Previously on the Testing Dead I talked about various forms of behavioral dysfunction that I call Zombie Testing and why that’s a problem. So what can you do if you find yourself with a zombie infestation at your place of work?
Well you could fire them,
but you may not want to make that your first action. Some zombies can be rehabilitated. Some are thinking human beings mimicking zombie behavior because either they don’t know any better or perhaps they don’t feel it’s their place to break the mold. So before you consign your zombie testers to the sweet flames of napalm death – do have a look around for ones that show signs of higher brain function and help them if you can.
Pairing them with experienced testers is one way of helping them learn new skills. Some testers with zombie tendencies believe they are skilled testers because they don’t know what they don’t know. Pairing them up with someone who *is* a skilled tester can help impart skills that they didn’t know they needed.
For the ones that don’t want help becoming a better tester – You cannot force change. All of the helpful links to blog posts and exercises and offers of coaching will not avail someone who isn’t interested. If that is the case, perhaps you can help them out the door instead.
Identify how zombie testers get into the building and apply liberal defensive countermeasures. Take an active hand in recruiting of new testers. You may need to help educate your HR people or recruiters to get past buzzword bingo and be able to identify real testers, or at least be able to not throw away promising candidates because they don’t have the currently most fashionable acronyms in their resume. I’ve worked with a score of recruiters over the years and perhaps one or two had any real clue about what testing was. The typical testers resume I get from recruiters generally looks like this:
Most recruiters I’ve worked with were open to learning more about testing. If they’re good, they’ll want repeat business from you, so it’s in their best interests to find out what sort of people you want. This is not an overnight process. You’re not going to sit someone down and lecture them on all the stuff they need to know. Tell them what you want up-front, sure. Give them the details that are important, but I find that real understanding takes more time. Develop a relationship with recruiters that make an effort to provide you what you want. Catch up for lunch occasionally or a Friday afternoon beverage of choice and talk about what’s going on in the industry. Talk to them about the frustrations you have when hiring. Doing this has been worth the time investment for me.
Give them a profile of the sort of person you’re looking for. If you’re looking for someone more experienced, then someone with a diverse background and a number of different skills – there’s a marked difference between someone who has 12 years experience and someone who has 3 years experience 4 times. Someone who is constantly honing their skills. They should be able to talk about what they do to stay sharp. I wrote a post a while back about what I look for in a resume. I share that sort of information with recruiters also. Make sure they know that not having certification is okay.
On that subject, I think certification sometimes unfairly demonized. If people get value from studying for a certificate, that’s fine. I don’t think certification creates zombie testers, although I do think it acts as a neat form of spray-on credibility for them. My major objection to certification in its current form is that it is marketed as a measure of tester competence. It is no such thing. I would love to see certification bodies be more up-front about this, but they have a financial disincentive to do so – they grow fat off the ignorance of testers and the people that hire them alike. Quite brilliant in a morally bankrupt kind of way, but I digress.
Rehabilitate the zombies you can, get rid of the ones you can’t and do what you can do to keep any more from getting into the building you work in. What about the wider testing community? The truth is, with the barrier to entry to the testing profession being no more difficult than knowing where a computer’s on switch is, zombie testers are being churned out far faster than we can hope to rehabilitate them. Does that mean it’s a lost cause? Far from it I think, but focusing on the zombies won’t get the job done. I’ll talk about that some more in the fourth (and likely final) post.