I have had about 4 QA automation jobs, about 10 interviews, and was on the other side of the interview table about 10 times.
QA Automation involves writing automated testing projects. These are software projects which can be very complex, often requiring:
- Managing deployments of applications
- Starting and stopping application servers
- Setting up test data, and clearing directories and files after
- Catering for various operating systems
- Gathering, formatting, displaying results
- Interacting with the app in various, often complex, ways
- Requests, Responses, Selenium, Page Objects, Use cases, Story/feature files
- A sound structure, following best practices, efficient use of design patterns
- Project should be easy to follow, maintainable, flexible
With this in mind, if someone is applying for a QA automation role, then they need software skills. If they are going to be working on the framework extensively, or creating a new one, then they should have very good programming skills, understand build tools, software architecture, design patterns, and how to use the features of the language very well.
I've often seen people with insufficient coding skills getting hired. As a result, the quality of the automation project suffers greatly, becomes flaky and hard to maintain - and loses its value.
To finish, I think that a QA automation interview should involve programming questions to demonstrate that the applicant does have the necessary coding skills. In addition, there should be QA specific questions, such as:
- Explaining different test types and give their experience with each
- Have they had issues communicating with unwelcoming developers and how to deal with that
- How would they test a certain application (to see that they are methodical and thorough)