Transitioning to technical testing – Part 2 – Recruiting Right
The best way to help transition your workforce to be more technical is to ensure you bring in technical people from the get go. Which means changing the way you recruit so that you can identify and attract the new talent you need to move your company forward. Changing your approach to recruitment requires deliberate effort and working with the right technical people in your company to help out with this. Finding those right people who have strong technical skills and the right level of leadership to help make the transition though is certainly not easy. And it’s also something that you shouldn’t compromise on. Don’t just take the first technically strong person that comes your way, as leadership and soft skills are just as important and you need to make sure you get the right fit in these first few roles.
You will also need to be prepared to spend a lot of time on this because not only will your entire recruitment process need to change, but to ensure you are getting the right level of candidates through the process will mean a little more hands-on time than normal. Building your team is the most important aspect of what you should be aiming for here so consider it a worthwhile investment.
Recruitment in testing offers some unique problems. Firstly there is no real set degree path in testing nor one-way standard of testing, so finding candidates based on pure qualification and experience doesn’t work. Yes, there are some basic testing qualifications out there, but they are more theoretical than practical and are still mostly catering towards non-technical testing approaches which can often differ greatly. You need to delve into the details and find questions and exercises that can showcase a candidates skills as quickly as possible. It also requires you to attract the right people, which is why a good place to start is:
Getting the job spec right
This is a surprisingly difficult thing to get right and again there is no quick formula to success. You want to ensure that the job sounds technically exciting and challenging but at the same time don’t oversell it. Be cognisant of the fact that your path to technical development is still a work in progress. Stay clear of technical jargon you yourself don’t understand, even if some of it is relevant and rather sell them on the vision that you are headed and get them passionate for the software you create. Too often we try and sound too technical and forget that one of the core things people are looking for in a job is a purpose. Sell the purpose and leave the technical details to latter parts of the interview process. It doesn’t mean you can’t use cool lingo in your write-up – just make it relevant and insightful.
Identify fit as fast as possible
As mentioned earlier – finding real talent based on a resume is unlikely to happen. People are likely always overselling themselves and while you can cut-out quite a few people based on looking at these alone – you will need to have a more effective way of filtering candidates. Many companies might do a technical assessment or exercise upfront. This can certainly work though personally I prefer the approach of a technical telephonic interview. A telephonic interview allows you to start an actual conversation with potential candidates and goes beyond just the black and white of a straight-up assessment. It gives you a better idea on the personality of the candidate as well, allowing you to identify other aspects of their character and behaviour that might be a concern for the future. A conversation also allows for flexibility to dive into technical areas you might not have otherwise being able to evaluate in an online assessment.
From the candidates’ experience, this is also a friendlier, more welcoming prospect for them and gives you an opportunity to sell your company and team to them as well, because after all, the candidate needs to choose the company as much as you need to choose them.
Be thorough in your assessment
Once you’ve scratched the surface and found a way of identifying people’s relevance for the job at hand, you need to dig a little deeper and ensure that they really can do the job. Every job should have some basic technical things you are looking for and there should be some form of assessment or exercise that allows you to determine where their skills are at. What is a big challenge though is getting this at the right level. Too easy and a person won’t think much of the technical abilities of the company and too challenging and they might not even want to pursue the opportunity any further.
When doing these type of assessment it should always be communicated that you are more interested in the way they think than perfection and that they do not need to get everything right. Why this is important is because it allows them to ease up, hopefully giving you a better idea of their abilities. It also allows you to make the assessment a little more difficult, so that those really exceptional people can be identified without isolating those who maybe aren’t at that level just yet. It is also useful for identifying technical efficiencies across both junior and senior candidates.
As for things to look at when it comes to technical testing, you need to evaluate a person’s understanding of system architecture, ability to identify test scenarios and obviously their ability to code and write an automated test script. You can look at other forms of problem solving as well, but just keep it relevant to the type of testing that you require in your company.
Interview for a job at hand
A developer needs to be able to write effective and efficient code and a tester needs to be able to identify the big picture and find gaps, as well as having decent enough coding skills. Some roles might require better social and mentoring skills than others. These are things you want to probe further in interview stages, though without making it an uncomfortable experience for the candidate. This is not the time to impress them with your knowledge or expect them to solve ridiculous puzzles that have nothing to do with their job. These just makes the candidate feel uncomfortable and leaves you knowing little extra about the candidate.
And while some of the soft skills would be covered in the earlier telephonic interview, you really only get to know who a person is face to face and so this is where you explore these aspects of a person’s character and particularly how they fit into the values of the business. No point focusing only on technical aspects and you end up with a hot shot that no one can work with. I point this out because this is actually often one of the most overlooked aspects of the recruitment process. We spend too much time focusing on a person’s technical ability and whether they can get the job done rather than whether they are a good long term fit for the company. Yes you could argue that it takes too long to do this properly and you need to fill positions fast or that it might slow you down when dealing with competing offers from other companies, but the cost of hiring and training up a person who is a poor fit far outweigh the few hours longer it will take to find the right person. So, if you need to invest more time doing psychometric analysis or having extra interviews – spend it. If it chases a person away or you lose out to a rival company, it’s perhaps just not meant to be and that’s okay.
Above all, make a good impression
I guess it goes without saying that you want to leave a good impression on people. Remember candidates are customers too and a bad recruitment experience is a bad customer experience. Not only should the person feel welcome through the process, but should they not be successful, they should want to try again and aspire to be a part of your business. And you don’t achieve this affect through fancy websites and high salaries, but by people feeling and seeing your culture through the recruitment process. So make sure everyone is at the top of their game as often as possible and strive to always deliver a fantastic recruitment experience.