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Five qualities of a good software tester (hint: it's not tech skills)

It's tempting to think software testers just need technical chops. Of course they do, but that's not all. Columnist Jennifer Lent explains what else you might need.

Are you stubborn, creative, curious, diplomatic and willing to persevere? If so, you have the qualities of a good software tester.

The skills that the software test profession demands are well-documented and daunting: writing scripts for test automation, increasing the knowledge of the business software testers and keeping up with the ever-changing array of technologies that drive that business. And yet, the traits -- not just skills -- of an individual software tester may account for those who excel at the profession versus those who simply do a good enough job.

Here's a roundup of the crucial qualities of a good software tester, identified by experts in the field.

A creative mind

A creative mind enables software testers to think beyond and, therefore, test beyond only what's spelled out in the requirements.

"Test professionals need to think [far] beyond what is expected of the software and the users," according to ISTQB Exam Certification, a website that provides resources for testers preparing for the International Software Testing Qualifications Board exams.

A creative mind enables the tester to consider all of the ways the intended user might interact with the application under test. In other words: Creativity can be one of the qualities of a top software tester in not only use cases, but also in cases of possible misuse and abuse.

Intellectual curiosity

According to software tester Alejandro Maderna, intellectual curiosity has nothing to do with being an intellectual. It's an important trait for QA pros because it motivates the tester to "identify interesting questions about the software" under test, as he said in a blog post published by Kanoah, a software testing consultancy.

What's more, it's about asking questions and not having the answers.

"A tester should develop [intellectual curiosity] to see what everyone else hasn't seen, to think what no one else has thought of and to do what no one else has dared," Maderna said.

Companies hiring software testers also recognize the value of intellectual curiosity. Software testing job listings on the CareerBuilder LLC website listed "intellectual curiosity" as a desirable trait in job candidates, second only to "experience in test automation using multiple languages/frameworks."

Self-confidence

Intellectual curiosity goes hand in hand with self-confidence. How are you going to ask out there questions and make your case to teammates, business stakeholders and developers unless you are willing to speak up?

"Arguing cogently requires testers to have a high-degree of self-confidence and the ability to share their thinking," Maderna said.

Be stubborn and persevere

It's not often that calling someone "stubborn" is a compliment. But in a top tester, it's a good thing, according to a blog post published by ReQtest, a firm that sells software development tools.

"The stubborn tester is persistent and will not give up until the error is reproduced and reported so that it can then be rectified by the developers," the post said. "Sometimes, ad hoc tests can be really difficult, as it is often hard to reproduce the error that occurred if clear instructions were not provided or followed, but a persistent tester will not give up!"

Being stubborn helps a software tester persevere.

"Great testers never give up. They are patient enough to find as many bugs as they can," according to a blog post published on the ISTQB Exam Certification website. "They explore the software, constantly try to make new improvements and take all the testing challenges and complexities positively and patiently."

Diplomacy counts

Stubborn software pros aren't likely to get far unless they bring along some good diplomacy skills as well.

The challenge is "how to tell a client: 'Sorry, sir, that cannot be done that way,' while at the same time providing a suitable way that it can be done … all without annoying the client," wrote Paul Williamson, responding to an article published on the TechRepublic website.

"Dealing with developers … will require a shade of discreetness and diplomacy," advises a post on Guru99, a resource for software professionals. For a wannabe top tester, it's advice worth considering, don't you think?

Do you have anything to add my list? Let me know

Next Steps

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This was last published in September 2016

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What traits do you think make up a top tester?
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Nice explanation Jennifer.

I think here is the list of qualities also tester should have:
  • Analytical skills
  • Technical skills
  • Good verbal and written communication skill
  • GREAT attitude - test to break, detail orientation
  • Willingness to learn and suggest process improvements.
  • Passion for testing

Thanks,
-Kanif F
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