job listings typically are boilerplate and trying to define the exact sort of role and responsibilities and skills you seek in a candidate for the particular job might just be too complicated to describe in words (or too long), and hard to condense as a picture or video. Also keep in mind NDAs and intellectual property cases where you can’t disclose that much info about the job. Makes it that much harder. Boilerplate listings will attract too many candidates, including ones that may not fit the job. A highly customized listing will better match a candidate, however such also will at the same time attract far less candidates than you’d hope for (maybe one in blue moon) - or you’d still get a lot of candidates who apply as a gamble or in desperation regardless.

Eventually for some hiring managers, the open position might close after some time if not filled, so they end up either having to give up, or try again in future when they can re-open the job position to find candidates again, or lower their standards to at least get someone to do something for the short term rather than not having any resource available.