How To Attract Top QA Talent

Posted Dec 21st, 2016

Recruiting top QA talent in this competitive market is a lot like dating. You can't live on your past laurels and expect to attract the best prospects! You need to take a good look at how you are presenting yourself to others and modernize your approach.

What is Their First Impression?

I recently had to restaff a QA team. The company had a stock job description to post, and my first inclination was to use that. It covered the basics of both the company and job requirements. The resumes came in, but nothing was blowing me away. This had nothing to do with our salary offering since we weren't posting that, so why was every resume so boring and redundant?

I took another look at our job description. Then, I checked out some of the hip new companies in the area, and was enlightened by the difference. While our general company website was on par with theirs, and our benefits competitive, their job descriptions were fresh and intriguing.

Much like someone re-entering the dating world, my description needed a makeover! Just changing a few things returned immediate dividends in the quality of candidates:

  • Tell a story. You don't have to bullet point everything. Describe the cool stuff they will be doing. Will they be learning how to use DevOps tools? Will they be learning new things? Say it. Listing a tool doesn't tell them how they will be applying it.
  • Be clear in what you are not looking for. If you find yourself seeing a ton of resumes with mentioning experience with one tool, while you specifically are looking for another, state it. Save both their time and yours. While this may reduce the volume, at least now you can focus on the resumes that meet your needs.
  • What will the future hold for them? If you are just building an automation team, tell them they will be on the ground floor of a whole new exciting venture, learning and defining strategy.
  • Do you have known talent on the team? Point candidates to their blogs, presentations, etc. Mention how the team participates in local networking events. Create a buzz.

The first change we made was to modernize job titles. A simple change from QA Automation Engineer to Software Engineer in Test (SET) made an immediate impact in the talent level.

And Their Second Impression?

Good, you got them curious!

Let's face it: In this world of instant access to information it is pretty hard to hide your dirty laundry. Once the candidate gets past the job reqs they will dive into their research. This is where you can easily lose them.

Pretend you are a candidate. Research any sites where your company is mentioned. Have you found some bad reviews on Glassdoor? Well, you can't remove them. But you can always counter them. If your current team feels like they are being slammed for no reason, encourage them to post positive reviews. It is in their best interest to find quality teammates.

If they are still interested after doing due diligence, don't assume you have dodged a bullet. Know your press and be prepared to discuss it live. (Imagine if you were a candidate and asked a question about a review, and the manager either didn't know about it or tried to ignore it.)

The Phone Screen

Yes, as managers we can be busy. If nothing else, we have a lot of meetings on our plates. Quite often we get the alert that we have a phone screen in five minutes, which we might have scheduled a week and 50 resumes ago. So scan the resume beforehand so you know the basics. If you've do enough screens in your career, you can usually decide in five minutes if you want to bring them in for a face-to-face interview.

Consider the screening from the candidate's point of view. How annoying is it for someone to ask you if you've worked with a specific tool when you have clearly stated it on the resume? Is that someone you want as your boss?

Have a set list of questions. While you may like to freewheel it, you don't want to be that hiring manager who says, "Hmm...I had another question, what was it?”

This is your chance to sell the company. You might not have another.

The Live Interview

You've passed the first and second impressions, and now it's time to live up to them. You schedule the live interview.

If you follow these simple rules, you will be amazed at the positive feedback from both the candidates and the hiring participants:

  • Don't waste the candidate's time. Yes, you would like everyone on the team to meet and have a say in their team. But you really don't need to invite designers, developers, and other managers into an interview.
  • Be prepared. Remember, while you might have done a lot of interviews and have a set of canned questions, your team probably doesn't. You need to prep them. If you scheduled an hour's worth of time for them, make sure they have enough questions to carry the conversation. Otherwise, adjust the list. Ideally, have a standard set of questions to evaluate each candidate. This is great for comparison purposes. It will also keep the candidate from hearing the exact same question over and over.
  • Make use of specific examples. Ask how they would approach and solve the problem. As stated above, be consistent across candidates, and be prepared. Don't wing it. And remember that it's not about proving how smart you are. You want to use this time to learn their thought processes. Whether they come up with the exact solution you are looking for is beside the point.
  • Sell the company and the job. If the team really likes where they work, this is their chance to convince the candidate they want them there. Does everyone eat lunch together? Has the team stayed for a long time? Brag about the intangibles.

Remember, People Talk

Just like dating, you might get through the interview successfully, but there is just not connection. Keep it positive! You can still be friends. Remember, whether in dating or recruiting, people will talk about their experiences. Make sure you leave a good impression.

Joe Nolan (@JoeSolobx) has worked as a QA Team Manager, and has over 13 years of experience leading multi-nationally located mobile and web QA teams. He is also the co-organizer of the DC Agile Software Testing Group (DCAST) Meetup.

Written by

Joe Nolan


Software Testing