How to Hire Good Testers and Stand Out as a Top Candidate with Paul Merrill

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About This Episode:

Today, we delve into the nuanced art of hiring software testers in an era where remote work challenges traditional recruitment norms. We'll explore Paul's insights on the crucial skills for testers, the evolving landscape of automation in testing, and the critical importance of honesty and skill demonstration in hiring practices.

Paul will also share some thought-provoking experiences and challenges in verifying candidates' identities and capabilities in virtual environments. Whether you are looking to hire or aiming to position yourself as an invaluable testing professional, this episode is packed with valuable advice and anecdotes from the front lines of software testing recruitment.

Don't miss out on these expert tips to elevate your hiring strategy or advance your testing career.

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About Paul Merrill

Paul Merrill

Since 2008, Paul Merrill has owned and operated Beaufort Fairmont.

Paul is recognized as a thought leader in the software industry – sought after to train teams, consult with technical leaders, and speak on testing and test automation across the US and beyond.

After more than 2 decades in the software development space as a tester, software engineer, and leader, he recruits, consults, and trains with the perspective of one who has worked in the field.

He and his team have placed scores of individuals in numerous companies. He’s identified and refined a proven process for hiring technical talent for his clients

Paul and his team work to learn from every customer to improve the experience of the next customer.

Paul has been trusted by major companies across the US including Kohl’s, Blue Cross Blue Shield, IBM, Becton Dickinson and more than 40 others. The trust large companies have placed in him is great, but he and his team prefer working with established small to mid-size businesses.

Paul and his team are based in Cary, NC.

Connect with Paul Merrill

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[00:00:00] In a land of testers, far and wide they journeyed. Seeking answers, seeking skills, seeking a better way. Through the hills they wandered, through treacherous terrain. But then they heard a tale, a podcast they had to obey. Oh, the Test Guild Automation Testing podcast. Guiding testers with automation awesomeness. From ancient realms to modern days, they lead the way. Oh, the Test Guild Automation Testing podcast. With lutes and lyres, the bards began their song. A tune of knowledge, a melody of code. Through the air it spread, like wildfire through the land. Guiding testers, showing them the secrets to behold. Oh, the Test Guild Automation Testing podcast. Guiding testers with automation awesomeness. From ancient realms to modern days, they lead the way. Oh, the Test Guild Automation Testing podcast. Oh, the Test Guild Automation Testing podcast. With lutes and lyres, the bards began their song. A tune of knowledge, a melody of code. Through the air it spread, like wildfire through the land. Guiding testers, showing them the secrets to behold.

[00:01:53] Joe Colantonio Hey, it's Joe, and welcome to another episode of The Test Guild Automation podcast. Really excited about today because we had Paul Merrill joining us once again. It's been a while. Last time he was on was in June of 2016. And we're going to talk all about how to hire good testers. If you don't know, since 2008, Paul has led Beaufort Fairmont to becoming a distinguished expert in the software industry with a rich two decade career in software testing, engineering, and leadership. He offers specialized consulting, training and a lot of recruitment services. He's one of the go to people I direct people to. If they ask if I have anyone that knows how to hire someone for something, he's the go to guy for me. Paul has also earned trust from giants like Kohl's, IBM, and yet he prefers to partner with small and mid-sized firms, focusing on perfecting hiring processes and client services through continuous learning. And that's one of the main things I want to talk about today. How can you hire good tester? And if you're a tester, what are employers looking for you to get an inside look? You want to stay all the way to the end to find out. You don't want to miss it. Check it out.

[00:02:54] Hey, Paul. Welcome back to The Guild.

[00:02:59] Paul Merrill Joe, it's great to be bac, man. How are you?

[00:03:01] Joe Colantonio Awesome, awesome. It's been so long. I can't believe it's been since 2016. What have you been up to?

[00:03:07] Paul Merrill Well, let's see, I cut my hair since then.

[00:03:10] Joe Colantonio Big time. Yes, yes.

[00:03:11] Paul Merrill I've added some gray.

[00:03:13] Joe Colantonio Yes.

[00:03:13] Paul Merrill Yeah, you've added some gray as well. So we're here together in the mid part of life I guess, right.

[00:03:19] Joe Colantonio So hey that's a good point. Mid part of life. It's a different season for us from when we started. So are people actually still looking for testers? I know that's a weird question to start off with, but I get asked all the time. Is this still a thing?

[00:03:30] Paul Merrill Yeah, it is absolutely. I mean, lots of clients looking for testers and it kind of varies. Some groups are still are looking for manual testers. I think that's one of the things that people say, hey, is anybody still looking for manual testers? The answer is yes. And then in addition to that, are they looking for test automation engineers? Are they looking for SDETs? They're looking for all types of things. We help with all that. But yeah, I think hiring has gotten a lot harder lately.

[00:03:54] Joe Colantonio Why?

[00:03:55] Paul Merrill The difficulty with hiring right now is remote hiring. I mean, we've been doing that for years. I've been doing that for many, many years with testers and software engineers and whatever else. But suddenly with Covid, everybody was remote. And so that made it so that all the job postings were remote. And suddenly, if you were across an ocean, you could apply for a job on the other side of the ocean. And so we've got tons of people that are not necessarily where they think they are, where they say they are. And a lot of deceit going on in the job hiring world. So if you're a tester, this is number one thing is to be honest, number one thing is to work through those lies because I spend a ton of time on the phone with candidates and they just lie to me, Joe. It's crazy. I'm testing testers is what I'm doing.

[00:04:38] Joe Colantonio What mainly do they lie to you about?

[00:04:40] Paul Merrill They lie about where they are. I'll send you a link here in just a minute. But basically there are-a lot. There's a whole industry of folks who are trying to get jobs with someone else's name. They're trying to get jobs with someone else's Social Security number, with someone else's W-2. All these things are illegal.

[00:04:57] Joe Colantonio Oh my Gosh.

[00:04:58] Paul Merrill But yeah, they're saying they're in one place, but they're actually in another. And this is a major risk for businesses, especially the ones who value their IP. So you're working with software, you're working with source code. And you may have regulatory environments where laws regulations require that your IP, not cross country boundaries, not cross certain places. Different countries handle IP differently. And so this is very important. We can't just necessarily be-Germany and working in South Korea or something. It just doesn't work like that anymore.

[00:05:33] Joe Colantonio Absolutely. So have you been seeing a trend then where we were mostly on site and then because of the pandemic, they made it so be now pretty much virtual. I've been pretty much work in remote all my career. Do you see people switching back to onsite?

[00:05:48] Paul Merrill Yeah, absolutely. So all these companies, the major companies, they have a major investment in their office space. And that makes perfect sense. They grew it at a certain point in time. They built these large buildings or campuses or whatever else they are. So with that investment, they want to make sure that they're capitalizing on that and having people at location, on site working with them. The other thing that's happened is that we've found that it's really hard to figure out who's working and who's not. I know this sounds really ridiculous, but so many clients come to me and they say, look, I've got this person who's I just can't get a hold of them. I don't understand what's going on. They're not there when I expect them to be there. It doesn't seem like they're getting things done. And this was a lot different when we were in person, right? I mean, you could walk by somebody's desk and see if they were playing a game of chess or solitaire instead of working. But now it's online, and that's a whole new skill for a lot of people and lots of folks. None of our watchers, of course, none of the folks watching The Guild right now. But lots of people are taking major, major advantage of it.

[00:06:48] Joe Colantonio How do employers attract back people on site? I would never work on site again. Never.

[00:06:52] Paul Merrill Yeah.

[00:06:53] Joe Colantonio I mean, there's no need for it. I would never do it, but, like, I guess. Why is that advantage? What can they entice people? Because I know a lot of people just dropped out of it. I'm not going back to do that.

[00:07:04] Paul Merrill Yeah, I hear you. Me either. Look, look, I've been working from home since, I don't know, in 2012 or something like that. It's been a long, long time, 2011. This is my home office. I love working here. This is my place. Like this is where I like to work. I'm like you when I get out in traffic these days and I'm waiting for 30 minutes in traffic, I go, why does anybody ever do this? Why would anybody spend their time like this? I'm not really sure what the answer is for companies to bring people back. I just know that hiring in that environment is much easier. So one of the things that I find with clients, when they do have a particular location that they're going for, it really cuts through a lot of the silliness that's out there, a lot of the noise. And what I find is that if we're asking for someone who lives in Austin, Texas, for instance, right, if they come on site and the interview with me on site, I know they're a real person, but there are many times when you're talking to somebody online you can't necessarily tell. So I'll send you a link. I was talking about from Twitter, where there's an individual who's actually cheating on an interview remotely and they buster for it. There's somebody else in the room giving the answers, and she's lip seeking on the video and they buster for it. And then she has nothing to say. She doesn't know what to say when they're asking her about it. If you have a location that you're hiring for, if you're at a location, you can see the person you can get to know them. We get so much more information just visually and auditory as opposed to typing. But then when you really face to face with somebody, you know that the other thing is on location. We talked about, hey, this is a company that's hiring Austin, Texas. Well, I know a little bit about Austin. I've never lived there, Joe, but I know a little bit about it. One thing I know is that the University of Texas is there. The number of times when I get a resume, that's somebody's name. They've lived in Austin their entire life. They went to the University of Texas, and when I speak with them, it's clear, for instance, their first language is not English. That can happen. That can happen in Austin. There are plenty of people in Austin who are born and raised there, and for some reason, not their family speaks a different language, but that would be yellow flag number one for me. Number two would be what I know about Austin. So I know the University of Texas is there. I know what it's like. But if they tell me they went to Texas Tech and they were on site in Austin, well, I know Texas Tech is in Lubbock, right? Like I watching a football, I know what these places are. So that would be number two. And then finally though I'll do something like say, okay, so you said you went to the University of Texas or you went, and I'll say, so you're a big Sooner's fan. I'll say, yeah, absolutely. A Sooner's fan. Like, well, if you went to University of Texas, you're not a Sooner's fan. That's your hated rival. I know that's not the case. So that local knowledge that companies have where they're hiring is a major advantage for them. So if you're a hiring manager and you want to hire people, it doesn't really matter where you are, but it matters where they are. so if they say they're in Saint Louis, well, what's that big thing in Saint Louis that everybody knows about, right? And of course, they know it's the arch, right? Or if they don't, do you really live in Saint Louis? Is there a river that goes through? No. There's not. Right. How are the mountains in Saint Louis? There are so many questions like this that you can ask with local knowledge. And that's what hiring managers need to do to cut through some of this, where remote workers are trying to scam and say they're in one place, but not.

[00:10:15] Joe Colantonio Absolutely.

[00:10:16] Paul Merrill So yeah, I kind of like the model of, you have to earn the trust where maybe work in person for a year or so. You have to earn to work remotely. That's probably a good model for people. I don't know. It's that's something you've been seeing as maybe an option where someone gets them in, knows they can trust them, that they're actually producing, let them start working maybe one day out of the week, maybe two, and then see how that progresses from there?

[00:10:38] Joe Colantonio There's certainly I can absolutely see that. And so managers want to do that. Another way that we do it is just right up front in the expectations in the job description say, we expect you to be in the office once a month for one day, come in for one day. And if these folks live in Belarus, they're not coming in for one day a month. They're going to make an excuse the first month. They're going to make an excuse the second month and sooner or later you're going to go, well, maybe you're not really here. Like maybe there's really an issue. So we can still do remote. There's lots of ways to do it, but I think there has to be a way, a simple way for these companies to cut through the mess that's out there right now.

[00:11:12] Paul Merrill How much does AI play into it now? And I guess that would help when you're on site, I might watch too much TikTok with the little AI running? And rather than someone that lip sync and they actually can get the answers off the AI and they're just reading it? What benefits is someone have to be hired when they don't have the skills, and that is the most uncomfortable position to be in. I would think you get hired to do SDET role and you don't know how to develop. I mean, that must be crazy.

[00:11:36] Joe Colantonio Well, how many times has that happened to you? I mean it's happened to me every first job. Like every first day on the job, I'd sit down and go, oh my goodness, am I really good enough for this? Am I cut out for this? Now I had the skills for almost all the jobs that I got. Really almost all of them. And but if you don't, that's got to be just petrifying, right?

[00:11:57] Paul Merrill Yeah.

[00:11:58] Joe Colantonio Absolutely. I don't really know what benefit there is. And this is where I get into honesty. So if you're a person looking for a job, be honest. And the reason for this is one of my major points today, which is I take notes. Every applicant that comes through, I take notes on that individual, I keep their resume. And if their name shows up with a different resume in the same location, with the same background or whatever. I know that that's the same person, or I know it's not. So there's a credibility thing that I could establish there, but be honest, because on these notes, if I get somebody who I know cheated on an interview right, then I'm going to make a note of that and I'm going to say, do not hire right across the top or give only one second chance or something like that. What benefit is it? It's none. Here's what the benefit is, Joe. It does establish credibility with me. If you're trying to get a job and I ask you, so tell me about Cypress. And you say, I don't know anything about Cypress. Well, I wasn't asking for it for this job, maybe I wasn't ask it. It wasn't on your resume. I want you to say you don't know. Nobody knows everything. Of course, you don't know everything. If I ask you something that you don't know, just tell me that you don't know, because then we can work from there. Now, if I get somebody who doesn't know any of the answers, and it's all stuff that's on the job description, we got another thing. But at least they were honest. At least they were that.

[00:13:14] Joe Colantonio Yeah, absolutely. And even better if they say, I don't know, but I can find out. That's the person you want for sure.

[00:13:19] Paul Merrill Yeah. Well and yet and there's a lot of that too. That's another thing for the person who's trying to get a job right now. And the market is flooded. There's a lot of people out of work right now, Joe. A lot of people in the tech industry, it's really easy to say I'm a quick learner. It's really easy to say I can go out and learn that. It's really easy to Google the answer to my questions, but when I'm answering a question, chances are I've already googled it. I know what it says. If you read that definition, it's going to be familiar to me. I want in your own words, I want your level of understanding. And if you don't know something, absolutely tell me you don't know it.

[00:13:54] Joe Colantonio All right. So you brought up an interesting thing. This is something I've been seeing testers like high level testers, like top notch software testers that know, they know this stuff inside and out. Luckily, most of them thinking of now finally got jobs for like a year and a half before they got jobs. What's going on? What are people looking for? Are they being unrealistic? Or is it just too many candidates that they just give up or it's too clogged in the works up?

[00:14:17] Paul Merrill Yeah. So for people watching this in the future, right now it's early, I guess first quarter 2024. What I've seen in my data is slim, right? Like I've only got my perspective. I don't have every company's perspective or anything, but from what I can see, we went through this period of time when there were just a million testers out there. I mean, just a million testers and not very many testing jobs. We had to kind of get through some of that work through it a little bit. We went through a period where lots of companies were laying off and they were getting rid of folks. We went through a period where there was a major adjustment in salaries, so we had this big spike in salaries in 2020, 2021, with software engineers, with software testers, and during that time is slightly lagging after it, we saw people trying to up their salary. And what's been really interesting is there are still people in the last year who are trying to rationalize their salary with what they heard happened three years ago, and that's not where we are anymore. A lot of companies have come back down on the salary expectations. I think it's just a more rational hiring environment right now than it has been. Maybe some of these companies have figured out some of the things that I figured out too, right, like how to hire well, in this environment.

[00:15:24] Joe Colantonio If someone walks in with a gray beard or a gray hair, do you think that plays against them nowadays? Because like, this person is probably looking for a higher salary than than what we actually have to offer? Is that ever play in or is that probably just something?

[00:15:39] Paul Merrill I don't. So look, Joe, for me personally, one of the things that I think I've done extremely well is just be blind to everything that a person looks like and whatever else. Just be completely blind to that and look for the skills, look for the content of character, look for the individual and what they can contribute to this particular job, how they fit in with what the client has asked me for, how the client has described the person who's going to be there. That's number one. Now, unfortunately, absolutely. Absolutely plays in with a lot of companies. They're not. We know you can go and look at the workforce and you can see how many gray beards are out there, how many gray hairs or whatever it is, right. How many wrinkled crow's feet by some people's eyes or whatever it is. Oh yeah, I know. I got them two now. I don't know where all these wrinkles. Hard living early in life, I guess a good thing I'm trying to clean it up the last 20 or so, but yeah, I guess, it does play a part with a lot of companies. Many times senior engineers and senior technical people want more money. Sometimes they want. Now, there's a balance there too. Whether it's from the hiring perspective, which I really want to talk to a lot today, or if it's from the person who's trying to get hired, there's a balance there. I've had people who were forty years of experience, come in and talk to me. But they want less than entry level salary. When I hear that, suddenly, I have a question in my head. Like, why do you want such little salary? And I can't necessarily ask that. I can't ask you about your personal.

[00:17:07] Joe Colantonio Right, right.

[00:17:08] Paul Merrill Your personal finances. But it's definitely a question that I have to figure out. Many times what happens is, is people who are farther along in their career, they've realized they're probably not going to get paid as much as they were for an individual level, individual contributor level position, and they drop their salary to get their foot in the door. However, if you think about when you go shopping and you look for a car and you find a $4,000 Mercedes Benz, are you going to buy it? I'm not going to buy a 2023, $4,000 Mercedes Benz. You're not going to do it. There's something wrong with that car. So you have to have a rational salary for what you're doing.

[00:17:46] Joe Colantonio It almost sounds counterintuitive, but that actually makes sense. You think take on deal. And they're like, well, actually that's kind of a flag. So that's a great point. So what type of questions then should people at a hiring testers be asking? Because I think a lot of times people get tripped up like here's a testers, developers, here's a whiteboard code up, something like, are these still the type of questions or like do you have a mix of questions you recommend being asked?

[00:18:07] Paul Merrill They can be. For me, it's a mix and it really depends on my clients. So the number one thing that I try to do is listen to my clients. What is it that they are looking for? Because what I'm looking for in the way that I want to do an interview really doesn't matter. Like it's not about me. It's about what my clients want. Now, there are things that I offer, like coding interview. Of course we can do that. And I like to have highly filtered candidates for my clients. I want the burden to be on me, not on my client. Let me take the burden from them. But there are a number of things to do. So for software engineering jobs, I think you ought to be able to write software. Yeah, Joe, I mean, I heard I think that's something you ought to do for software development engineer test. You ought to be able to write some code. Absolutely. There are different ways to do these. I've tried a lot of different techniques. The ones that seem to work best for me are when we pair up, we're on video or on remote like this. We pair up, I'm watching you code, you're coding in front of me, and we talk about what you're doing, and I try to understand, help me understand why you made that choice. Help me understand what you're doing next. And really get out of them what's going on? Because if they're using an AI to generate the code, the top-level people are going to know what the AI is doing anyway. And the people who don't know what the AI is doing, they weren't the ones writing the code to begin with. So you want the ones who who understand what's going on? Absolutely. There's still some of that. For testers, I don't have any interest in doing code assessments for testers. And most test automation engineers don't need to do that. But there are questions that you have to ask. For the hiring managers out there, one of the things that I like to ask about is preferences. Especially for senior folks. Senior folks have preferences on what they want to do, how they want to do things. If you go to a software engineer, for instance, you say, you've got four different languages on your resume. I see one of them is JavaScript, one of them is C#, one of them is Python. Which one's your favorite? Most software engineers are going to like one more than the other. And they'll be able to tell you why. Preferences on things and opinions, right? Not just preferences, but opinions. When you're writing BDD for a tester, when you're writing your BDD scenarios, what are some of the things that you prefer to see in a scenario? How do you prefer to see those written? My friend Andy Knight, he's terrific at BDD. You know him? He's an old friend of yours?

[00:20:23] Joe Colantonio Awesome.

[00:20:24] Paul Merrill Awesome at BDD. Love talking to them. I love working with him, but he has some very strong preferences on the way that BDD is written in the way that Gherkin is written. That's because he's an expert. He's seen what worked, he's seen what didn't work. Now, with the people who are earlier in their career, that's going to be a little harder. They're not necessarily going to know a preference on some things. There are other questions there. One of the things that good testers specifically have is they have some level of creativity. They're going to be able to look at a problem or look at a thing that they're going to test and really engage with it and come up with creative ways to interact with it. So creativity is one of those keys. Most companies don't want a tester who's going to just follow scripts. A lot of them hire those. And we've got a lot of those people in the testing industry. And that's a really big gift as well. It's a blessing to be able to do that on a day to day basis. That's not how my brain was built. That's not how I would do things. But we need people who will follow scripts in certain businesses, absolutely. But for the most part, good testers are the ones who are going to be creative in the way that they look at things. So we ask them tests. A friend of mine used to do the soda machine test, which is tell me how you would test a soda machine. And most people know what a soda machine is of course, in my interviews, if someone doesn't know what that is, we'll give it a different example. But how would you test it? They go through pressing the different buttons and they want to do the change dispenser or whatever. And you get this really good sense of how their mind works. Do they just go superficially with like a breadth first approach to testing? Were they test all the things I could see first and then start getting deeper? Or do they go depth first? Like if I press that 1 button 25 times, what happens? If I hold it down, what happens? Am I just going to work unit testing that one button. And then you can start having conversation with them about what type of testing is that? What I'll do, you think is involved in that? And how much do they see behind the screen? How much do they see behind that soda machine? So yeah, I think there's lots of ways to get in there. The biggest part of it is asking about their experience, why they came to the conclusion that they did? What they prefer, what they like to do.

[00:22:25] Joe Colantonio Perfect. Now, do employers sometimes get in trouble with the requirements that they put out for a job description? Like they must have ten years of Playwright experience. And they're like, Playwrights only been out for four years. Like do you have any recommendations on like how to write a real good job description where you actually get the candidates that you want and need?

[00:22:45] Paul Merrill Yeah. So look, the folks who write these job descriptions sometimes have very little experience writing job descriptions. Sometimes they only you might have, for instance, a new manager who's writing one for the first time. They're not gonna be pros at writing job descriptions a lot of times. You may have a generalist in HR generalist who's doing the recruiting, who wrote up the job description in lieu of the manager doing it, and they may not know how to do it for a specific stack. They may not know the information there. As a hiring manager, you want to get that right. But you want I like to set expectations. I'm going to need these actual things. These are the things I absolutely have to have. It's JavaScript. It's Cypress. It's Postman whatever it is. And put those in the must-have section, make it short and sweet. And then have a nice to have after that. What doesn't work very well is the Christmas list, unless maybe in today's economy where there are a lot of people looking for jobs, you've kind of got a buyer's market from the employer side. Maybe you can have a Christmas list of these things and go for every one of them. But really, it's much more effective to try to focus on the skills you actually need, the character traits you actually need, and what it is about those individuals. If I put out there, hey, you're a self-starter. It makes it easy. I can ask you to tell me about a time when you were a self-starter. Tell me what you did with that. That's a pretty easy question to ask. And if they come back with, well, my manager told me to blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, it's like, well, maybe you're not the self-starter. I thought you were. Put out there what it is you expect to get back.

[00:24:15] Joe Colantonio I love it so, you work almost sounds like you work with companies to find the right candidate. And it's not a cookie cutter. How do you know what candidates would match up with what companies cultures better? Because it seems like different companies have different cultures, for better or worse. And maybe someone that's Uber outgoing may be a better fit. That's when it's more introverted. Introspective may be a better fit another way. Are those things come into play at all?

[00:24:39] Paul Merrill Yeah, absolutely. And that comes from getting to know the client. Getting to know the hiring manager and that particular company, getting to know what their processes are, how they work, meeting the team, things like that. I try to get to know folks as much as I can within those companies. The longer relationships for me work better, right? So the longer I know a hiring manager, a team that's hiring, the better it gets. But yeah, absolutely that all that stuff comes into play. It's very important. There's always the part of it for me where I want people who are different. I want people that play different roles within that company. But it's not my company that I'm hiring for, right? I may want to have the extrovert to go along with the introverts on the team because you need one that's going to speak up and be energized when they're around a bunch of people and whatever. But it's really up to the team. One of the biggest challenges that I have, whether it's job descriptions or placing people on the team, is once again going back to really self-awareness. So is the manager asking for what they actually need? Is they asking for what they actually want, or is there some communication gap there? Because often I see a manager ask for one thing, but then when I send those candidates, they don't want or they want something completely different. That's a little bit of that process as well, figuring out how that works. But all of this look, all this comes from my background in software engineering, in test automation as being an SDET. I was a software engineer at Microsoft for a number of years. I've done test automation for many, many years, consulting with companies and that and training. I still offer consulting and training and test automation, and that's really where the talent solutions came from, was I start to get to know a company through the consulting, what their biggest issues were and how to help fix them with test automation. And then they'd say, hey, we need some people. Do you know anybody who can get people? And so I decided to lean into that a little bit. But yeah, getting to know the company is number one.

[00:26:29] Joe Colantonio Awesome. What are the main skills employers are telling you they need? If someone's listening and they want to be employable, are there certain tools or techniques? I know I'm kind of surprised you mentioned manual testing is still a big one. Are there anything else that someone should know about?

[00:26:46] Paul Merrill Yeah. So there is kind of a baseline right now and especially for testers. This is a testing test automation podcast. So for testers specifically, there are a couple things that are just kind of the I don't know, low watermark. The foundational things these days. So if you're going into testing and you don't have any I don't know what people used to call it, technical background. But if you can't work with a command prompt like for me, that's one of those things, like you've actually done some work or you have if you've been in the command prompt, and maybe that one is not completely fair. It's one of those it's like it's a nice addition to my mind. But some of the things that are really important are APIs. If you haven't tested APIs at this point, you're out of luck. Almost every company has written APIs. They've created services out there. That's the way things work today. If you can't test a Rest API or you don't know what the Rest API is, that's a challenge. And there's so many great places online to find. My webinars have a nice little one hour introduction to APIs and how they work, but so many ways to learn about APIs. Those would be two of the basics. Lots of testers it seems like most of the hiring companies actually want some level of automation, which I think is from a testers perspective, I think it's kind of silly in some ways, but from a management and hiring perspective, it is something that discriminates, is something that you're able to say, well, if you don't know anything about test automation, how have you been in this industry for the last ten years? How are you going to work with people who, in our company who are doing test automation, how are you going to collaborate with them to ensure that the product is of high quality? I don't think you have to be an expert in test automation, but I think some of that background is good for the manual tester.

[00:28:30] Paul Merrill Alright, Paul. What else can employers look out for to know that someone's a good tester? Maybe they just list all the the key like CI/CD, Selenium. Like how do you actually know that? Like oh okay big deal. Like how do you know they're actually going to be a good tester to test the app?

[00:28:45] Paul Merrill Yeah. I mentioned a few different ways to do this. But one of the key things to me is have they studied their craft. Have they studied their craft. How do they learn about testing? How do they continue to learn about testing? How do they keep up to date? So for instance, are they listening to the Test Guild? Are they going out and finding blog posts where people have written about testing for years and years and years? Are they learning? Are they going out and doing demos of the newest products that are coming out? What are they doing to study their craft? Testing is not an easy thing, I don't think. I think to do testing well, you really have to put some effort into it and you have to study it. And I've studied it for many years. When I'm hiring, if I can find someone who truly has put the time in to it, that's helpful. What have they done in their off time? There's a lot of people with off time right now. What have they done in their off time? Did they help out a local association? I read in the Triangle Software Quality Association here in the Research Triangle for a number of years, and I was running a company and trying to get my first keynote and whatever else. We had a conference of 450 person, volunteer led conference, and I had wonderful volunteers working together with me. They did a great job. But I did that while I was working and had kids and did many other things voluntarily. What are you doing in your off time? Can you go help these groups? Try agile here in the research triangle. Just add a conference and they need volunteers. What have you done to support the local community while you were out of work? And then finally, I guess the one thing that I notice the most about testers is that they have a tendency to find fault or critique. That's a natural thing for most testers. Don't go against the green. Don't try to find a tester that doesn't do these things. Lean into it. How do they find fault with things? How do they find the issue with what's in front of them? Those would be three of the biggest things I would say to look for in testers.

[00:30:34] Joe Colantonio Awesome. I know what developers. A lot of times employers will see how much they commit to like their GitHub account. Or do testers have something similar they can show? Can they say, hey, I contributed to this open source project? Is there some sort of portfolio that employers can look at or ask for as demonstration of, like what they can do?

[00:30:52] Paul Merrill I don't know the answer to that. I know that I have folks every once in awhile who have some type of portfolio, and I will look at it at a certain phase in the interview process. It's not the first thing that I look at. With developers, there are definitely employers who won't hire. If you don't have a GitHub account or you don't have a GitLab account. If you're an SDET, I think it'd be helpful to have some examples out there. If you're a test automation engineer or you're aspiring to that SDET level or software engineer. I think absolutely having some examples out there. But the biggest thing with those is not necessarily just the code that you put up, but how well do you communicate about the code that's put up because someone actually grabbed your code? Run it, understand what it does, what it's supposed to do, how it works. That whole presentation stands out with folks. If you can really communicate well in that documentation or video or whatever it is, that can be very, very helpful.

[00:31:46] Joe Colantonio So, Paul, another thing that popped into my head is how much do testers know about software development in general. Like other types of testing other than functional testing like performance or security testing, is that still a specialty, or do you still see that as an employer looking for someone that also knows other type of a testing techniques outside of functional testing?

[00:32:06] Paul Merrill Yeah, I don't know if I have enough data on that. I'll just tell you the little bit that I've seen. Security testing is definitely bigger than it has been right the last 5 or 10 years. It's gotten a lot more prevalent. Employers are aware, right? Hiring managers are aware that if I have a tester who has some security testing background or understands the major concepts of security as it relates to building an application, that's helpful. But I haven't seen that be a go to or kind of a litmus test very often. And as far as performance look, I'm a test automation guy. I love test automation. That's something that I really get into. And I've helped a lot of companies with it. I still love helping companies with it. Performance testing and test automation to me are two completely different things. When I talk to a guy like Mark Tomlinson about performance testing, or was it Scott Moore who was on here like last week or the week before?

[00:33:00] Joe Colantonio Yes.

[00:33:01] Paul Merrill When I talk to them, I don't hold a candle to them. They know their smoke. It's completely different from test automation. When you find a person who really knows performance testing as an employer, you need to grab him. You need to hold on to that person, because there aren't very many out there, they're hard to hire. And if I'm a hiring manager and I see those particular skills added on and they're actually good at, it's not just like, hey, I've used JMeter once. Like, or hey, I've run a whole bunch of API tests at a particular endpoint to see if it works. Know if you've really specialized in those areas. Absolutely. Those are huge.

[00:33:35] Joe Colantonio Okay, Paul, before we go, is that one piece of advice you can give to someone that's hiring a software tester engineer to get the most out of their efforts, and what's the best way to find contact you or learn more about how you can help people get the right resources for their companies.

[00:33:49] Paul Merrill Number one is look for honesty. There's I can't tell you the number of resumes, the number of people that I have to filter through that are just lying, just lying about what they've done, where they've worked, who they are, everything else. That would be the number one thing. Look for honesty. And number two, how to contact me? You can go out to and contact me through there. You can find me on LinkedIn DPaulMerrill on LinkedIn. I'm also DrPaulMerrill on Twitter. And any of those ways is great way to contact me.

[00:34:23] Thanks again for your automation awesomeness. The links of everything we value we covered in this episode. Head in over to And if the show has helped you in any way, why not rate it and review it in iTunes? Reviews really help in the rankings of the show and I read each and every one of them. So that's it for this episode of the Test Guild Automation Podcast. I'm Joe, my mission is to help you succeed with creating end-to-end, full-stack automation awesomeness. As always, test everything and keep the good. Cheers.

[00:34:56] Hey, thanks again for listening. If you're not already part of our awesome community of 27,000 of the smartest testers, DevOps, and automation professionals in the world, we'd love to have you join the FAM at and if you're in the DevOps automation software testing space or you're a test tool provider and want to offer real-world value that can improve the skills or solve a problem for the Guild community. I love to hear from you head on over to And let's make it happen.

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