Lessons Learned From a Recent Column

I was surprised by the comments I received on my Stickyminds article last week. Then I read Brian Marick’s insightful Tester who can script and I may have the words to describe my surprise and concerns.

I was surprised by the people who commented that they were looking primarily for personality fit and cultural fit. I don’t see how to hear enough answers on a phone screen to really judge personality or cultural fit, unless the answers are so far out of bounds that it’s easy to to tell. I’m not clairvoyant, and I bet there are people who can fake personality and cultural fit on a phone screen. I’ve certainly run into people who talk a good line on the phone screen and look like different people in the job interview.I was concerned by technical managers not looking for technical things in a phone screen. ‘Cause it’s easy to probe for technical skills in a phone screen. Brian’s article gave me some insights as to why. His point #2:

I would think less of a tester who was unwilling to learn those things(testers learning a little programming). What’s interesting to me is that everyone I consider a reasonable tester would agree with me. Programming sticks out (to me) as somehow being treated specially: it’s a burden many testers think they should be exempt from.

So here are the lessons I learned from this column:

  1. Some managers are not putting enough emphasis on a tester’s ability to perform technical work such as programming.
  2. Maybe because of this, or just because of personal preferences, they don’t screen for the ability to perform technical work.
  3. This causes a homogeneous group, certainly a candidate for a second-class testing group.

While it might be tempting to learn more about a person’s fit with the group, use a technical phone screen to screen for technical abilities. (Don’t forget the dirt-bag phone screen, but that’s not a substitute for a technical phone screen.) There is no point interviewing someone in person who doesn’t have the technical skills to perform the job — no matter how nice a person the candidate is. That’s why asking technical questions in a phone screen helps you create a diverse, capable group of people.

3 Replies to “Lessons Learned From a Recent Column”

  1. A small error in the quote. “learn those things” means things other than pure testing. The gist of the quote is that testers don’t draw the line at lots of eclectic things, but programming is an eclectic (to testers) thing which is somehow considered different.

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