Category Archives: Interviewing

Interviewing as Exploratory Testing

I’ve been doing a bit of interviewing lately for additions to our team. This is how I model the interview.

I think of the interview as an exploratory test session (or series of test sessions depending on your interview model) and each question as a test idea to explore. Testers should be really good at interviewing because they’re skilled and practiced at predicting failure and testing for it. This is what I’m trying to do in an interview.

I’m learning and adapting as I proceed through the interview, coming up with new ideas for interview questions for the candidate based on what I’ve learned from the previous interactions. For example:

We may be running a hands on test exercise to explore knowledge around performance testing, then the candidate may mention something about the code in one of the responses that alerts me to a new “feature” of the candidate to explore. Perhaps I find out they know something about the technologies used in the application they’re testing, this prompts me to find out how much they know about the technologies involved and perhaps their experience with white box testing. Or perhaps they reveal to me in their response some very egregious assumptions and we explore that line of thinking to find out if there is maybe some one-off reasonable explanation for this or if it’s more likely a larger threat to the value they can provide.

The point of the interview is to expose value and any critical risks in the candidate that would either cause us to go with another candidate, or at least go into the hiring process with open eyes: understanding what we’re getting into with regards to expectations we can reasonably have of the candidate, what we’d be willing to pay for the candidate and feel satisfied we’re getting a solid ROI, how much and what kind of training the candidate will require, etc…

Just like a test session, I am well-served by having a clear idea of my chartered objective, ensuring the team understands it (if it’s a group interview), and debriefing afterwards with the interview team or hiring manager so we can decide if we met the objective and how much further interviewing needs to be done.

So, if you’re just reading off a list of canned questions, you’re really missing out on a great opportunity to dynamically explore the risks and values your candidate presents.