Hiring software engineers is a difficult task. Whether it’s a lack of time to do technical assessments, difficulties in identifying suitable individuals in the first place, or unreliable recommendations, it’s difficult to come up with a strategy that works.
Most technical hiring processes start with a first-round technical assessment: code tests, online technical assessment, and live technical interviews.
How do you know which one is the best for your company? If you’re like most companies, it’s a guessing game. This article will provide an overview of what each type of assessment entails, help you decide which one to use, and walk you through how to execute them successfully.
How To Hire Software Engineers
There are different technical assessment methods to choose from. How do you know which one is the best for your company? If you’re like most companies, it’s a guessing game. This article will provide an overview of what each type of assessment entails, help you decide which one to use, and walk through how to execute them successfully:
1 Code Test Assessments
These are short code snippets or small programs that test specific knowledge areas such as data structures and algorithms, software design patterns, programming languages (such as C++), etc., depending on the job requirements.
The goal of this technical assessment method is not necessarily finding out whether candidates can write good code; rather it aims at testing their ability in solving problems they may encounter if hired by your organization.
Two disadvantages for code test assessments are:
- Code tests are not repeatable and must be done in an office setting. It may be done remotely, but there’s a chance they’ll cheat their way through it.
- Another example is that if a candidate’s solution utilizes the correct algorithm and data structures, but contains an insignificant error like a typo, it will fail many code tests.
When To Use Code Test
In high-volume hiring processes that emphasize junior developers, the use of code tests is beneficial. Code tests are frequently used in university recruiting efforts to find new graduates. To determine whether certain applicants should be advanced or rejected, some organizations employ a combination of a code test and a technical interview.
Code tests are not the best technical evaluation for specialist engineering roles and senior candidates. These individuals are less likely to take the code test since they perceive it to be associated with junior applicants and believe it will not fairly represent their abilities.
2 Take-Home Technical Assessments
These are longer coding tasks that candidates complete at home over a couple of days or weeks depending on complexity. Take-home technical assessments solve some real problems organizations face every day so it’s easier for recruiters to get familiar with the problem domain before assessing solutions presented by the candidates.
Technical take-homes can range from simple bug fixing/performance improvements to the development of complex systems involving multiple teams working together towards a common goal. Some companies even ask developers who apply for certain jobs whether they would like to participate in paid hackathons to further demonstrate their coding abilities.
Take-home tests are evaluated and graded by the company’s internal software engineering staff. To score the test and make a recommendation, some teams use an interview rubric that is aligned to industry standards. Others rely on their own expertise and intuition. The latter approach leads to noise and bias because it is random.
Three disadvantages for take-home assessments are:
- Take-home tests are simple to distribute and talk about, making them susceptible to fraud. Fraud causes more false positives and lowers onsite-to-offer ratios.
- Candidates complain that take-home tests are too time-consuming and that they are giving away their code. Many candidates fail to return take-home exams, which causes them to drop out of the hiring process.
- Manual scoring of take-home tests might significantly slow down the hiring process and prevent software engineers from performing their regular tasks.
When To Use Take-Home Assessments
The majority of technical candidates do poorly in a live interview. Take-home tests are an excellent method to identify candidates that perform well at coding but struggle during interviews. This is particularly important when seeking senior-level software engineers with significant expertise, such as full-stack architecture and VPs of engineering. They may also demonstrate what they can do without the constraint of time.
3 Live Technical Interviews
Technical interviews are the most human-centric technical assessments. Technical interviews should include questions and issues that are relevant to the position and are resolved with the assistance of a professional interviewer.
Live technical interviews are commonly done in person, but can also be performed via video conference or phone.
Three disadvantages for live technical interviews are:
- The candidate may not be able to solve the technical assessment.
- It is hard for developers who are in a different time zone or location than you to participate in live technical interviews.
- There’s no control over what they’re doing during their work session, which means it might take them longer and there’s always an element of “will they get distracted?”
When To Use Live Technical Interviews
Technical interviews will be required during the first-round technical assessment to improve candidate completion rate, eliminate false negatives and false positives, and save software engineering time throughout the process.
Live technical interviews aren’t recommended if you’re hiring remotely as their completion rate is low compared to other types of first-round assessments. They also take up more time than code tests since they require preparation beforehand and follow-up afterward. While some companies choose this approach because they feel it gives them a better idea of how your candidates work, others like Google have found that it doesn’t give you the big picture.
- Determine the job’s required skills and competence levels. Then develop your job description, interview questions, and interview rubric.
- The interview rubric should be shared with the technical recruiting team by engineering leaders. This will assist them in developing a sustainable talent pool by allowing them to find and develop good candidates.
- Using software engineering team members who are interested in interviews and have been trained to do so will improve the candidate experience and hiring success.
Hiring engineers might be time-consuming and difficult. Do your homework early; find the best candidate and devise a strategy for assessing them. Before extending an offer to someone new, you should always be confident in your decision.
Whichever assessments methods you decide to use, the most important thing is that you are consistent. Consistent application of a technical assessment can help with hiring success in software engineers.
And, remember, let candidates know what type of assessment they’ll need to complete, regardless of the approach you choose. Candidates should have adequate time to prepare for live interviews or real-time coding exams, in particular.