The Psychology of the Software Tester

Most software engineers that I’ve talked to over the years believe that the mind-set and personality of a good software tester are different from those of a good software developer. This idea is somewhat important. Finding good software testers at a company like Microsoft is very difficult — on any given day, Microsoft has well over 500 open job positions for software testing — and understanding what make a good software tester can help find and develop SQA engineers. Well to cut to the chase, I performed a lightweight, preliminary study which compared the personality traits of several hundred software developers, software testers, and non-software engineers. Because my study was just a first investigation I cannot state with certainty any strong conclusions, but I did find strong indications that there are in fact significant differences in personality traits between good developers and good testers. For example, testers tend to be more experimental and more methodical than developers. Anyway, I’ve written up a paper on my study and will be presenting my results next month (June 18-21) at the Better Software Conference and Expo in Las Vegas. See for details. Looking at the bigger picture, it’s well known that the number of computer science graduates at U.S. universities continues to decline. It is not an exaggeration to state that nothing short of U.S. technological supremacy is at risk. See for example an article that describes how universities are seeking computer science students at And see also an article about how difficult it is for companies like Microsoft and Google to find software engineers at My parent company, Volt Information Sciences, places thousands of contract and full-time software engineers at Microsoft and other companies, and Volt definitely feels this pain. Understanding the psychology of good software testers may help recruiting.
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3 Responses to The Psychology of the Software Tester

  1. Unknown says:

    Recruiting a good software testers is very very challenging across the

  2. T says:

    So who paid you off to write that?  There is no shortage of testers or engineers, but there is a shortage of recruiters who do not know what testing is or how to find potential clients interveiws.  There is also a surplus of politically motivated "people" who refuse to acknowledge the American workforce.  Not to mention the fact that many companies kick their contractors out after one or two years without so much as a thank-you.  If they were really shorthanded they would keep them. 

  3. James says:

    Well I agree and disagree. I believe that recruiting good software testers is very difficult — I talk to Volt and Microsoft recruiters every day and they are struggling. But what does "good" mean? I think it means a good fit for the company which is looking for testers. Microsoft in particular wants software testers with dev-level coding ability to write test automation (of course that\’s a generalization). I agree that many recruiters have difficulty understanding software testing — and that means there\’ll be inefficieny in the recruiting process. Now as for the American workforce comment, I guess you mean vs. outsourcing to countries like India and China. That\’s another huge issue that I have strong opinmions about — for another entry someday. Now, do companies kick contractors out? Sure they do. Is that harsh? Sure. Is it moral? Well, depends. Every company is in a struggle for survival and contract employees are disposable by design, and are used to dampen business cycles. That\’s just the way it is for good and bad. When I was contracting, my strategy was to learn a new technology every six months. This worked well for me at least, meaning I always had both contract and full-time offers. 

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