How to create effective adverts for recruiting software testers

When recruiting software testers many hiring managers often look for the impossible candidate who can do everything.

These people don’t exist yet many hiring managers continue to place job adverts that seek out these candidates.

An impossible job spec used for recruiting software testers
An impossible job spec used for recruiting software testers

 

What follows are 5 ways that will help you to create effective adverts for recruiting software testers

When I was early in my hiring career I created the usual generic and weak job adverts that swamp the usual jobs boards.

I listed so many responsibilities, expectations and skills that most candidates didn’t apply. I was seeking the impossible candidate. I was seeking someone who could do everything.

If you do a quick search for testing jobs online you may notice that most of them fall in to two distinct categories.

The first group of adverts are seeking the impossible tester. More on the pitfalls of this later in this post.

The second are somewhat different and aim to seek the niche tester. These adverts are so specific that only a small percentage of testers would fit the bill.

For example they would be asking for “ability to raise a defect using work-flow X in tool Y” and “must be able to use Z best practice” etc. They are so specific that many people will move on to other adverts before considering applying for your job.

Neither style of advert is particularly helpful at getting great applicants. Don’t get me wrong – you will receive applications. There are lots of people applying for every job out there. I’m also sure that some of these styles of advert do work in certain contexts, but it’s my belief that to get great testers you need to do something different.

I believe it’s important to focus on the values of the person and the results that you expect.

The following 5 points may help you to create a different, and effective job advert. Included at the bottom is a sample job advert format.

1. Focus on your team’s values

Hiring someone who doesn’t meet your team’s values will have a corrosive effect on your culture.

It’s my belief that team fit is more important than technical ability.

If you have your values right then most candidates who share these values will learn, adapt and grow as your business does.

If you don’t have your values articulated then spending some time to write them down is helpful. I’ll be writing more about values (and behaviour) in the future as they are key to growing an effective team.

2. Understand the problem you are trying to solve

It’s pointless just to keep recruiting software testers without understanding the problems you are trying to solve. I’ve written about this before here.

It is important to understand the problems your next hire is going to help you solve. This will help you to create a more focused job advert and ensure you’re interviewing for the right software tester. It will also give the applicant a deeper understanding of what the expectations of them are.

3. Don’t always copy what the masses are doing

When we started creating different styles of adverts at NewVoiceMedia many people were skeptical. As it happens the job adverts have worked well.

We often receive feedback stating our advert stands out for two reasons.

Reason number 1 is because they focus on the person as well as the skills. Reason number 2 is because they look and feels different; they are brief and succinct and promote our culture well.

Sometimes standing out from the masses is not helpful though. There may be a reason why the masses do something a certain way. But experiment, be brave and try something new. You can always change it based on feedback.

4. Stop using mandatory and optional sections in your advert

In my opinion most job adverts in the software testing industry contain two sections that I feel are not useful.

These are the “mandatory” and “optional” sections of skills and experience.

The view seems to be that anything in the mandatory is, as expected, a mandatory skill or ability or experience. Anything in the “optional” is , as expected, optional.

The problem with this is that it says little about the actual person and their approach to their work. It also doesn’t cater for those who have the ability to learn new skills and gain new experiences.

These sections can deter good testers who don’t feel they meet the required expectations.

I know I struggled to even articulate the tangible experiences and skills I wanted in someone, let alone which section they should be in.

What would happen if an outstanding candidate applied but they didn’t meet one or two of the mandatory?

What would happen if an underwhelming candidate applied but could put a tick against all the mandatory items?

What would happen if someone met all the mandatory but none of the optional? Or all the optional but none of the mandatory? Or a decent mix of both?

I’m getting confused now but you get the point?

People use these sections in adverts as a filter mechanism and this may be OK if you just want bums on seats but not if you want great testers.

Instead it pays to focus on the person and keep the skills and technologies generic. This sounds counter intuitive but the right person will pick up the skills they need.

So don’t put great testers off with a poor advert.

Job adverts can be filters but I prefer to look at them for what they are; adverts.

A job advert should attract and persuade someone to take a course of action – that’s the basics of advertising. It should draw people in to find out more, not repel them away.

That does not mean lying – far from it – but it does mean using the advert to attract people in.

5. Focus on selling your amazing working environment

You do have an amazing working environment right?

An advert is a chance to sell this environment and attract the right candidates.

Your advert may be the first contact a candidate has with your company. Your job is to inspire them to find out more and communicate to them why your company rocks.

Trust me, to get the best testers you’ll face some stiff competition. Your advert should advertise why a candidate should choose your role (and company) over another. Don’t forget though – your advert should be truthful.

Over to you

I’d love to hear how you stop searching for the impossible tester when recruiting software testers?
And what style of job specs have proven successful for you?


Sample job advert format

Title

A clear succinct industry recognised title works fine.

Feel free to use terms that represent your brand and culture, like Rock Star etc. Be clear in your title about what the role is as this will likely be listed on websites, jobs boards and included prominently in communications from recruiters.

Your Goal

This is where you list the solutions and objectives the person will need to fulfill.

Are they building a test infrastructure, managing people, expected to do awesome exploratory testing or will they be working in the performance engineering function?

Working Here

List here the types of work you do and what the candidate can expect to work on.

Is it a cloud based multi-tenant platform?

Is it software as a service?

Is it telephony based or an accounting package or security software?

What scale are you working at?

How often do you release?

These should all be selling points. If they aren’t you’ll have to work hard to make them appealing.

This section is also an opportunity to explain a little about the activities and culture of your company. Do you run hack-athons and learning events? Why is it cool to work at your company?

Values and Processes

This section allows you to list your values. What core values do you promote?

These values should guide your recruitment and inform the way you lead the team.

If your values are good enough you’ll attract the people who share these values, or want to work in an environment that promotes these values.

This is also a chance to explain some underlying process choices your company have made.

Are you agile?

Do you do pair programming?

Are you doing Test Driven Development (TDD) and Behaviour Driven Development (BDD)?

Tools

In this section you have a chance to talk briefly about the kind of tooling being used.

Try not to be too prescriptive in this section. I find a simple list is all that is required.

It gives people a flavour of whether they could work in this environment.

Remember, this section should not be a “You MUST use X, Y and Z”.

Good people will up-skill and retool.

 

At the time of writing this post there is an open position at NewVoiceMedia for a Software Engineer– the link may cease to work when the advert is pulled from the site.

 

11 Replies to “How to create effective adverts for recruiting software testers”

  1. This article is spot on and sums up the approach we took when redesigning our job ads a while ago. Why would someone want to change jobs and come and work for us, it certainly wouldn’t be because they have the mandatory skills of ISTQB whatever, or to ‘find bugs’, it is primarily down to the working environment and the challenge they would face. I think a more honest and person centric ad gives the job seeker more information on which to base a judgement about whether to apply. The trick is getting that information right, and presenting it in the right way. I think we have improvements to make but time will tell.

    1. Hi Chris,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      So good to hear of other companies embracing doing recruitment differently with success. I think the changes often come when companies realise that people actually do have a choice and they will choose the company that they want to work for.
      ” it is primarily down to the working environment and the challenge they would face” – nice.

      Thanks again.
      Rob..

  2. Hello Rob, hope all is well with you. Great stuff here as always.

    From the POV of the potential candidate I can confirm that you’re not exaggerating the off-putting impression some of these ads give. I have often been deterred from applying for “Testing” jobs which are framed in terms of a list of tools/programming languages/platforms with which the applicant is apparently expected to come already fully-formed.
    Rarely anything about the thinking or communication skills which should be important in testing – and which attracted me to the field. Nothing about what satisfaction, or chance to learn and develop, one might find working there. Such ads make me feel inadequate (“I can’t do all that”) and resistant (“I don’t want to do that”) at the same time.
    And are there any testing roles left which aren’t pitched as being for “automators”? Even if as testers we know something of automation, do we want our contribution to be seen predominantly in those limited terms?

    I can appreciate that hirers, and particularly recruitment consultants, want a way to quickly filter applications but does that have to be a checklist of currently-fashionable tools and processes?

    And great point about communicating something of the company culture so that we get an early idea of possible fit. Early this year I went through over three and a half hours of phone and face-to-face interviews for one job, and eventually had to interrupt the pre-scripted questions (automated interviewing, anyone?) to point out that I still didn’t know specifically what the role involved let alone whether it was the kind of place I would like to work.
    Of course, by that stage I’d already been given the impression it wasn’t so I withdrew my interest. Which was a shame because they seemed like good people and maybe I would have liked it there if I hadn’t got the fear. 😉

    1. Hi James,

      Thanks for leaving a comment. It’s so sad to hear of good companies with poor recruitment processes in place – it’s very common and usually due to over bearing HR teams and red tape. Sometimes though people just don’t think about the value they should be adding to the candidate.

      I like the way you have framed it:
      “Such ads make me feel inadequate (“I can’t do all that”) and resistant (“I don’t want to do that”) at the same time.”
      That’s such a good way of looking at these epic lists of nothingness. And you’re absolutely spot on – the industry is heading down an “automate” or “no job” kind of path, which is very sad but also often doesn’t help companies solve their problems. It can (and does) create a number of other problems.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Rob..

  3. I really liked this article and it reflected perfectly the problem a startup near me is working on to solve, jobylon.com.

    Advertisements only attract a certain kind of talent though and I would also check out other ways of reaching technical talent such as hosting programming competitions. Or if it is specifically software testers then why not give them some code to debug? Programmers are artists ask them to do what they love and you have a much higher chance of attracting the best.

    1. Great stuff Benjamin – thanks for sharing your thoughts and taking the time to comment.

      That website looks really good. Thanks for sharing it.

      Rob

  4. Hi Rob,
    Can I use the “impossible job spec used for recruiting software testers” in my company?
    Thanks

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