It has been a while since my last post, due to holiday and other general busyness, plus a struggle with what to blog about, after completing the 4 part series on preparing for a conference talk.
Ironically, it was the preparation for my next talk on 17th October at Test Expo in London (https://conference.unicom.co.uk/testexpo/2019/london/) that has led me to this post. Funny how things work out.
My talk is about how testers can cultivate their careers, by investing time in 3 skill areas, rather than just on technical skills which seems to be what happens. We woefully under-invest in other areas and it really concerns me that we churn our people with tech skills but no analytical or soft skills, and that isn’t right.
I did some research into the types of skills in job ads, those HR departments are looking for and skills that testers believe are important. I’ll share more details on here after the conference talk, but the essence is that there is a disconnect between all 3.
What I want to cover here though is just one of those areas – job adverts.
I dont know whether it would come as a surprise if I said that ITJobswatch.com stats for Tester, Test Analyst and Test Engineer job ads over a 6 month period, showed that NO soft skills or analytical skills were listed.
Everything in the top 30 is either technical, educational (ISTQB) or a type of test experience needed.
A few days ago I met up with Tom McNama from www.teksystems.com for a chat, and it was fair to say that he was gobsmacked when I shared this with him.
We make assumptions that candidates come with certain things as standard – a bit like when buying a car, we dont ask for seats and a steering wheel – but with humans, we cannot take anything for granted.
Assuming that a candidate with great technical skills also possesses analytical and soft skills is a mistake.
- How good are their communication skills?
- Will they be able to speak to colleagues in a respectful way, and be able to articulate themselves well?
- Could they speak to customers and represent your company?
- How good are their analytical skills?
- Will they be able to pick up a user story and review the acceptance criteria, and ask sensible questions that help to uncover potential risk areas?
- Can they think about other scenarios?
- Will they be able to learn the business well enough to know if something that is proposed might not work for the end user/customer?
To exclude these things from job ad’s is short-sighted, and can give hiring managers a headache. As a hiring manager myself, I do not want to wait until a candidate is put in front of me before I find out if they are lacking in these areas – it wastes time all round. I’d like a recruiter or internal HR partner to be able to do a good phone screen to assess these skills themselves and then put good candidates forward, but if we dont specify what we need, how can they do this effectively?
There is a difference between someone who is a little shy and needs some help and encouragement to speak to others more openly, and someone who is brusque or rude who may not so easily change, and could cause friction within the team.
On the flip side, if job ad’s only ever display the tech skills needed, this tells the candidate that they are the only skills that matter – whether that is true or not. It doesn’t encourage them to invest any time in other areas as they are not outwardly shown to be important. Would you want to work for an organisation that only values you for your tech skills and doesn’t care how you treat other people? Because that also means they don’t care how others would treat you.
Tom was very open about the fact that it is so easy to take one job ad and use that as a template for the next job. So if a template is flawed, it’ll always be flawed, unless we change and improve it, and that is where you come in as a recruiter, hiring manager or someone with any influence over what skills your next team member needs to have.
Of course you need to list the tech skills, but also think about the company culture. What type of person would fit it? How do people communicate – is it more by Slack/Email or face to face? Do you work with offshore colleagues? If so, how good does the communication need to be? What is the expectation that you have.
Think about the job of a tester – hint, it’s NOT about just writing some Selenium code! A tester should be able to analyse requirements, ask questions, highlight gaps and risks etc, so you need someone with good analytical skills, unless you really just want a code monkey who bangs out C# code all day without thinking about what they need to test!.
I believe testers should be critical thinkers, so how important are analytical skills to you?
Make sure that the job ad is well balanced. Giving an idea of the types of tasks that the candidate would be involved in will really help as it underlines the need to have a good mix of skills, and shows that the company values all of them, and this will encourage continuous learning.
Once one recruiter starts to make their job ad’s stand out in this way, others will follow. I’m going to check in on the Teksystems job ads in a few weeks, as I know Tom is keen to start addressing this if he can, and it’ll be a great start.
I will ensure that for any openings in my team, I will better emphasise the mix of tech and non-tech skills needed. What change can you make to help?