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8 ways to know that it’s time to hire a new QA tester

You want top-quality software, sure. But when is it time to increase the size of the testing team, so that you can deliver said top-quality software? Glad you asked.

QA testers are part investigative reporter, part janitor—and all important to the user experience. That’s because the testers’ role is to hunt for untidy coding and to ensure that any user interaction with your software is free from error. As a result, every company worth its engineering chops knows it needs QA testers to do this crucial, sometimes dirty, work. The issue is: When do you bring on new people? How do you know it’s time to hire another QA professional?

In a perfect world, there would be a formula, like “hire one software tester for every five developers,” that is, runs numQATesters = (numDevs+numFeatures)/(5+weWroteTests). But as life (and code) is imperfect, I came up with a few simple guidelines to justify your budget request.

Don’t thank me. A streamlined user experience is thanks enough. Particularly when it’s your software that I’m using.

When your software is buggy

Bugs are annoying yet inevitable errors that range from low priority (font change, alignment issues in text) to “Call the crisis PR team, stat!” (such as loss or exposure of data). And as we all know, a single critical flaw can result in customer dissatisfaction and a high bill from your crisis PR team. Or from the lawyers.

Jennifer Willy, editor of Etia.com, considers bug complaints and customer issues a call to action, where the action is hiring a new QA tester. “User experience is vital. When you are faced with a situation like this, it is important to rely on good testers.” Hiring excellent testing staff both helps you unravel the buggy situation and also brings about a positive change in the software development process, Willy says.

(Of course, the lack of testers is one possible reason the software got into that sorry state. But that’s another discussion.)

Recommended hire: A careful QA tester who can find bugs and other errors that the development team has overlooked. A QA with the patience of a saint, specifically Saint Monica, the saint most associated with patience.

When your QA team is backlogged

Christian Lavender, chief product officer of vehicle refinancing platform RateGenius, says that it’s time to take on a new team member when QA can’t keep up with developer output. “You can hire more engineers to get projects built faster, but if your team doesn’t have the bandwidth to test releases, they’ll just sit in the QA backlog.”

If your developers produce more code than you can thoroughly test in a reasonable amount of time before your QA team drowns in a sea of test cases, it’s time to consider pinging HR. Do so sooner rather than later, because as Lavender says, “When there’s a bottleneck in QA, it ripples across the company.”

Recommended hire: An octopus. During crunch time, eight hands are better than two.

When your QA staff is overworked

If your QA department is working overtime, on weekends, and are called in during holidays, it means they’re handling an unusually heavy load. And if you overwork your QA staff, there’s no telling if your application’s name fields will accept user names like “X Æ A-12.”

“If you find that you’re spending more and more time testing than necessary, then you know it might be worth considering hiring a new QA tester,” says Colin Ma, the founder of OC Tech Alliance.

Recommended hire: A QA tester who knows how to tap out when pinned to a wrestling mat. A QA who would never name their child X AE A-12.

When you expand your application platforms

Your QA team excels at what it does, and what it does is testing desktop software. But what happens when your users access your site on their cell phones?

Your customer base should drive your next hire, says Lavender. “What devices do they use? What browser versions are they on? Are they on tablet, mobile, or desktop? Looking at all those breakdowns would drive you to the methods your QA team would use and what the specialties they would need.”

Recommended hire: Someone who specializes in banking apps on iOS devices from versions 10 to 13 using Firefox versions 78 through 82, but only on Tuesdays during a full moon. Someone who specializes in every other testing scenario, too.

When your QA team asks you to

You’re in the software planning phase, and the project manager is laying out the scope of work. Joining you in the room is your QA team lead. Looking at the project, they say it straight up: “We need to hire more testers.”

Egor Bulyhin, project manager and team lead at consulting firm Smart IT, says a good QA professional lets you know when work is beyond even their leet skillz. Part of a professional’s skill set is knowing their own limitations, including when they need more people to maintain a steady flow of approved features. It’s up to you to see that they get what they need (unless they need an early retirement).

Recommended hire: A QA tester who isn’t afraid to tell you that you need a new hire. A QA tester who isn’t afraid to tell you that your fly is unzipped.

When you need to keep your customer’s data secure

Some testing specialties are less about platforms than reliability – including software security. Do you have someone qualified to find application vulnerabilities during testing?

When it comes to sensitive information, you need a higher level of either data or application integrity, Ma says. “One issue could be costly.” Issues include breach of trust or regulatory infractions that result in fines. If your product requires rock-solid data integrity, such as banking applications, you need a tester with relevant experience.

Even if you’re outside a regulatory regime, like the EU’s GDPR, you may still need to comply with it if you support EU customers. Also, have you ever read the term “data breach” in a feel-good piece? No, I didn’t think so.

Recommended hire: Someone who knows what the acronym GDPR stands for. Someone who winces when you say “Equifax.”

When you need someone in a leadership position

Let’s say your QA team has been working together for months, and each member excels at the job they’ve always done. But the work is piecemeal, with no cohesion or strategy. It’s time to hire someone with leadership abilities.

Jessica Salter, people operations manager of Best Response Media, needed someone who could create guidelines for future best practices. In making the hire, the key attribute was finding someone in a leadership position “to help us establish a strategy and implement new ways of working.” This particular hire should have management experience, to mentor the current QA team and set them up for future success.

Recommended hire: Someone who has a plan for future strategies. And might know future lottery numbers.

When your business is growing

Maybe your application is getting new functionality. Or perhaps you’re developing an entire new product line. Or your business is among those getting a sales boost due to the pandemic, which means it’s time to take on long-delayed projects.

Whatever the reason: On your to-hire list are several new developers. Make sure you add to this list a new QA professional, or you may experience that deadline-slaying backlog mentioned above.

Bulyhin likes to hire QA staff members before a new project begins, so he can onboard them before work ramps up in earnest. More importantly, he works with them to make sure the new QA hire has the skills they need for this particular job. This way, they both can achieve their work goals.

Recommended hire: Someone who has been there, done that, and has the t-shirts. Very likely, the t-shirt reads, “A QA tester walks into a bar. Orders a beer. Orders 3.33 beers. Orders null beers. Orders &@% beers.”

Whomever you hire, surely you want someone with a steady grasp on test automation essentials? Our white paper gives you the basics.

by Carol Pinchefsky

Carol Pinchefsky is a freelance writer who writes about technology, science, and geek culture. She lives in New York City with her husband and their books. She can also be found on Twitter, Facebook and carol pinchefsky.com