Conquent: Without Limits
Conquent: Without Limits
Kristen Fife's Blog

It's All In The Details

2009-04-09 08:41:00

I moderate an international Human Resources discussion board over on Yahoo. We have over 3700 HR professionals around the world. Today someone posted a request for salary range resources for a QA Engineer.

Now, I have a very special talent for finding such creatures. About 6 years ago, Microsoft made the decision to do away with all their automated testers, and only employ (both contract and FTE) "Software Design Engineers in Test". There is a huge and pronounced difference between the two. SDET's (or QA Engineers) as they are referred to around here, need to be able to code in Object Oriented languages such as C++, C# and Java. This is because there are two main kinds of testing, and the type that is most prevalent in the Seattle market is manual testing,
meaning that each time software is run through a test cycle, the QA professional needs to be able to actually *write* the software that does the testing, as opposed to automated testing which uses out of the box products with the ability
to tweak pieces of code here and there.

The reason I make this distinction is because of the salary differences between the two types of professionals. It's really going to make a difference when you get down to asking people about finding resources for the compensation surveys.

Hiring managers often get frustrated when a recruiter asks them for more details for the job description. But let's think of it this way. Let's say that the company in question uses the generic job description that was sent to our list:

"Develops, publishes, and implements test plans. Writes and maintains test automation. Develops quality assurance standards. Defines and tracks quality
assurance metrics such as defect densities and open defect counts. Requires a bachelor's degree and 2-4 years of experience coding in C, C++, Java. Must have
a working knowledge of quality assurance methodologies. Familiar with NT, UNIX and/or Solaris environments. Relies on experience and judgment to plan and accomplish goals. Performs a variety of tasks. Works under general supervision; typically reports to a manager. A certain degree of creativity and latitude is required. Typically reports to a supervisor or manager."

To me this job description means they are looking for someone who can actually *code* in the languages specified. In terms of money, this is going to add at least $5-$10K to your compensation structure. I actually got a reply offlist from the person who asked the information in the first place, and she told me their "range", which was a single amount for the base salary. Again, this is not a "range". I asked if this was their midpoint, high or low? (It turned out to be a "bang your head against the wall situation; either she didn't know the answer or didn't particularly care). Turns out they are looking for an automated tester, which is the cheaper option of the two. In which case their base "range" should be fine.

In recruiting we almost always have a range, a set of numbers that we can be flexible with in discussing compensation. If you don't know the full story, you cannot expect to get an accurate answer to a question you throw out to the internet.

Which goes to my point about communicating and sharing information with *detail*. There are some people that can spin their wheels trying to impart information to another person; I've met plenty of people that just don't know how to *listen*. They hear you just fine, but they don't know how to pull apart the answer well enough to ask the right questions. Or, conversely, they lack the experience to analyze that information enough to *know* there is a lack. These are the folks that just don't "get it". We've all met them.

It's all in the details and the subtleties that things really happen. You can get the "big picture" but if you don't understand the details you cannot do the job *right*.

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