Recruiting testers part 1

I recently got the chance to expand my test team, i already have one team member who was doing a great job but i needed more, we were holding up the development process as features were waiting to be tested and between us we were not getting through them in a timely manner.

There are a few ways you can go with this process, you can try your hand at posting a job ad on one of the job boards e.g. CW Jobs or Dice. This is cheap and you can get a job ad up in minutes. The other option is to use a recruitment agency, this is not as cheap but can, actually save some of your time which is expensive right?

I had tried the job posting option to get my first team member and i struck lucky, that team member had already proved to be excellent and i felt a little smug about the money i had saved the company by not using a recruitment agent. However what i had not remembered so well when i started to recruit for the next team member was how much of my time i have to spend going through CV’s that were really not suited to the role at all. Also the arranging of all the interview times with the candidates was a rather unwelcome distraction.

At this point after reviewing yet another completely unrelated to the job on offer CV i decided enough was enough and i would have to try a recruitment agent so i could actually get on with my day job.

Now here is the thing, agents generally work on a % of the first years salary your offering to the successful applicant. The rate they quote can be in my experience anything between 15 and 25 %. The thing to remember is there are a lot of agencies out there looking for business so use this to your advantage. Negotiate the rate with them, you should be able to get the rate down quite a bit from the figure they will first quote you, remember if they don’t want to budge walk away, there are plenty of others to try.

The other thing to consider is do you want a very experienced tester or a less experienced tester. The benefits of an experienced tester are they won’t take much work to get upto speed (provided their  experience is in the same area the job your offering happens to be in) and they should be able to work without too much handholding. However they are going to be more expensive. The other option is to look for less experienced testers who are keen to learn. It was also for me about giving these less experience testers a chance, after all if someone hadn’t given me a chance i wouldn’t be writing this!.

You don’t always have to have a background in IT to be a good tester, i came from a project analyst background, when i stumbled in to testing through doing some UAT as we were short staffed. To prove this point the first tester that i recruited had worked in a call centre but had funded themselves through the ISEB foundation certificate in software testing and was really set on becoming a software tester. There attitude was excellent and they have since become a real cornerstone of the team.

The other benefits i have found with this approach are:

  • Cheaper to recruit.
  • Easier to mould to the testing approach your using.

Of course the downsides are that they need more handholding and general management than an experienced tester.  This can be a big demand on your time and when i was the only tester getting the first member of my team up to speed caused a bit of a bottle neck with the jobs waiting to be tested. However is was worth it as once this tester was up to speed we managed to get through the backlog quickly and kept the job list moving smoothly, which was the point of expanding the test team in the first place…result!

The great thing is with this approach (Apart from the money saved!) is that once you have got your first less experienced tester up to speed you can use them to document there own learning and use this to help the next new team member to get unto speed.

If you stagger your recruitment well you can find that your team can share the training duties with you so for example my first recruit ended up doing the bulk of the training to get my second recruit up and running and the same with my third and forth recruits.

Now i have a great team all up to speed and contributing to improving the quality of the software that gets shipped.

When putting the job package together we offered an approach where once the tester proves themselves they get rewarded. I think its good to have something to aim for when you start a job so we did this:

  • A pay rise after successful completion of the probation period (3 months in our case)
  • Training budget to pick a course to go on, again after successful completion of the probation period.

In part 2 of this blog post i will cover how i tackled the interview process.