Good testers look behind the screen

The other week I found myself in an exquisite room with a group of like minded testers talking about testing. Exploratory Testing to be precise.

I’m not sure whether I’m allowed to spill the beans on why we were all there, so I wont..just in case.

Suffice to say though I was with some of the most interesting minds in the UK with reference to Testing. Throughout the day I jotted notes and took away a tonne of actions and things to research, but one statement from Steve Green (of Test Partners fame) really struck a chord with me.

We were talking about hiring testers and what traits/skills a good exploratory tester has.

Steve gave a great example of how many testers he meets are stuck looking at the screen and running tests to check/verify/test the capabilities and elements they can see on the screen. This is fine, for some.

For Steve though, he looks deeper than this.

He prefers people who look at the screen and then beyond it.

Behind it, under it, away from it.


For example, what happens to the overall system when I click X?

How is Y working?

What happens if I tweak Z?

I thought about this comment a lot and wondered whether this was actually an example of the difference between Black and White (or pink, grey, blue, tangerine, Alizarin crimson, black olive or …) box testing.

However, I think it runs deeper than this. I think that looking behind the screen is more about curiosity and intrigue (and therefore great testing?) than it is knowing about what the internal system should do.

It made me think hard about the different traits we all look for in a Tester and the words we use to describe these testers.

It was an illuminating day. I learned a lot.

What makes you less interchangeable?

I was told a really interesting story the other day about a company who remove all obvious identification from CVs during recruitment.

It works a little like this:

  • They get the CVs for an open job position.
  • Someone who is not doing the active hiring removes the candidates name, any company names (of past and present companies) and other personal information from the CV leaving just a set of skills, extra curricular activities (although social space names/handles were hidden) and supporting information.
  • The anonymous CV is then forwarded to the hiring team.
  • The team then review the CV with less bias and prejudice (or at least that is the aim of this process).

To make sure they were discussing the right candidates they would tag each CV with a unique reference number which was tied back to the actual candidate. It worked perfectly for them and they found that each candidate was reviewed on their merits and skills alone, not by any bias or prejudice in the mind of the hirer based on their name, age, sex or other personal information.

This company reported a much higher success rate for hiring. More “A” players were hired and less “bad hires” were brought in. It sounds like an interesting process.

But it got me thinking about the sea of conformity that is happening in the Testing community.

Let’s say 100 testers applied for a testing job and the above system was in place.

  • Would each CV be distinct enough?
  • Would the hiring manager be “floored” by any single application? Or down hearted by the sameness of each candidate?
  • What would be on your CV to make you stand out in the process?
  • Why would your CV be chosen?
  • How would you “win” during the CV review stage, rather than waiting until the interview? (believe me, I know many Testers who submit below standard CVs and aim to do the “wow” during the interview..but what if you don’t get to the interview?)
  • Would all applications (and therefore Testers) be interchangeable?

If the system had a bug and you got somebody else’s CV, would it be vastly different to yours? If yes, how? If not, is that not worrying?

In a sea of conformity the only way to escape is to be different.

  • What are your strengths?
  • What differentiates you from the rest?
  • What makes your application stand out?
  • What makes you less interchangeable?

Update : As Stephan pointed out in the comments…would you want to work for a company that hires this way? 🙂