You have four main opportunities during the recruitment process to recruit the right person:
- filtering in or out via the job description
- reviewing the CVs and cover letter
- interview over the phone
- audition face to face
Using Job Descriptions to Funnel In
You want the job description to attract people with the flexibility to excel in the job. Most job descriptions I see, filter out people who can excel because they are so poorly written that they put people off, rather than attract them in.
Ask for a Cover Letter
Many people do not tailor their CV to the job description. Primarily because most job descriptions are so poorly written and generic that there is no need. When you write a good job description encourage the writing of a cover letter which allows the candidate to re-use their standard CV, and write an interpretation of how they can fulfill your well-written job description.
The process should honour the time commitments of both candidate and employer. A template driven job description values the time of the employer because it was fast to produce, but dishonours the candidate because they have to spend time interpreting what you mean. Very often the expectation from the employer is a custom written CV to match their vague requirements - again this takes a lot of time. It is faster for the candidate to write a cover letter, and this provides you with more insight into how they have interpreted your role.
Review the CV to build a list of questions which you can use during the phone interview.
Phone interviews are important because they honour the time of everyone involved.
- No travel time or cost
- Agreed time
- Agreed duration
- Expectation of preparation on both sides
As an interviewer or interviewee, a phone interview has the advantage that you can cut it short if it is obvious that there is a mismatch between the candidate and the role.
Use the phone interview to ask questions of the candidate about the CV, if the CV doesn’t describe their experience very well, then ask questions to find out what they learned and how they would approach the task differently.
Phone interviews are hard. They should be performed by someone with the requisite skill to understand and ask detailed follow-up questions based on the answers. This is particularly true if you want candidates to perform technical activities, the interviewer must know how to perform those activities well otherwise they may be misdirected by technical language.
Ensure that the candidate asks questions to help them decide if the role or company culture is a good fit for them.
No-one wants to waste time in a face to face interview for a candidate without applicable experience, or for a non-suitable role or culture.
Audition face to face, Interview over the phone
The face to face interview should be an audition. If you spend all the time talking then you have wasted an opportunity to see the candidate perform the job in action. Try to recreate activities they would do as part of the job. This means avoiding:
- written questions “to test for knowledge” - if you require this, do this way before a face to face meeting
- whiteboard coding challenges - have them actually write code
- talking exclusively - this allows people who can ’talk the talk’ into your organisation, despite them not being able to ‘walk the walk’
When I am recruiting for testers, either for my own teams when working as a manager, or as a hired consultant helping companies recruit good staff, I audition based on the problems we want this person to help solve or the skill gaps that we perceive we have.
Recruiting for Exploring
If we want to recruit a tester with experience of testing web applications, interacting with them through exploratory testing and going deep into the technicalities of the application to expose problems and identify risk then I would:
- sit them down in front of a computer where they can test the application
- restrict the testing to a small subset of the application
- provide a high-level summary of the functionality and a demo of it in use
- pair with them as they test the application
If they are not used to explaining what they do as they test, then I would ask questions like:
- what made you do that?
- what objective do you have in mind at the moment?
- etc. to help them verbalise their thought processes
I might even ask:
- does that look right? asking about a particular observation on screen
Lots of etc. because this is an open-ended process where I want to gain an insight into how they approach the testing.
I also know that the audition setup is not how they would normally organise their work so I want to know what omissions we have:
- How would you normally communicate the testing you perform?
- Would you take notes? how would you take notes?
- Are there any additional tools you would use for this type of work? How would you use those tools? How do those tools help you? What other tools can you use to do that?
- Are you checking results in the system at all the places you would want to check them?
Then I would let them direct the action. If you were testing this for real:
- What else would you need to know?
- How would you approach it?
- Are there any risks you would be concerned about?
Recruiting for Automating
If we have gaps around automating then I need to know if the candidate can:
- identify strategies and approaches
- read code
- maintain code
- improve code
- write code
- architect code
After a demo:
- How would you automate this?
- What do you think would be hard about automating this?
- How would automating this help?
Show some code we have written to automate this:
- How does this code work?
- What does it do?
- Does it do it well?
- How might you write it differently?
Have some code that doesn’t work:
- Does this work?
- Can you make it work?
- Can you now make it better?
Can you implement some new execution paths?
How would you structure the code to make it more maintainable and adaptable in the future?
Given how we have written this, and the tools we have used, are there any parts of our test process that this does not support?
Could we use this to test the system under load? Is that the best way to do this?
Make it Real
As much as possible we want to see them in action, doing the stuff they would do in the real world.
This might be more challenging for management roles that are less hands-on, but you can simulate scenarios or ask how they would handle specific situations, and how they have handled them in the past.
When you audition, you can very quickly see gaps in the experience of the candidate, and then you can decide if that gap is a blocker to hiring or something that you can work around.
I find it much easier to evaluate candidates with an audition process, after having filtered them out through a talking process over the phone. This also avoids the need for multiple face to face interviews which often serve to prioritise company time, above candidate time.
Throughout this process, it is essential that you have experienced people evaluate the candidate. It is too easy to talk the talk to someone that doesn’t know how to do the role, and it is too easy to bamboozle someone in an audition if they don’t know how to actually do the work themselves.
All of this is about helping your candidate make the best impression on you, and demonstrate their skills as an individual and the additional value they can provide. Rather than trying to fit them into a role based on what they say they can do.