Most job listings for quality assurance professionals give a list of technical qualifications and suitable experience. The job description usually includes a preferred degree, familiarity with specific environments and databases, years of relevant work experience, test scripting skills, an understanding of the quality assurance process, and so on. Soft skills are rarely mentioned, and if at all they are, then they are mentioned under the ‘additional skills’ category. Occasionally job listings mention ‘communications skills,’ but it's in the context of being able to talk to developers in a language that they'd understand or to put together a well-written test plan.
While technical proficiency and the ability to communicate effectively with engineers are essential, the importance of soft skills cannot be understated. These skills are often ignored by both hiring managers and QA testing professionals. However, little do they know that these skills have the power to make a QA team stand out.
What Soft Skills Should Quality Assurance & Software Testing Professionals Possess to Stand Out?
1. Do You Know How to Ask the Right Questions?
No two projects in the world of quality assurance and software testing are the same, so even though you've done it before, it helps to start with questions. The ability to ask the right questions, and dig deeper for specifics, are the communication skills essential for QA professionals. They become even more important as you advance through the process of quality management and your decisions start having a direct impact on the application's quality.
Some important questions that affect the quality assurance process include:
- Who is the end-user?
- How is this application going to be used?
- What are the most common browser/hardware/OS configurations?
- Is there a peak usage time?
If you don’t start with these basic inquiries, your efforts through the quality assurance process might bring more risk into an application. For example, if you find out that the system being tested is used for holiday shopping traffic, then it 'll make more sense to focus on stress and performance testing.
But if your application manages sensitive data, then security testing should be a part of your plan.
2. Do You Understand the Business Requirements?
As a software quality assurance professional, it is important to clearly understand the desired business outcome and to channelize all QA efforts in that direction.
Now, when it comes to business meetings and reviews, understand that stakeholders don’t want to know how many bugs you’ve found, or the percentage of requirements covered.
QA managers need to be able to convert the findings of the quality assurance process into information that’s relevant to the business outcome. So, skip the presentation with defect conversion charts; instead, show them one that indicates delivery timelines and business risks. This will help you put across your point in a language that business owners understand. Additionally, they will also appreciate your team’s effort and achievements.
3. Are you In-sync with the Developers?
A lot has been said about the need for team collaboration and ways of achieving it- face-to-face meetings, daily standup gatherings, and using video conferencing and instant messaging to connect remote teams. In spite of these efforts, a communication gap exists between different functions.
There are often unspoken boundaries and invisible walls between different quality assurance and software testing professionals and developers. This happens even with DevOps and Agile, where developers, testers and system administrators, are working together. The only way to overcome this is to encourage communication.
Your team’s interpersonal skills are essential for success. A casual conversation with a developer in the cafeteria about what he thought when he wrote a critical piece of code can help you get a broader perspective into the application that would ideally have taken hours of meetings and a ton of documentation. Although this seems trivial, a person who is approachable and gets along with others, is more valuable than a well-established communication process.
4. Are You Good at Time Management?
Lately, the entire focus is on time-to-market, so QA professionals often work under pressure while trying to meet deadlines. In the process, they might end up neglecting other tasks such as building test scenarios and updating regression tests.
However, planning well in advance and staying organized can save weeks of your time over the course of a software product testing project.
5. Are you Intuitive?
They say there’s no substitute for a tester's intuition and guess what- it's true. An intuitive feel for the cause of a problem comes quickly to an inquisitive mind, and to someone who has a yearning to get to the bottom of things. However, this might take some time and experience to come by. This trait adds more to the effectiveness of software product testing than the mere technicalities of the quality assurance procedure.
The days when quality assurance and software testing were considered less important than development are now behind us. The quality assurance process has now become a part of every step of the application lifecycle. These soft skills will help you become an active team player and work well within an organization. Maybe less tangible than a degree, but these skills are vital for both QA testers and managers.