Thursday, October 14, 2010

Interviews – Stop thinking aloud. Start thinking, Channelize your thoughts and Reply…

In the past few years, I have done quite a number of testing interviews. Some of the questions that I've asked are:-

"How do you test a pen?”, “How do you test a mobile?”, “How do you test a remote controller?", "How do you test a random number generator?", "How do you test an application that generates the fibonacci series?" etc.

When I asked them "How do you plan your testing for a website selling mobile phones, interacting with 3 suppliers?", none of them paused to think. The answer came immediately like below.

“I'd plan for sanity testing. Will plan for testing the site against XYZ interfaces. L&P Testing needs to be a part of the test plan. I'll have daily stand-ups. I will talk about cost and variances to think about estimation. I'll have a risk plan for managing risks proactively. I will do a requirements-traceability-matrix..."... and he'd go on and on and on.

After talking to many candidates, it struck me that most of them, when answering the above questions, did not pause to think; or ask for time to think. Though it seemed that they were answering the question, they were only "thinking out their thoughts aloud".

Thinking a bit more, I guess the best way to answer such questions, in an interview would be in the following 4 steps:

STEP 1:- Think.
Ponder about the question for a minute and think about the answers and various possibilities for the next couple of mins and speak up when you are prepared to answer. If you want more time, please ask the interviewer for time.

STEP 2:- Channelize your thoughts.
Think about the solution and channelize your thoughts to ensure that your answer is structured correctly, or how you want it to be structured. A structured answer, will definitely earn you a lot of brownie points with your future employer. If you want, write down short points on paper before you start talking about the answer

STEP 3:- Prioritize the reply and speak it out accordingly.
Go ahead and speak up and start answering the question. If required, refer to the short points while you answer. If you need more time to think, please ask for more time.

STEP 4:- Invite him for discussion on your reply
Ask if the interviewer has any questions or invite him to discuss the finer points of your answer. Try to give logical reasons for your decisions for prioritizing.

FST Gyan section -
If you are being interviewed, then
Start ---> Asking for time, if you think you need time.
Stop ---> thinking out your thoughts aloud. Interviews are not a forum to think aloud. Secondly, interviewers will definitely be impressed if you ask them for time to think.

If you are the interviewer, then
Start ---> Asking the candidate to think and reply.
Stop ---> asking questions when the candidate immediately answers to your questions. Most probably, he's not answering the question, but "thinking out aloud"!!!

And yes, as always, have a happy interview!!!


  1. Hello,

    Its really nice..i found some new things about interviews...with new things about me a more favour plz..if you have ref for testing manual tester.. my id..

  2. Good point for interviewee :)
    And....testers need to think invariably.

  3. I have found the interviewers that asked the textbook type of questions, usually have the poorest structured testing departments. Why ask me the difference between a v model or agile when all they do is develop it and throw it over the fence to testing to get done in a few days with no requirements etc.

    Why ask me how to set up a regression suite when in reality there will be daily releases and no time to complete a regression that would take 3-4 days?

    I find it very difficult not to be a fake tester when the shop doesn't support being a real tester.

  4. @nilam ---> All you need to do is do some tests and find out my name. Even if you can't find it out, do send me an email with the tests that you performed to find out my name. I'll forward your profile to an opening in my company itself.

    @Anonymous ---> True. Understand your predicament. You cannot be a real tester in a "fake testing shop". In all such cases, the best that you can do is to do a demonstration of your testing skills in front of the interviewer and hope he has some common sense to identify your skills.

  5. Hi,
    its me again :-) Nice blog post; again I am not agreeing with one piece of statement:
    "Stop ---> Interviews are not a forum to think aloud."

    It might be cultural context, but I believe, that given the restrained information "website selling phones, 3 suppliers" it *definetly* is needed to ask questions and to think aloud, aka reflect the different possibilities.

    Even if the interviewee would take time and structure his answer well, it might be totally off the track, cause he didnt take the context of the "mission" given into account.

    Other than that.. I enjoy reading here and added it to my bookmarks.