QA engineers hold some of the most in-demand roles in the tech industry. Companies of all sizes—from small startups all the way to big players like Amazon and Uber— need QA engineers. And the reason is simple: quality assurance people are the one piece of the product team involved in nearly every stage of the development process.
A good QA engineer assumes almost a supervisory role over the course of the product development lifecycle. They ensure that when push comes to shove, your company releases a product that’s on-par with your standards for excellence, while also meeting budgetary and time requirements.
That’s why it should come as no surprise that QA engineer salaries can climb well into the six-figures at top companies like Palantir, LinkedIn, and Facebook. As of publication, the national average for QA engineer salaries sits at $95,297 according to Paysa data.
And with compensation like that, competition for top QA engineer jobs can be tough. Top companies want to ensure they’re hiring the best talent, and so even the most experienced engineers can never be too prepared for their interviews.
This post contains 20 interview questions QA engineers may find at various stages of a company’s hiring process. Review them all, and you’ll be setting yourself up for a much more successful shot at landing a top job with one of the high QA engineer salaries candidates desire most.
Initial Phone Screen Questions
The start of an interview process can be exciting, but also somewhat confusing time for tech job candidates, too. Often, you may not have even been looking for a job—a recruiter may have contacted you directly. As a result, many candidates go into initial phone screens unprepared. Whether it’s by accident (meaning the candidate doesn’t know how or what to prepare) or intentional (the candidate doesn’t take the interview seriously), missing the mark on early-stage interviews can ultimately exclude you not only from this particular job but even future consideration by the company.
Here are some questions you can expect to encounter in the early stages of the interview process:
1. Why did you choose a career in quality assurance?
Quality assurance isn’t like being an astronaut or a fireman—there aren’t many young kids out there pining for QA engineer jobs. And yet, it’s a rapidly growing field in the tech world. People are vying for top jobs every day. So think about your own progression: how did you get into quality assurance? Perhaps even more importantly, at what point did you decide to make it the focus of your career path? What motivates you to continue working in QA versus moving into either a more technical role, like software development, or more design-focused role, like product management? Have your own story fleshed out in your head in time for your first phone interview. Keep it short and sweet, but be sure the recruiter or hiring manager walks away feeling confident you’re in it for the right reasons (a.k.a. Not just after those amazing QA engineer salaries).
2. Can you explain the difference between quality assurance, quality control, and testing?
Hopefully, if you’re interviewing for a QA engineer position, this question should be a walk in the park. Still, even veterans of the field may need to practice tightening up their definitions of QA versus QC or testing. If you need some help, here’s a brief rundown: QA focuses on the process by which a company creates a product, QC focuses on the product itself, and testing is the process for uncovering potential bugs in a product.
3. What testing tools have you used?
Technically, there’s no right or wrong answer here. Often, this question gets asked to ensure you’re familiar with the tools the company already uses. In that case, you either do, or you don’t (it goes without saying here—don’t ever lie about knowing a tool when you don’t). That said, it’s still a good idea to offer a “full suite” of different tools you know and use. For a hiring manager or savvy tech recruiter, the tools you use may reveal a bit about your experience level and comfortability at various stages of a QA lifecycle.
4. Are you familiar with designing test frameworks for UI testing?
Again, if you see questions like this in the early stages of the interview process, it’s likely to ensure your skills align with what the company wants out of a QA engineer. If your answer is “no” and they need someone who is familiar with UI testing, then there’s not much you can do. If, however, your answer is “yes,” don’t stop there: give a brief example of a time you’ve designed a test framework for UI testing. What was the result?
BONUS: More initial phone screen questions
Recruiters will undoubtedly want to understand better your motives for exploring new opportunities as well as your particular interest in their organization. To see some other more generic initial phone screen questions that QA engineers may encounter, check out our interview guides for software engineers and product managers.
Panel Interview Questions
For candidates that meet the qualifications for the role and come prepared to the initial phone screen, moving forward to a panel interview means an opportunity to share a little more about your direct experience and expertise in the field of quality assurance. Here are some of the questions you may encounter at this stage in the interview process:
5. What’s the most interesting bug that you’ve found recently? Why?
Here’s a good question to geek-out on a bit. If a fellow QA engineer wants you to describe an “interesting bug,” it’s because they want to better understand 1) what excites you about your work, and 2) how good you are at uncovering less-than-obvious flaws in software. Other (more generic) variations on this question may be something like “what’s an interesting project you’ve worked on recently?” or “can you describe a project that was particularly challenging?” All three questions all seek the same sort of information from you, so be sure to come prepared with a few examples of “exciting” work you’ve recently completed.
6. What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in testing? How did you overcome them?
This is another example of a question that reveals two things about you as a QA engineer. First, the question shows your interviewers what you consider to be a “challenge.” Aim for something that’s universal, but specific. In other words, don’t be nit-picky about one individual project that gave you a hard time. Instead, focus on something everyone in the room can relate to.
The second reveal is how you work through your problems to get your job done. With that in mind, make sure your example has a happy ending: don’t offer up a challenge that got the best of you. Bonus points if your solution demonstrates leadership skills (like improving communication between product managers and developers, for example).
7. What does your testing lifecycle look like at your current company?
With QA engineer salaries as high as they are, companies need to make sure the candidates they hire have the skills and experience to step in and excel at their company. With that in mind, it makes sense that interviewers might ask about your current process and lifecycle for testing. This is the kind of question where you only need to go into details if your interviewers probe with some follow-up questions. Otherwise, offer a high-level overview that clearly demonstrates you have what it takes, without wasting too much time on the details.
8. What’s your process for collaborating with developers?
Like project managers, QA engineers need to be the ultimate diplomats. Working with various teams who are all butting up against deadlines and budgets can create a tense environment—especially when tests start to uncover problems. That’s why most companies will want to hear about your approach to collaboration (especially with infamously-difficult development teams).
9. What types of QA documentation have you used in your career?
Documentation and reporting are essential parts of QA engineering. Common documentation types include:
- Test metrics
- Test plans and cases
- Task distribution
- User profiles
- Test logs
- Test incident and summary reports
Highlight the ones you’re most familiar with in your interview, but it’s a good idea to at least have a working knowledge of all of them in case your interviewer asks about one specifically.
10. In your opinion, what makes a good test case?
This could be one of the most important questions that comes up in a panel interview. Your interviewers need to understand how you approach testing from start to finish. Unlike question #7 where candidates can afford to give a high-level overview, this question demands specificity. Take your time outlining the specifics of a good test case and be sure to pause frequently for follow-up questions from your panel.
11. How do you decide you have tested enough?
This is a question about process and thoroughness, but it also tells interviewers how you prioritize your time and focus. At what point do you as a QA engineer turn your attention toward other projects in your queue?
Technical Interview Questions
Your technical interview may not include rigorous whiteboard coding like software developers experience, but it’s still a stressful and challenging step in the hiring process. Ultimately, technical interviews are a final demonstration of your knowledge and skill. Here are some of the questions you might encounter (you’ll need to focus on gathering the answers yourself):
12. What are the steps in the bug cycle?
13. What types of software testing are available?
14. What is agile testing, and why is it important?
15. What is the difference between validation and verification when testing software?
16. What is the difference between retesting and regression testing?
17. How do you decide which tests to automate? Which tests don’t you automate, and why?
18. Who is responsible for acceptance testing? When is it done?
19. What role does risk play in testing? How do you analyze and measure it?
20. How do you measure how effective (or not) your testing is? What metrics do you use?
The team here at Paysa wants to help you land your next QA engineer role and advance to the next steps in your career. For more information on QA engineer salaries, check out our salaries page. And for more QA engineering career advice, visit the Paysa blog where we have recent posts on the 5 best-paying companies for QA engineers and the path to becoming a QA engineer for the first time.