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  1. #1
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    Assessing aptitude for coding

    I'm interviewing a candidate for a testing position which involves automated testing (currently using JScript and C#).

    The candidate has no coding experience, but has a strong (scientific) academic background and several years of manual testing experience. They have expressed a interest in moving into automated testing but haven't done anything practical to demonstrate this.

    I'm wondering how best to assess their aptitude for the sort of coding this would require? Normally I use some basic questions from developer interviews, but these wouldn't be appropriate for someone with absolutely no programming experience.

    Anyone got any tips?

    Many thanks!

  2. #2
    Moderator Joe Strazzere's Avatar
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    Re: Assessing aptitude for coding

    Assessing a candidate's capability to do something he/she has never done is always difficult.

    The only time I've tried something like this, I ended up briefly teaching the basics of the scripting language we were using at the time, and trying to judge if the listener was "getting it" or not. It worked out reasonably well at the time.
    Joe Strazzere
    Visit my website: AllThingsQuality.com to learn more about quality, testing, and QA!

  3. #3
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    Re: Assessing aptitude for coding

    I would try some behavioral interviewing style. Ask the candidate to look back in his life and recall design challenges he has had in the past. Since he's from scientific background, ask him to recall say experiments or projects he has done in the past.

    1) What was his approach?

    2) How did he break down and divide the problem?

    3) What challenges did he hit, and what did he do to get around these challenges.

    You want him to provide you his experiences on how he solved design challenges, and if that sort of thinking is what you want in a person you're working with.


    That being said.. Unless you're offering an internship, I wouldn't recommend a non-scripter/non-programmer for an automation position. Not only is there some lag time for learning the language and the tool. You'll also have a large knowledge gap that takes years of experience and hand holding to overcome. These are things like: good programming patterns, what makes a good test design, maximizing code reuse in an organized way, making the code easy to read/maintain, knowing where to find the information/help instead of having to ask the mentor over and over again. All these things will cause huge headaches later.

    The company I'm currently working for is in the process of cleaning up mistakes from bad record and playback tests created by non-coders. Only 1 1/2 month into the job and I have a lot of automation code horror stories. Automation is a coding project, same as the AUT. But you don't have QA to QA your automation code, so the code quality has to be as good, if not better than the application you're testing.
    David Lai
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    Re: Assessing aptitude for coding

    One of the best practice is to ask to write down in psuodo code any algorithm (e.g. 2 max in array, max & min, any kind of sorting).

    Ask to code some test with looping and conditionals.

    We ask these questions to each QA candidate (all of them must have robust coding knowledge as they will need to code much).

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    Re: Assessing aptitude for coding

    Well, that's fine Vasily. But the original post said "The candidate has no coding experience ..." so I doubt your suggestion would be of much help.

    The whole point of the question is how to assess an <u>aptitude</u> for coding, not experience.

    More years ago than I care to think about, I managed a startup that used (inexperienced) retirees as programmers (that's what we called them in the 1980's!) In order to select from a very large number of applicants, we used a company that specialized in programming aptitude tests. (They were much in vogue in the 70's and 80's.) I'm not sure how reliable they really were (and I don't have a copy of the test we administered) but it is something you might want to research.

  6. #6
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    Re: Assessing aptitude for coding

    Thanks for your input everyone, some good suggestions.

    Point taken about the suitability of a non-programmer for an automation post, but my original post was possibly a little brief, in that the job *could* include some automation (which is why I want to test aptitude), but there is also plenty of manual testing to be done, and we already have other QA engineers from programming backgrounds to do the automation.

 

 

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