Finding the appropriate candidates with an enthusiasm for the job, combined with the aptitude and skills to excel in my organisation proves extremely difficult. One of the greatest challenges for me is working with recruitment consultants and getting them to understand my needs in testing candidates. Working in a data storage/database environment means that certain skills are particularly valuable to us, SQL/Databases and Unix operating system experience with shell scripting being the primary ones.
Historically the biggest drain on my time when actively recruiting has been the time taken to read CVs and attend telephone interviews to filter out the candidates who list interesting skills on CVs, yet their experience proves to be very limited. This problem can even extend to the candidate having merely tested systems running with such technologies without ever having interfaced with them directly.
I recently met a very enthusiastic recruitment consultant who had taken the time to attend a Tester Gathering in Bristol. Being in the market for a new supplier I decided to give them a try. I decided that with a new relationship I would try a new approach to getting them to understand our needs, and tried a slightly unconventional method to getting them to understand our testing requirements.
Specification By Example AppliedI'm a great believer in the power of examples to help drive our software development. Using examples helps to provide a shared understanding between stakeholders with potentially different domain languages and perspectives. I wondered whether a similar approach might help in our recruiment process to bridge the gap of understanding between the recruiters understanding of my candidate requirements and my own.
I selected 3 CVs that I had received in the last 2 years from potential candidates:-
- The first listed Unix and SQL knowledge, however had no evidence of direct experience to back up this claim other than in a list of technologies used in the implementation of projects they had worked on
- One was a candidate who appeared to have the relevant skills and experience, however, on a short phone interview had not been able to back up this experience with any demonstration of understanding
- The third was a CV which showed clear examples of projects in which she had directly interfaced with the relevant technologies and the role that she had performed in that project. In addition to this she had provided further examples of improvements she had introduced into her working environment to improve the testing effort and steps she had personally taken to improve her testing knowledge
I invited the new recruitment suppliers into my office and spent about an hour working through each CV in turn. I highlighted key points to look out for that set off alarm bells for me in CVs one and two. These included factors such as the providing of long lists of technologies that made up the solution tested rather than ones they had actually worked with; a focus on certification and bug metrics and no evidence of a drive to self educate or improve their work. I then went through things about the third CV that marked them out as an exceptional candidate. I think this was something of a tiresome process for the consultants, however they admitted at the end of the session that they had found the session very useful as they had a much clearer picture of the candidates that I was looking for. I also made it clear that I would rather have one good tester put forward for the job rather than 10 poor ones.
There is always a risk with trying something different, and I wondered if taking this approach might not ingratiate me well with my new supplier. Actually it was remarkably effective. As a result of this, instead of twenty inappropriate CVs to filter through in the first few weeks, I received one, an a good one at that. Since then I have not received what I would describe as a poor CV from that agency, and soon after recruited a fantastic candidate that they provided. Obviously I cannot prove whether the agency would not have delivered such a good service without the unconventional start, but I've certainly not had such a great start from any other agency. If you are going through the pain of trying to recruit good testing candidates I recommend getting your agents in and working through some examples of the CVs that you are, and are not, looking for, to drive your recruitment specification.
Thanks to Rob Lambert for prompting this post. Image http://www.flickr.com/photos/desiitaly/2105224119