Amazon – The Unanswered Question

I’ve received several questions via email at regarding a comment made on the Author’s description of my newest book on

Specifically, what was the one question that a senior manager candidate answered wrong that caused us not to hire her.

Let me give you some context, and how my book would have helped her. We were interviewing for a senior QA manager position in our organization. The key job requirements were:

  • Experience in transitioning an organization to an automated computer software testing platform and process
  • Experience in managing a large organization and driving projects with a large number of resources under the direct supervision of this position

We had narrowed the list of applications down to 2 through both HR and hiring manager phone screens. We had both candidates come into the office for interviews with myself and 4 other senior staff. We expected to be able to select one of the final 2 candidates for this position.

Candidate #1 was a female engineer who had a wealth of experience in test automation. She had helped transition organizations from largely manual testing environments to automated environments, resulting in incredible efficiencies in terms of time needed to do both feature, integration, and regression testing.

Candidate #2 had many more years of general QA management experience, came from a very senior position at another organization, and had a lot of what I would call “management acumen”.

It was a very tough call between the 2 candidates. We ended up hiring #2 based on his experiences with leading large organization and having significant people and team management responsibilities.

However, he had less experience in transitioning and driving organizations to a solid automated testing platform, process, and approach than #1.

What could candidate #1 have done differently in the interview to have gotten the job offer?

It came down to one question: Describe your experiences in managing people and teams, and tell us how this experience would translate into leading and managing a team of 34 test engineers and team leads.

Candidate #1 answered as follows: I haven’t directly managed resources or team leads, or large organizations

How she should have answered: While I haven’t directly managed a team of test engineers, my experiences across multiple organizations and groups has been focused on matrixed management of teams, which in many ways I more difficult than if I had direct supervisory control over the resources. I believe my successes in managing these large extended teams in driving test automation would translate very well into an environment where I would have supervisory responsibilities. Furthermore, let me tell you how I indirectly supervised large teams to accomplish a successful test automation program…

Basically, she did not translate related experiences into answering this key question – a topic covered in my new interviewing better in 15 minutes book. If she had done that, and expanded on the desired response above, we likely would have been convinced to hire her based on her extensive test automation tool and process experience, even if she didn’t have prior experience directly managing a large organization.

It is traps like this that people fall into over and over again during interviews – and in many cases it can end up costing you that job you want.

I hope this provides some insight into the view from the other side of the table, and encourage you to pick up my new book on amazon for more behind the scenes insights that will help you succeed!


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