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Provided you are ready to hire your first (or next) QA team member, what are the key properties of a person you will pay attention to?

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Well, it depends on tasks I'm going to assign to her or him. So there is no final answer for your question. –  dzieciou Dec 26 '13 at 10:06

12 Answers 12

  • Testing aptitude
  • Willingness to ask questions
  • Ability to negotiate
  • Technical ability (reading and writing code)
  • Strong communication skills
  • Curiosity
  • Tenaciousness
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+1 for 'A bit of a stubborn streak' :) –  frennky May 3 '11 at 20:14
    
Hehe... a bit goes a long way. It is important to be willing to dig in and fight for something important but if you end up doing it for everything it can be over done easily. ;) –  Dan Snell May 3 '11 at 20:29
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+1 for curiosity, you've got to think I wonder what happens if I do... –  Alastair May 19 '11 at 8:03
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Am I the only one who sees "stubborn" as not necessarily a positive thing? –  Joe Strazzere Jun 10 '11 at 16:34
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What if we used "tenacious" instead of "stubborn"? –  Green Sep 6 '12 at 20:14

The tl;dr:

  1. Technical Acumen
  2. Communication
  3. Diplomacy
  4. Curiosity
  5. Drive

I've always felt that technical skill was one of the more vastly overrated attributes of test engineers. Certainly having technical acumen is critical to executing tasks, working with product managers and software engineers but it's only a portion of the actual job. Again, I'm not saying that you want test engineers that can't be technical but I am saying that it's only a part of what I've always viewed as a successful tester.

In my experience communication skills and diplomacy are some of the most critical skills a test engineer can have. When a tester finds a bug the real trick isn't the replication, really it's being able to communicate the failure cases to the development team and the impact to the product team. If you can't communicate to either of those groups you're not getting the result that you were hired for.

The "works on my machine" statement is the primary reason you need to have a tester that is diplomatic when they find bugs, write up bugs and lobby for their correction. It's a daily challenge working with Software Engineers and the really effective testers know when to be diplomatic in their interactions.

If you aren't curious about your system then you're not going to find all the bugs. Curiosity is one of the critical attributes to being a tester. The more curious you are, the more likely you will be able to ferret out the edge cases that your uses are going to find anyway.

Lastly, I look for my test engineers to have a lot of independent drive. I want my test engineers to be interested in different languages, frameworks and approaches. In fact, I challenge them to challenge the status quo that they work within so that we can improve our culture and tools.

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+1 for diplomacy. Nobody likes people pointing out what is wrong with what they have done. It also helps a healthy relationship with the developers, and someone who says "I see what I can do to help the developers" before "I found a mistake in the developers' work" will go further. –  kinofrost Jun 10 '11 at 12:50
    
+1 for diplomacy ... a poisonous atmosphere can easily spread throughout an organisation due to an unecessarily combatative relationship between the dev team and the qa team. –  dodgy_coder Oct 26 '11 at 1:17

Adding on to the above answers:

  • Does not get bored easily.

I've found that some of the better testers were ones that didn't get bored clicking the same buttons over and over again in The Great Bug Hunt.

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Oh dear. I hate it when people say "doesn't get bored" as a key property for a tester. I know great testers who have an extremely low boredom threshold. Insatiably curious and stubborn as hell would be a better description, to my mind. Doesn't get bored easily implies that you should be getting bored - if you think you're on the track of something, you won't be bored. –  testerab May 5 '11 at 22:55

Excellent posts!

Apart from what's already been listed, I can add another (somewhat context-specific)...

  • a willingness to represent user / business interests

Coming into software testing from a UAT / business-side of things (I'm still working on developing the technical skills), a willingness to be able to talk to the business (be it managers, users, business analysts), defend their interests and work with (not fight against) the developers to meet those needs is important.

In one sense, testers are "advocates of the user" and knowing what the users want and how to find out what they want from a functional, usability etc sense (usually more than reading the requirements) and putting yourself in their shoes is a very useful skill/s.

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  • Great communication
  • Analytical thinking
  • Asks "why not" questions
  • No fear (confident)
  • Team player, no "long ranger" mentality
  • Knows when to push the envelope & when to let go
  • Grasps concepts easily
  • Loves to learn
  • Belief in themselves & the product (ie not a quitter)
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I was always a booster of the "loves to learn" concept, if the person is not going to grow in the position why am I hiring? If I want hands to do the same thing all the time I'll set up automation, I want someone who can absorb and grow in the position. –  MichaelF May 10 '11 at 12:42

Please find my perspective

Junior QA

  • Follows defined QA Process
  • Prepares Bugs Reports, Status Reporting with all relavant information
  • Manages and updates automation suite
  • Willingess to learn, passionate about QA role

Senior QA

  • Self Organized
  • Challenges the Environment, Raise testing standards by experimenting new processes/Adopting new Tools
  • Aware of Test Automation Framework Design and Development
  • Sound Technical Skills
  • Selfless - Volunteers/mentors team in terms of process/sharing best practices
  • Actively involves/drives meaningful discussions and implements best practices
  • Takes calculated risks and delivers products meeting quality bar
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Usually testers are "advocates of the user" only when helping with user acceptance test.

More often, testers are "consultants to the product owner." In that role, they help to assess risk and focus testing on high-risk stories. In addition, they exercise low and moderate risk stories to identify defects.

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Would like to throw in some more

  1. Ability to consistently find "critical" problems

    How?

    Through 'Understanding' of the usage,impact and risk — on the product,business,customer,project And a confidence to advocate his work(e.g. bugs raised).

  2. Positive Leadership traits are a must in my book

    • Ability to handle problems single handedly
    • Inclination (atleast) to take up complex and hard tasks
    • Ability to mentor peers irrespective of his job title
  3. Great at relationships

    • Someone who is good at developing and maintaining positive working relationships with Developers, Project owners and within the test team
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Many good features are listed above, but to them I would add that a good QA person needs to be:

  • deliberate
  • methodical
  • thorough.
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I will add to the above answers:

  • Pays attention to details.
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I'd like to add something I haven't seen in many of the other answers - I think that the passion for QA is extremely important in a person looking for a QA position.

It seems like a no brainer, but the reality is that there are many people out there who see QA positions as a stepping stone to development. I think that someone who truly wants to be a dev in their heart is never going to be as good of a QA person than someone who truly has a passion for testing.

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I will have to slightly disagree with Laura Hensley's position on the presence of a "lone ranger."

The occasional "individual contributor" can be a powerful asset to a QA team. They tend to find the most defects, the most risky defects, and are extremely persuasive in having said defects fixed, no matter how minor they appear to be. With their eyes firmly fixed on product quality and not politics or advancement into management, they can dramatically improve the quality of a product.

However, where Ms. Hensley's comment rings true for me is in concern to his / her demeanor and integration with the rest of the team. As long as your testers respect and work well with each other, and even socialize well with each other, the occasional testing "lone ranger" isn't necessarily a bad thing.

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