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> - Interviewing manager, sitting next to CTO, says to you, "Convince my boss here that automated tests are worth the investment."

That's a legitimately good question, and you should feel bad for not knowing how to answer it.

However, the answer is very dependent upon the group that you are going to work with. Even though automated tests are worth the investment in nearly every situation, how you explain it will not be the same. You're going to need to see how people are doing their work now, how they mitigate risk, how successful they currently are at mitigating risk, what the cost of their efforts are, etc, etc. You're also going to need to see the people involved and chat with them about their attitude towards testing and try to understand what kind of challenges you will have to move in that direction. Because it is entirely possible that you will say, "OK, let's all write automated tests" and spend a huge amount of time and money only to find that 3 out of the 5 team members refuse to do it and sabotage your efforts.

My answer to that question would be, "I will be very happy to. My rates as a management consultant are $X per day." :-)

I think they may have been looking for the longer paragraph you wrote (I would be - to see how you would tackle the problem and get a conversation flowing), not for an actual answer you eventually gave. The wording of the request was unfortunate, IMHO - it did make it sound like "help me influence my boss" first and foremost.

Or, "That sounds like a fun challenge! Can I ask you a couple questions to better understand how this company is structured before answering?"

Just saying you don't have enough information to formulate a plausible response doesn't make a very good impression from my experience.

They're asking you to qualify yourself and so you need to know where you fit into the equation.

The problem is what the question implies, which is that in this workplace the interviewer has until now found it impossible to to convince his manager. This doesn't look good for the interviewer or his manager.

Note that he does not say that he was unable to answer the question. That is a conclusion you jumped to.

It could do, or it could imply that they want to hear how you would "sell" a given improvement to upper management (and whether you understand the benefits to the business). Whether or not its a warning sign depends on whether or not they currently do tests.

I think the implication is that the CTO currently doesn't think that automated tests are worthwhile, so there wouldn't be any in their codebase.

That's the implication, but the problem is how ambiguous the statement is, particularly in written text.

For all we know it could mean "hey, for an interview exercise, I'd like you to sell (this guy) on the importance of automated testing."

Suddenly it sounds like a pretty good interview question.

Is it you who is defining the legitimacy here ? Let's not ask questions that would lead to proving something like x^n + y^n = z, only when n = 2. In order to show this is true you have to show it is not true for all n up to infinity. Quite a rabbit-hole and difficult. Has been done, but is this truly worth it in an interview ?

You should feel bad for being one of those who would end up dragging interview process to hell.

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