Wednesday 16 December 2015

Hiring for skills and team diversity

Over the past six months, I've been involved in a lot of recruitment activities. To illustrate, when I look at the length of time that our testers have been in their roles, just over half have been hired very recently:

The majority of this recruitment has been due to growth. In April 2015 we had 20 testers, while in February 2016 we'll have 29 testers. We've also had a bit of churn due to internal promotions, maternity leave and people leaving the organisation.

I enjoy getting involved in recruitment, because I enjoy shaping a team. There are a couple of community building strategies that I've advocated for during our recruitment over the past few months that I think have had a positive impact on our testing culture.

Skills Diversity

Prior to my arrival, the hiring managers had collaboratively created a list of skills and experience for a tester. These included a minimum number of years in a testing role, a minimum number of years experience using our specific automation tools, experience in an agile development team, and preferably banking domain knowledge too.

In the New Zealand market, people who fit all of these criteria are very rare. The kakapo of testing.

Though I agreed that we needed all the skills we were seeking as part of the testing competency, I didn't think we needed them all to sit with each individual. Instead I wanted to broaden our hiring scope and choose people with complementary strengths. I felt this would still achieve the same end goal of a cross-functional testing team.

I examined the testing capabilities within each tribe (a collection of agile teams who work on the same product) against four experience criteria: testing, automation, agile and banking. Through consultative subjective assessment of the existing testers, we identified the most important skills that we needed to look for in each hiring iteration. We've started to select candidates based on these priorities rather than looking for a person who has everything.

Team Diversity

As editor of Testing Trapeze and as a co-organiser of WeTest, I'm constantly conscious of accurately representing the community behind the forums through the voices we elevate. Similarly, in my coaching role, I feel a responsibility to foster diversity in the team that I support.

In February 2016, with all our new starters on board, our testing team should look something like this:

It may not be perfect, but I'm proud of the diversity that image reflects.

Prior to my arrival, there were very few testers with less than three years testing experience. I've been vocal in my arguments for hiring juniors as part of a balanced recruitment strategy. I'm happy with how the Testing Experience graph has shifted over the past six months, with approximately a quarter of the team now considered to be junior staff.

It's probably also worth noting that the testers aged in their 20s and the testers with 0 - 3 years of experience are not the same group of people, despite their identical pie graph segment sizing. We've hired inexperienced testers across a wide age range.

I don't use any conscious strategies for gender or ethnicity, and our ratios in these areas are largely unchanged, but I feel they're relatively representative of our local community.


The biggest benefit that I've observed in hiring for skills and team diversity is that it promotes a culture of learning. Where people bring different strengths and different experiences, it creates opportunities to learn from one another.

The exchange of knowledge is personal and hands on, rather than learning online or from printed materials. This means that, in addition to imparting new skills or ideas, we improve collaboration between testers across teams and foster a sense of testing community.

I believe in hiring for a team, not a role. Look at the whole picture and consider the tenets of diversity.


  1. Thanks for sharing your experience Katrina. Your blog is definitely must read for testers :)