Watching Testers in Action


Why wait to see your candidate work? Implement an audition into the interviewing process and add dimension to your candidate's resume. In this column, Johanna Rothman discusses how you can increase the effectiveness of an interview by implementing a well-planned audition. Whether this audition takes place over the phone or in person, you'll gather a richer perspective of the candidate's capabilities and how easily the applicant can adapt to your working environment. Put your candidate's words to the test; the results of an audition may break the tie between two superb applicants.

If you've been interviewing for a limited number of open positions, you know how hard it is to decide between two great candidates. If you're already asking behavior-description questions about work and cultural fit, consider adding auditions to your interviewing toolbox.

Watch a Candidate in Action
Auditions help you see a candidate work—either literally or the output he or she is capable of producing.

Define Behaviors
Identify the skills you want candidates to display to ensure a successful hire. First, make sure you define the activities and deliverables for the job. If you've never written a job description before, here's a good way to start: write down the names of each person with whom the candidate will work. If you work in a larger organization, write down the group names, separating the people or groups by what the new hire will deliver.

Next, define what each person would expect of a candidate, specifically defining the deliverables for each case. Finally, define the behaviors or the vehicles that produce those deliverables from that role. Here is an example for a tester position:

Select Behaviors for Audition(s)
Sometimes I know what behavior I want to see in action, which makes defining the audition easy—I define the audition around that behavior. But, more often than not, I'll want to see more than one behavior. In this example, I'll develop auditions for two behaviors: review of test strategies and ability to develop little tests quickly. I want to verify a candidate understands a variety of testing techniques and can quickly develop a variety of small tests. Using these two distinct behaviors, I'll develop a mini-audition for the phone screen and a longer, 20-30 minute audition for the in-person interview.

About the author

Johanna Rothman's picture Johanna Rothman

Johanna Rothman, known as the “Pragmatic Manager,” helps organizational leaders see problems and risks in their product development. She helps them recognize potential “gotchas,” seize opportunities, and remove impediments. Johanna was the Agile 2009 conference chair. She is the technical editor for Agile Connection and the author of these books:

  • Manage Your Job Search
  • Hiring Geeks That Fit
  • Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects
  • The 2008 Jolt Productivity award-winning Manage It! Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management
  • Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management
  • Hiring the Best Knowledge Workers, Techies & Nerds: The Secrets and Science of Hiring Technical People

Johanna is working on a book about agile program management. She writes columns for and projectmanagementcom and blogs on her website,, as well on

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