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As a freelance developer, a few times I tried to find some testers to be able to let them test my software/web applications. If I try to find them, it's because most of the customers are not intended to hire external testers and don't see why this can benefit to them, so products are UI-untested and buggy.

I tried lots of things. Discussion boards for IT people, specific websites for people who search for a job. Every time I clearly precise that I'm looking for product testers. I completely failed to find anybody for this job. I found instead two types of people:

  • Non IT people who try to qualify as testers, but don't have enough skills for that, and don't really know what testing is and how to do it,
  • Programmers, who are skilled as programmers, but not as testers, and who mostly don't understand neither what testing is about (or think it's the same thing as code review, or it consists in writing unit tests). Of course, they submit general programmers resumes, where they describe their high experience in Assembler and C++, but don't tell anything about anything related to the job of a tester.

What I'm doing wrong? Isn't it called "tester"? Is there at least a tester job, different from general programming job? Is there any precise requirement to require from each candidate which can eliminate non IT people and general programmers?

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3  
Typically, software testers are part of a Quality Assurance team. You could try and advertise the job as a Quality Assurance position instead. –  Pemdas Jan 8 '11 at 2:32
1  
Google "rent a tester". –  Job Jan 8 '11 at 2:50
    
Why aren't you hiring the Assembler guys? They know the entire computer pipeline down to the instruction so how hard can it to explain to them what testing is about? –  davidk01 Jan 8 '11 at 4:23
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@davidk01 Is that supposed to be sarcasm or are you serious? –  Pemdas Jan 8 '11 at 4:29
    
Pemdas, the problem you run into then is that a lot of good testers WILL NOT apply for a job that's labelled Quality Assurance. –  testerab Jan 26 '11 at 1:48

6 Answers 6

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I suppose it matters where you're looking, and what your requirements are. Some temporary agencies like Volt (in the US) place a lot of testers, and even if you run a small shop you can work with them as long as you are able to pay on an hourly basis.

Different companies use different job titles, including "QA Analyst", "Software Tester", "Software Test Engineer", and so on. I prefer "Software Test Engineer" if you can get away with it where you are, only because people who have done it professionally will be more likely to understand what you are looking for.

However, in many countries, the use of "engineer" may imply specific educational requirements, so you may need another title. The ironic thing is that "Quality Assurance Analyst" or similar titles are also misleading for people with an industrial quality assurance background, as Software QA corresponds most directly to what industrial QA refers to as quality control. Quality Assurance, as a job description is, in manufacturing, usually more about creating and managing processes that lead to quality, and Quality Control is traditionally about defect identification. Software QA is somewhere between those two worlds.

I've personally had good experiences (and some unpleasant ones) with outsourced QA work.

In practice, if what you are looking for is someone to do manual, ad hoc UI testing or integration testing, you are probably looking for a "black box tester".

As for the interview process, don't get too hung up on paper qualifications unless you really need an experienced tester (and unless you're testing something fairly esoteric, chances are you don't). I started doing internationalization QA work right out of college with a degree in East Asian Studies. They wanted someone who knew something about the internet, and preferred people who knew German or Japanese (I knew both, at least a little), and were interested in people who had taken the time to learn a programming language or two but didn't really need evidence that you had done anything particularly impressive with it. For example, I was only asked to write the header file for a linked list class, not an actual implementation. What they were more interested in was answers to questions like: "Here's a dialog box (on the whiteboard). How would you test it?" Then they'd press for answers on things like "how do you know X is the correct behavior?" and the ideal answer was that you would consult a specification, a project plan, a project manager, your lead, and finally, base it on an understanding of the motivations of the users, roughly in that order.

Problem solving and an intuitive ability to break down problems are more valuable in testers than coding experience, and a creative ability to identify vulnerabilities and exercise the program to exploit them is the single most valuable skill. As I got more experienced in my early career, I actually found fewer bugs, because my approach became more rigid and defined by the project specifications. People with a less technical approach would find more errors in the overall interaction; I tended to find interesting but sophisticated bugs after a while, because I would start from a deeper technical understanding of the system; however, if you want the most bang for the buck, I promise a creative ad hoc tester will get you further, faster, than a sophisticated tester, until your project reaches the point where it can afford multiple QA team members.

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I've tested a lot of software as a former head of technical support for a small software company. Basically I had a talent/desire for breaking programs because I had enough of an understanding of building software that I knew the typical errors/assumptions/oversights programmers make. Mainly I needed a basic understanding of what the software was suppose to do, but there are many instances where you really need to understand the domain and the habits of the typical users. Looking for a tester/QA person may not be enough. You may be better off with a legal secretary to test a time billing app than a QA person with only financial industry experience.

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Generally speaking, programmers want to program. They don't want to test because

  1. They don't make as much money from it, and
  2. They won't get as much prestige (or development experience) from it, which is relevant to future career opportunities.

I've interviewed quite a few SDETs recently. I've personally found that your best shot at a good SDET is to look for a recent CS grad who has taken a class on testing and is highly motivated. They should have picked up on the most important practices and what it means to be a tester from the class, and even if they do want to be a dev, they'll consider their time as a tester as a learning experience and a stepping stone. There's also the possibility that they'll discover their calling.

Older graduates will not consider testing a stepping stone, so you'll have to look for the very experienced technically oriented people who like testing and haven't moved to management (hah!), or stick with non-techies.

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For starters, you could use the other developers of the company (but only those who didn't actually work on the product): they most likely know enough to operate the software, yet haven't been part of its production, so they still have fresh eyes.

We can't afford to have "real" testers and, before my arrival, the only "testing" was done by the same developer(s) who built the software and by customers (needless to say that was a recipe for disaster waiting to happen); adding that extra layer certainly improved quality until we can grow bigger and afford proper testers.


Also, that will help you identify what is the minimum knowledge required to operate the software you want to test, which will help you write a more accurate job posting ad.

Another advantage is that the developers are less likely to disregard comments from the testers when they're colleagues (because they're "real" people they see every day) than random strangers.


The downside however is that there is less environnmental influence on the testers because they all come from a similar culture and environment, so they are less random than regular testers.

For example, colors may be assumed to mean different things depending on the country/continent, or the major softwares (which imposes de facto standards / user expectations) may differ depending on the work environment.

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There is a deeper problem within the software testing community which is proving hard and slow to combat. I've been a freelance software tester myself yet it is rare to come across another freelancer who does it full time. Every other tester seems to either have a full time job or a full time contract which in turn doesn't give them much/any time to test things on short notice.

I think freelance testers can add alot of value to developers or small teams and I'm optimistic that this will grow over time.

The problem with generic work platforms like elance is that the quality of testers are usually pretty low. Asking a few questions usually weeds out the not good ones and text book answers are usually a big give away in how much they really know about testing.

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Yes, there is a specific job role called tester. No, you aren't using the wrong name.

For actual, real testers, for short-term assignments, I'd suggest you try The Crowd: http://thecrowd.softwaretestingclub.com/faqs/

There is also a jobs board: http://jobs.softwaretestingclub.com/

As both are affiliated with a thriving test community, this raises your chances of getting genuine testers applying.

You can also try adding a small test to your ads to make it easy to filter your applicants: explain you're only interested in skilled testers and ask applicants to include a short description, along with their resume, of the last bug they found in a public website/app, while using it as a consumer. Ditch without reading any resumes that arrive without this.

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