What is Test Management?
Test managers are generally responsible for all testing activities within their area of control. This could be for a project, a department or for the whole organisation. The Test Manager will oversee the creation of test cases, they will be responsible for forecasting resource requirements and ultimately will be the one to certify that testing has been completed in line with the plan.
The most common path to test manager is by being a Tester (or ‘Test Analyst’) in a prior role, however it is not uncommon to see people with experience in Business Analysis or Project Management pick up these roles in an organisation.
Regardless of what path you take you are going to need to interview to get the role. That is why in this post we are going to look at the Test Manager interview process and how to nail it.
Firstly we will look at some Test Manager specific tips, then we will talk about the right way (and the wrong way) to answer interview questions, and finally we will run through some of the most common questions that you will be asked in your TM interview.
Ready? Let’s get started…
Test Manager Interview Tips
Lean heavily on your experience – Follow the B-STAR process (discussed further below) and refer back to your previous role regularly. Show the interviewer that you are very well acquainted with how testing works and can apply good testing principles in your work.
Name drop the processes, systems and tools you have used – If you are telling a story about a sprint or a project you worked on name drop the software you used (MS Projects, JIRA, etc.). If you are explaining how you have experience in test automation then discuss the tool you used (e.g. Selenium). Actually naming tools or techniques makes you more credible and makes your answers more relatable in the eyes of the interviewer.
Tailor your answers to the organisation – Learn all you can about the organisation that is interviewing you. You particularly want to know:
- What are their current, past and future projects?
- What are their current testing capabilities, what processes/methodologies do they use, what are they looking to use going forward?
- What software and tools do they use day-to-day?
When answering your questions try to showcase your experience that you have in the above areas. For example if you learn that they are looking to move into an Agile delivery then you talk about how you have experience with Agile and in coordinating with Agile project teams to deliver testing.
How Best To Answer Test Manager Interview Questions
Unless the question you are asked is a straight ‘up or down / yes or no’ style question then you are going to need to learn to describe, expand and elaborate on your answers. The best way of doing this is to follow the B-STAR technique for answering interview questions.
Let’s see how this technique breaks down:
B – Belief – What are your thoughts and feelings with regard to the subject matter? As a Test Manager you should have enough experience to have formed your own processes/philosophies/ways of working
S – Situation – What was going on? Briefly explain the scenario that was taking place. Try to keep your ‘world building’ short and to the point. Always try to choose situations where you are able to showcase some experience or skills that are mentioned within the job description.
T – Task – What was your role in the action? Most of the time it is best that you are taking an active rather than passive role in the encounter. You are going for a Test Manager position (I assume since you are reading this post) so your task should form part of your role as manager.
A – Activity (or action) – What did you do? Detail the steps you took and why you took them.
R – Results – How did everything end up? Try to use figures if possible (e.g. we cut costs by $3m, customer satisfaction scores increased 25%, failures reduced to zero, ice cream parties increased ten-fold)
What You Should Not Do When Answering Test Manager Questions
Do not avoid the question.
Do not describe a failure (unless specifically asked).
Do not downplay the situation.
Do not overhype the situation.
Do not say you have no experience with the subject matter.
Do not reject the premise of the question.
Do not have a passive role in the situation.
Do not give a one-sentence answer.
Do not overly describe the scenario and miss the action.
Test Manager Interview Question & Answers
Tell me about a time you dealt with conflict
“Honestly, I hate conflict. I suppose everyone does really now I think about it. But because I hate conflict I always try to keep one step ahead of it by being aware of those around me and what they are working on and what their targets are, this way I have been able to resolve many issues before they even come up.
Obviously that is not possible all of the time, one such occasion was when all of our departmental budgets were cut at the very last minute causing quite the stir with all of the management.
I was tasked with revising our testing costs based on the new allocation we would receive. This meant that certain areas would need to reduce (or eliminate) their level of testing. The conflict started almost immediately as each manager wanted to keep his or her own allocation and were convinced that their area was special and needed the full allocation as previously sought.
The first thing I did was meet with each manager individually to understand exactly what the impacts of cutting their budget would be, and ask them if they knew of any area that could be cut without impacting our operational effectiveness.
Once I collated all of the feedback I found that there were a number of items that could be cut that a majority of the management team were in agreement on.
My final budget proposal was to remove these non-essential items and for each area to absorb the remaining cuts equally according to size.
Obviously no-one was happy with receiving less funding but everyone was content with how the decision process had played out and there was no more inter-departmental squabbling about who should get what, so overall a positive result out of a negative situation.”
Tell me about a time you were late delivering a piece of work
“I was given the task of producing a Testing scope report for a very important potential client. This was on top of my regular workload but I was happy to pick it up as the client would bring a lot of business to our firm if we were able to secure the contract.
During the week that I had to complete the report a number of unforeseen events happened; my work laptop died, the office I worked in flooded and someone stole my car. It really was one of those weeks! I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to meet the deadline so I looked at the piece of work that I had been given and the reasons why the firm wanted it. From my conversation with the firm I knew they were more interested in the automated testing capabilities above all else. So I focused my efforts so that I was working only on the automation portion of the report. I communicated this with the client and with my colleagues. Everyone seemed largely happy with this and I delivered the report in 2 stages, the first at the agreed upon date and the full report just 2 business days later. Luckily this delay did not upset the clients and we did bring them onboard. After this fiasco I petitioned the firm to provision VPN access on personal devices (with the relevant security software added) so that if this confluence of events were to repeat I would suffer no downtime…except for the time spent wondering where my car was.”Check out our full post on how to answer this question
Tell me about a time you helped a Team Member learn a new skill
“I love working in a team. I truly believe that when a team is functioning correctly that it is greater than the sum of its parts. More work just seems to get done than would be if we were working independently. That’s why whenever I see a team member struggling I always reach out and try to help for the good of the team. I also adore the feeling when someone learns something as a result of my help. In a different walk of life I might have been a teacher!
There was one occasion when our company was adopting a more Agile approach to our projects. Moving away from waterfall and into a sprint based delivery approach.
I noticed rather early on that one of my colleagues, Jayne, was not grasping the fundamental idea behind the change and was still trying to operate in a waterfall approach.
I approached my manager to ask if we could support some additional training for the team on Agile so that we could all understand the philosophies. He agreed and we all began taking LinkedIn courses in the afternoons.
I reached out to Jayne during these sessions so that we could share notes and discuss what we had learned. I even offered that we should work together on a project so that we could bounce the ideas we had learned off each other.
That was all it took really. After we delivered a couple sprints in our project Jayne was a full Agile convert. She has actually moved out of the team now and has taken a SCRUM master position in a different department.”
What are some key challenges in a Testing Project?
How would you select a Testing tool for your project?
What is a Test Plan?
What people skills should a Test Manager have?
What are informal reviews?
What are the types of Risk in a Test Project?
What are the countermeasures that a test manager should take against risks?
Explain how a test manager can estimate the project and what to estimate?
What does a good test report include?
How do you manage Team Conflicts?
By what factors can you determine the quality of test execution?
What are some of the best practices for test estimation?
What will be your criteria for hiring team members?
Which testing tools are you familiar with?
Are you familiar with automation and what do you think of it?
What is a three-point estimation?
What are the key challenges of software testing?
What steps are followed to create a test script?
Why is testing necessary?
What are the key elements in a Bug Report?
What is the difference between Retesting And Regression Testing?
What is Exploratory Testing?
How would you choose a Testing tool for your project?
What soft/people skills should a Test Lead have?
How can you determine the quality of the test execution?
What is the difference between functional and non-functional testing?
What is the difference between Beta and Pilot Testing?
What is Bug triage?
What is the difference between Verification and Validation?