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Every company reaches a point where quality becomes a focal point — and for some organizations, that means it’s time to make their first dedicated QA hire. But when budgets are tight and every hire counts, finding someone who can level up your testing strategy and accelerate your quality goals is key. With so much potential for impact, who should your first QA hire be?

There is a wide range of ways to approach building an internal QA function — from bringing in a team of testers to execute manual tests, to hiring an automation expert who can write and manage a suite of scripts — and there isn’t a one-size-fits all approach. Here are a few key questions to answer as your team determines what they need in QA (or QE) #1, and examples of how growing teams have approached making the QA hiring decision for themselves.

What’s the current state of your QA process?

Quality doesn’t start when you make your first QA hire — chances are, your product and dev teams have been doing some type of testing already. Your first QA hire should be someone who can help evaluate what’s currently in place and help you take it to the next level.

It’s important to rightsize your approach to QA to fit your needs. For instance, if you have had an entirely ad hoc testing process up until now, you might not be ready to jump headfirst into testing automation immediately.

MassageBook recruited their first QA from within, transitioning a customer success manager to QA manager. A key pain point in the company’s early days was identifying critical test cases and achieving the right test coverage before each release.

By choosing a QA hire who was already well-acquainted with their product and its customers, MassageBook was able to take the next logical step in improving quality — expanding test coverage and more closely aligning their QA strategy with customer needs.

Where does your team feel the most pressure?

In helping a wide range of teams reinvent their approach to QA, we’ve found that most teams don’t look for a QA solution — whether that’s hiring someone, adopting a new tool, or changing up their process — until they’re really feeling some pain. Testing might be cutting into development time, or customers might be complaining about bugs. Identifying where your biggest quality pain points are can help you determine where your QA hire can have an immediate impact.

For Jitjatjo’s lean, distributed development team, executing tests quickly became a major bottleneck. Staying small and moving faster were priorities, so keeping their core team of devs focused on developing features, not testing them, was critical. Jitjatjo hired a QA engineer as their first quality hire to offload test writing and organization.

By hiring a QA engineer who could work closely with the devs and product team to design and execute tests, Jitjatjo was able to quickly recover engineering hours that had been lost to testing.

What are your business, product and quality goals?

The person you hire for QA won’t just impact test execution — their work will influence product quality, customer satisfaction, user adoption and more. Asking how your first QA hire will impact top-line goals to ensure that any improvements you make to your QA process can be mapped to how they impact overall business success.

For example, teams often fall into the trap of thinking of QA in a silo — e.g. “automation is our endgame for QA, so let’s hire someone for automation ASAP.” This approach ignores the broader context of quality goals, rather than just QA process goals.

Bluecore started off with an entirely developer-driven QA process, had a solid practice of unit testing. But as their team and user base grew, they turned their focus to UI testing. To cope with this new shift in testing focus, Bluecore brought in a senior software engineer to develop test templates and standardize the QA process to make it more effective and trackable.

Because one of Bluecore’s QA goals is to automate as much of the testing process as possible, bringing in a highly technical QA owner allowed them to keep their testing strategy focused on this long-term goal.

Developing a Successful QA Team

The role that QAs and QEs play in organizations is swiftly changing, and the skills that a quality teams need to make an impact on their organizations have shifted. Learn what key skill sets your QA team must foster in our new guide, Level Up Your QA Career.

Head of Content for the Marketing team @ Rainforest. Loves to find and share great QA and dev team stories!