In the past, we’ve talked about what constitutes an effective software testing team. These earlier posts explain the ideal mix of traits, experience levels, and thinking styles you want to have moving forward.

But they don’t explain how to actually build your team from the ground up.

In other words, how can you best identify winning candidates during the recruitment and hiring process?

Traditional interviews can certainly help. Posing lots of technical questions allows you to whittle down a sea of potential candidates into a much more manageable list. However, standard interviews are limited – both in terms of time and depth.

There is only so much you can glean from a 30-minute conversation.

If your shortlist is a pool of technically gifted candidates, how do you choose a team player – i.e. someone who meshes well with those who are already on your staff?

It isn’t always easy.

But we’ve found success by borrowing a strategy from the business consulting world. HR reps in this industry often conduct “stress tests” during the interview process itself. The focus isn’t on scripted responses about one’s greatest strengths or weaknesses. Rather, the goal is to see how prospects react to unusual or unexpected challenges.

Below are some of the different ways your team could “stress test” potential software testing candidates.

Tactic 1: Pose Odd Questions Way beyond the Scope of the Job

The average interviewee comes prepared to answer questions relevant to the position. But if you ask strange questions about the weather, politics, or history, you can throw the candidate off-guard:

  • Why didn’t the United States join WWII sooner?
  • Should women make the same pay as their male counterparts?
  • How do you solve world hunger using the fewest resources?

There’s usually not a right or wrong answer. But you can assess each interviewee’s ability to improvise under pressure. Thinking fast on one’s feet can prove invaluable during tight deadlines.

Tactic 2: Fill the Interview with Annoying Distractions

Most people hate the sound of flickering florescent lights. Leaky faucets are simply annoying. And no one likes to talk to someone who has spinach in their teeth.

But if you set up the interview with these types of distractions, even just an upside down object next to the candidate’s chair, you can test the candidate’s reaction:

  • Will they ignore the distraction?
  • Will they bring attention to it?
  • Will they get up and fix it?

Again, there is no universally “correct” answer. Sometimes, perfectionist tendencies are exactly what you’re looking for in a software testing team. Other times, OCD habits are counterproductive and create unnecessary friction.

Tactic 3: Make a Bold but Demonstrably False Claim

This strategy is similar to the above. But instead of creating some type of background annoyance, you confidently make a silly assertion that you know to be false:

  • Robert Redford was a much better James Bond than Sean Connery.
  • Bing is so much faster now that Google finally bought it.
  • Benjamin Franklin was one of the worst US presidents.

It doesn’t matter the exact wording you use or how far you decide to go with it. The goal of this strategy is to elicit a response:

  • If your team is looking for a leader who voices concerns, choose the interviewee who corrects you.
  • If you’re looking for a team player who values social harmony, you might be better off choosing whichever candidate lets the outlandish claim slide (just be sure it wasn’t that they didn’t know it was false…).

Tactic 4: Give Them Brainteasers or Impossible Puzzles

A lot of consulting companies use brainteasers or puzzles to see how interviewers think:

  • How many basketballs are in the air at this exact moment in time?
  • Why are manhole covers always round?
  • What is the sum of all integers – 1 to 100?
[If you’re not a fan of brainteasers, you could also give each candidate a disassembled device and ask them to repair it for you. See how they handle it]

Under pressure, most people can’t find the right solution. But you’re not looking for a legitimate answer. You’re trying to see how each person’s thought process works.

As they walk through the steps, you can assess how candidates approach problems and obstacles. To understand the value in having different cognitive styles on your team, be sure to read the 6 Thinking Hats.

Share Your Thoughts with Us
The above strategies are just examples. You can tailor each of these tactics to suit your team-building needs.

But we’re curious what your thoughts are on these stress tests:

  • Have you ever used variations of these during your own interviews?
  • Have you ever been subjected to similar tests as a job candidate?

Don’t be shy.

Share your experiences in the comments below.