Thursday, October 7, 2010

Should you hire from your customers?

In the last two posts I discussed how you should look at your customers to help determine the necessary technical qualifications of your testers, as well as what level of industry experience would be useful. This raised the question of whether you should ever hire from your customers. My answer would be yes - but only with the consent of their management.

Full disclosure: Probably half my group, including myself and my boss, at one time worked for electronics or semiconductor companies, using or supporting internally the kinds of tools that we now develop and test. Certain tools in this industry are very technical, with very specific usage, and industry experience is very useful in developing, testing, and supporting them. For this reason cross migration between vendor and customer is a common occurrence. We have had particular success in recent years hiring field application engineers from our customers ranks.

But be warned! You do not want to get into the situation where your customer thinks that you are recruiting from his fold. You risk losing that customer, potential legal action, or worse - a negative reputation. So if you are considering a candidate who is actively employed by one of your customers, your best approach is to clear it with her management first (with the candidate's consent, of course). Companies can be surprisingly open to this for a couple of reasons:
  • They expect turnover.
  • They may recognize that this employee has career aspirations they cannot satisfy.
  • And they may expect significantly improved support if they have a man on the inside. (and they'd be right!)

So, you have successfully vetted the technical qualifications of your candidate. Great! But don't forget that you are hiring for a QE role. Do they have the right temperament for test? Do they have any background in it? If your candidate shows real potential otherwise than go ahead and hire them, but provide them with formal training in software test once they start.