When You Can’t Find It, Build It



A unique partnership between Morningstar and SPR Consulting brings eager candidates together with job-targeted training to create new, well-qualified employees.

Mark Twain once said, “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” The same could be said of the talent shortage. But recently, we had an opportunity to do something about it.

It started with a conversation over lunch. The Director of Quality Assurance at Morningstar told me that her boss wanted her to come up with a new solution to their talent shortage problem. The independent investment research firm had as many as ten SDET (Software Development Engineer in Test) seats to fill in their test automation department.

As Director of Testing Services at SPR Consulting, I had heard this problem before. In fact, so often that I was already thinking outside the box for a solution. Then it hit me. If we can’t find them, why don’t we create them?

I outlined a program in which candidates would be sourced, interviewed, and put through a 10-day automation testing boot camp by SPR to uncover those who were the right fit and then train them. After a six-month contract-for-hire period, Morningstar could decide whether to hire each candidate as fulltime. My client loved the idea – and so did her boss.

Test automation is a specialized field that requires a certain kind of person – someone with an affinity for details, a dedicated work ethic, and a no-quit attitude. In order to identify the right people, we spoke with Morningstar business owners, technical leaders, process managers, and the HR department to determine exactly what to look for in the screening process.


We looked for local candidates who showed aptitude for test automation scripting. Any candidate with the right skills, potential, and attitude for the program, who was willing to start in an entry-level position, was considered. This included manual testers or technical individuals with college degrees in computer science or mathematics from SPR Consulting’s local skills retooling partner organization, Skills for Chicagoland’s Future. Skills for Chicagoland’s Future is a public-private partnership that works to match businesses with unmet hiring needs with qualified, unemployed, or underemployed job seekers.

The six-phase program came together quickly, over a period of two months. We took the lead, conferring with Morningstar before each new step. From an initial pool of close to 100 candidates, our joint team carefully whittled down the candidate pool – through a series of interviews and a workshop – to only the best and most technically qualified candidates whose attitude would fit well with Morningstar.Candidates who met or exceeded Morningstar’s expectations were then invited to the Automation Boot Camp.

Automation Boot Camp was where the candidates’ true work began. Nine candidates were trained in automation concepts, framework, and techniques in a fast-paced environment that included practical application and interaction with the instructor and other candidates. When the intensive boot camp was complete, SPR Consulting and Morningstar assessed and discussed each candidate’s merits and potential.

The final phase was a six-month work-for-hire period. We hired seven candidates from the final boot camp as entry-level automation engineers to work under the direct guidance of Morningstar senior automation engineers. During the contract-for-hire period, SPR and Morningstar monitored the work performance of each contractor.

At the end of six months, Morningstar reviewed the performance of each contractor, performed hiring interviews, and made full-time job offers. Based on their budget, Morningstar hired six candidates as fulltime employees, and SPR hired a seventh. By all measures, it was a very successful program for addressing the talent shortage.

My client says, “I think one of the key success factors was the Automation Boot Camp. We could recruit and train people in a customized, tailored program, based on our test automation framework, business, methodology, and culture.” The result was a group of primed candidates with the knowledge to be productive from Day One.

Honestly, I think it was a win-win-win program all the way around. Morningstar won because they got the new hires they were looking for. We won because we helped a client meet their goal. The candidates won because all of those who engaged with us got some exposure to a field that they might consider in the future; those who participated in the workshop and boot camp actually received some free training as well; and seven of them got great jobs.  Two of the new hires came from our partner, Skills for Chicagoland’s Future!

Mark Twain also said, “Necessity is the mother of taking chances.” We took a chance on a new hiring process, and it seems to be paying off for everyone involved.






Nancy Kastl is the Testing Services Practice Director for SPR Consulting.

The GradsofLifeVoice Forbes team provides thought leadership, research and expert commentary on innovative talent pipelines and related issues such as the skills gap, income inequality, workforce diversity, and the business case for employment pathways. We seek to change employers’ perceptions of young adults with atypical resumes from social liabilities to economic assets. This post was originally featured here.


Hiring & Retention Practices, Partnerships, Workforce Development,
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