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Chris Hunt
Chris Hunt

Posted on

Developer job application assessments are a two way thing

When looking for a new developer job, a fair amount of positions require some kind of assessment by the company in order that developers can justify their claimed skills.

In my opinion, these assessments reflect on the company too. As a developer, this is an early chance to see what a company values in their developers. Having been invited to complete a number of these tests, I've seen both ends of the spectrum which adjusted my views on the company I was applying to.

These assessments can be time consuming and both sides (applicant and company) should value the time put in. The applicant should be able to get a feel for the company in what they're being asked to do. It should also be challenging so that the applicant can feel some reward in completing the assessment.

Very recently, I was asked to complete a 50 minute multiple choice test. Questions were generally around syntax of code printed in a non-monospaced font without syntax highlighting. I lasted about five minutes and even less questions before I sent an email back to the company explaining that their job spec highlighted the need for imaginative and versatile developers but their test promoted some kind of robot-like code monkey and that I wanted to withdraw my application. This response may have appeared arrogant to the company in question however if taken in the spirit it was intended, may highlight the need for a review in their hiring process.

I believe that in attempting to assess the ability of an applicant, a company can and should also impress the "spirit" of the job in that process.

My preferred method is for a project kind of problem which allows the applicant to be imaginative and to show why they should be top candidate for a role. It also allows for discussion in any further interviews around thought processes and techniques. These can often be lengthy (3 or 4 hours) but a quality application can almost secure a the role even before further interviewing.

What do you think is the ideal way for a company to assess the standard of an applicant while promoting the position and the company?

Top comments (3)

dougmckechie profile image
Douglas McKechie

I agree with you, technical tests do reflect on the company asking for them to be completed; Last year I interviewed with a place that sounded very good but after being given an example of the type of websites they build and being asked to make changes it really put me off wanting to work for them due to the very strange way it was put together and usage of the technologies involved.

As a candidate I prefer if there are no technical tests, as you say they are very time consuming, especially if you have multiple job opportunities in progress. I also feel that being a senior dev who is pretty happy in my current role its up to companies to lure me away from the current place, and expecting me to run through a convoluted recruitment process with lots of interviews and technical tests is a big turn off. Easier to stay where I am.

The best places I have interviewed at did not require technical tests, but instead got me to show and discuss projects worked on in the past while asking me lots of questions about it, and to provide links to repositories on Github so they can have a look and see my coding style is OK. They would of course also ring and talk with the references I provided.

If I have to do a test, I prefer a small practical project I can work on at home and then submit to them. I often have so many questions when interviewing at places that a technical test during the interview does not work so well as the brain is not in the right mindset.

Lastly, that 50min multi-choice test you mention sounded crazy. Does not reflect well on the company at all.

chrishunt profile image
Chris Hunt

I absolutely agree - I'd prefer there to be no technical tests and a discussion around highlighted projects works a lot better and should give a company a far better view on the applicant's understanding. I should have discussed that in the article.

Generally, I have been amazed that the variety processes some companies have in place to recruit senior developers where they feel they can be confident of the successful applicant's ability at the end of it.

theminshew profile image
Michael Minshew

Totally agree with you, I used to do hiring for a non technical job and honestly it totally changed my mindset, Now when interviewing i find myself asking as many questions as the interviewer. That plus a little confidence in my abilities now that i'm not as young makes a huge difference in the whole process. I feel that the "asking me questions" part is almost a formality. If I like the company and the role than i'll learn whatever i need to learn. Most jobs i've had required me to learn something completely outside of my realm and experience anyway and i've done fine.

I'm more concerned about the company, my direct manager and the overall culture. are they honest as a company, is customer or clients more important than team all the time? is the manager a goofball or a good leader.