Quality assurance (QA) and manual testers have some of the most vital jobs in an organization: ensuring software truly meets all specifications and requirements. On a day-to-day basis, their jobs involve reviewing and analyzing system specifications, executing test cases, and collaborating with QA engineers on test plans. If you’re applying for a manual testing job or QA specialist, in other words, you need to prepare for a manual tester interview process that could focus on a variety of skills and tasks.
According to Lightcast (formerly Emsi Burning Glass), which collects and analyzes millions of blog postings from across the country, the job prospects for QA and manual testers as a whole are good: Projected growth for the profession over the next 10 years is 9.3 percent, and the current time-to-fill for open positions is 39 days, hinting at a strong level of demand.
What kinds of questions are asked in a manual tester interview?
Different companies have different needs when it comes to manual testers, so you could face wildly different job interview questions depending on the specific role.
If you’re applying for an entry-level manual testing position, prepare to face some very broad questions designed to evaluate your true understanding of the role. For example, you might be asked:
- What is QA testing?
- How does manual testing differ from automatic testing?
- What are the potential downsides to manual testing, and how can you overcome them?
- Describe how you would write a test plan.
- Define a test script.
- What’s the difference between black box and white box testing?
For more advanced roles, you’ll face harder (and more industry-specific) questions, including:
- Describe your experience with unit testing.
- What’s your approach to security testing?
- How do you identify the correct scope of testing?
- How would you design a test case?
- Describe your experience with regression testing.
- Walk us through how you’d handle a mission-critical bug.
- Tell us about your approach to integration testing.
- Describe a particularly difficult manual testing challenge that you successfully solved.
Many interviews will spend the bulk of their time digging into your technical skills, so it will always pay to brush up on the principles of manual testing beforehand. If you have experience with manual testing, make sure to rehearse some stories that show your problem-solving and teamwork skills in the best possible light; recruiters and hiring managers appreciate it when you can describe how you’ve helped a previous employer overcome particularly vexing issues.
But don’t neglect those soft skills, such as communication and teamwork; much of the manual testing job involves working effectively with stakeholders throughout the organization, from software developers to senior management. Emphasize how well you’ve worked together with other people, even those from other teams or outside an organization.
Fortunately, there are also lots of websites that break down hundreds of sample answers to various manual tester interview questions, including hackr.io and Indeed. If you want to brush up on your programming skills, it’s also worth checking out Leetcode, which provides coding questions and answers (added bonus: many hiring managers rely on Leetcode to generate the questions for the technical aspects of the interview.)
What skills are necessary for a manual tester job?
Before you head into your manual tester interview, here are the skills that pop up most often in QA tester job postings (according to Lightcast); make sure that you’re sufficiently knowledgeable about these, and that you can tell truthful stories that show off your “soft skills” (such as teamwork and collaboration) in action.
Dice Insights spoke with Nir Tzur, vice president of engineering at SolarWinds, who has more than 15 years of experience in various senior R&D management roles. Part of his responsibilities include interviewing higher-level candidates on the engineering team, including test engineers who code automatic tests and developers who are involved in QA processes.
What are some key ways that manual testers can prepare for an interview?
As Tzur explained, there are three key factors to being a successful tester: collaboration, persistence and out-of-the-box thinking.
“To prepare for an interview, try to find past experience to share that shows how you have collaborated with developers for the overall good of your product,” he said. “Show how your persistency and ability to repeat the same tests indefinitely saved aggravation from customers.”
It is extremely important to be able to show how you have analyzed a problem to create tests for unorthodox scenarios. During a manual tester interview, this helps demonstrate that your creative thinking processes have led to concrete results.
What are some of the challenges faced by manual testers?
“The responsibility of being the ‘gatekeeper,’ validating the quality of a feature before releasing to customers, is the heaviest burden,” Tzur said. “When things don't work well, you will be the first to answer: ‘Why haven't you found this issue before its release?’”
A manual tester’s key success factor is finding bugs for developers. That means collaboration is critical; in the end, you’re all working towards a common goal of providing customers with good service. As we’ve mentioned before: during a manual tester interview, you’ll also be asked about challenges or problems that arose during your previous positions, and how you successfully tackled them.
What are some of the most important questions interviewees can ask their potential employer?
Every interview is a two-way street: the interviewer will ask crucial questions about your skills and background, and they’ll expect you to ask questions about the company’s workflow, tools, and culture. It’s important to come to every job interview armed with questions about the company, as that’ll show you’re engaged and interested in the position.
Tzur explained that it’s key for candidates to inquire about the work atmosphere, and whether it’s the type of place that is fostering collaboration. Alternatively, it might be a more siloed environment. “You should also be trying to find out if there is already a process in place for analyzing and learning from customer issues,” he said.
During a manual tester interview, a candidate can show interest by asking about the company's struggle areas and how the company is trying to address them. “Candidates can also ask about the skills the company is searching for to help with that process,” Tzur pointed out.
As you ask questions about company culture, do a “gut check.” Do you like the interviewer’s responses? Does the company seem to have a solid grasp on its workflow, goals, and employees’ needs? The answers to those questions can give you a solid sense of whether you’d be truly happy to work there.
What are the most important technical skill sets to know, and what are the critical non-technical skills?
“Prior knowledge with testing tools and any coding languages will definitely help, but the specific skills required will vary with every hiring company, so candidates should always refer to the job description as a good starting point,” Tzur explained.
Manual testers must also have the ability to look at a system, app, or service from a customer’s point of view, understanding how they'd use it to solve their day-to-day problems. That can help identify potential areas of vulnerability to test.
“Be able to think outside the box and come up with new ways to break functionality,” Tzur added. “Look for ways to improve processes. Teamwork is definitely also crucial for being successful in this position.”