Following on from my previous blog “6 Ways to Drive your QA Career Forward”, we’re going to explore an area that doesn’t usually get much coverage because nobody can teach you exactly how to build a QA team from scratch. At some point in your QA career, you might find yourself moving into a fresh position as the sole tester in a company.

Initially, you’ll take all the knowledge you have into this new role and set up your test cases, documentation, get to know your software and implement the company’s testing strategy. This will be something you will already know how to do at this point.

Building a QA team

But there will come a time where your workload will increase due to the company’s expansion, the team will need to expand and you’ll find yourself in uncharted territories. For when that time comes, here are some tips to help you.

What do you need?

When it comes to bringing in more testers, what exactly do you need from your team? There are a few options to consider. Will you need someone experienced in automated, manual or performance testing? What combinations of skills do you require? Would it be worthwhile looking for someone with skills you don’t have so you can share your knowledge between each other. It could be a good opportunity to develop the team’s knowledge as well as your own.

In this day and age, remote working is also a valid option. It could be that your ideal candidate lives too far away to travel but have the exact skills you require. The disadvantage of this of course, will be the communication between you and them, and whether you can trust that the work will get done. This situation contrasts with that of on-site workers, where the communication and knowledge sharing whilst physically being able to see each other’s work are definite pros.

If it comes to discounting the perhaps perfect but remote candidate in preference to employing locally, do you have the time to train someone up with less or no experience and mould them into the tester you require? It’s unnecessary to always discount non-experienced people because you’ll find that some of them do have the right character and attitude to succeed in QA.

These are the initial questions you’ll have to ask yourself before moving forward in the recruitment process. This and the salary expectations will be factors in the initial process of finding a new tester.

Get actively involved with recruitment

The new job opening will usually be first offered to internal applicants for a set amount of time. You might discover a hidden gem within the organisation who wishes to move into QA. Some might even need a gentle push to apply for the role, as due to their lack of experience, they will have already discounted themselves. If no-one suitable steps up from within the company, the next step is to look externally.

Amongst the applications from external candidates that will arrive at your inbox, there many be some from an organisation’s HR or a recruitment agency. Either way, get involved in speaking to both of these. It’s the only way they will know your requirements for the role. Provide them with a job spec because this way they can filter candidates and leave you with a better quality handful to select for interview.

Interview stage

With the candidates now having been selected for interview, how prepared are you? It might be your first time on the other side of the table so make sure you prepare. You’re the company’s resident QA so you will need to know your role inside and out, as well as theirs. As this is likely to be your one and only chance to see if they have the right QA skills you require, ask them questions about QA, find out what they know and have used, and are their skills transferable? A tester needs to be proactive and think on their feet, so throw a spanner in the works by asking a completely random question in the middle of the interview. This is a good way to see if they can think quickly and outside of the box, which a tester needs to be able to do. They won’t be expecting it and it’s not something you can ever prepare for either.

Perhaps prepare a test for the interviewee and give a set time for its completion. A good place to start might be ISEB style questions (Information Systems Examination Board). You may also come across BCS Professional Certification via the same board. ISTQB (International Software Testing Qualifications Board) might be another option and are readily available online. This will test their knowledge on testing itself. You could also consider giving them a screenshot of the software you’re currently using. This way you can see how they would go about testing it without being given much specification to go with it. See how they formulate creating a bug. All of this will help you make your final decision and, if you decide upon that candidate, how much training they might need. As they will need to understand what testing actually is, a good way to find out is to ask the question “How would you test this kitchen appliance?” Offer them an appliance of your choice. You’ll be surprised at how many people completely overlook reading the specifications or manual. Reading available information is a fundamental part of testing software. Without doing this, how would we know what to test in the first instance?

Interview stage

It’s also an idea to take someone with you into the interview who may have more knowledge about the company as a whole. Select someone you can trust and whose opinion you value. After the interview has concluded, you will have the opportunity to discuss the suitability of the candidate with the colleague. Understand that people will be quite nervous in an interview so try to look past this and see how they coped with the test, with the questions you asked and with those they asked you.

Finally, ask yourself are they are the right cultural fit for the company. How do you think they will get on with the other business stakeholders?

Make that call

It’s now decision time. It could be that the choice is an easy one to make or on the other hand, it could be too close to call. To help narrow things down, look at factors like will they fit into your team and work well with the developers? Are they perhaps overqualified for the role, meaning are they just using it as a stepping stone? You can usually gauge from the interview if someone is likely to get bored in a role.

If after all of these questions you still find yourself struggling, go with your instinct and make that decision. Welcome on board!

Be a manager

You’ve now started building a QA team from scratch, but building doesn’t mean just bringing people in. The processes will be ever changing and it will now be your role, not only to manage and resource your testing team but look for new testing tools that work for your team. What used to work for you as an individual might not necessarily work for a team. Test management tools such as TestLodge, which can manage your test cases, projects and test documentation is easily accessible online for you and your team to keep track of work.

Make it your business to know why something isn’t working correctly ,as no doubt you will be asked in meetings or stand-ups. It’s your responsibility to keep your team happy. Rotate them if possible, around different software projects at convenient times. This will not only keep them fresh, it will increase their knowledge in other pieces of software the company are working on. Offer them incentives of self development. You could even give them some time in the week to pick up new relevant technologies that will help them achieve both theirs and the company’s goals.

Build your Empire

Lastly, as you are now their manager they will look to you to celebrate them when they do a good job and defend them if something doesn’t go according to plan as you nurture their growth. You will pick things up as you go along. Sometimes you might struggle with some process or some implementation of testing tools, or perhaps difficult colleagues but in the end it will be something to be proud of, and after all you’ve built this QA team from scratch.