Should You Give Programming Tests for Interviews When Hiring a Developer?

The rapid growth of the tech industry has made recruiting and hiring software developers increasingly difficult. For every one developer who’s available to work, there are five open positions. There are also dozens of unique programming languages and tech specialties to consider. Evaluating a software developer’s skill set and talents can be a real challenge. The popularity of agile development has made the practice far more collaborative than it was in the past. Collaborativity has benefits, but is also makes it a bit less likely that a developer can take true ownership of a project. So projects listed on developer resumes may not be accurately representative of their talents. Plus, the fast-evolving nature of this field means that work samples are of limited use. Standards change dramatically and quickly. This represents an added layer of complexity for talent acquisition.

Your lead developers could address these issues by creating programming tests for interviews. However, you may still wonder: Are these coding tests really an effective approach to finding the right developer for your needs?

Is it Effective to Use Programming Tests for Interviews of Potential Hires?

Programming tests can offer some useful insight, but this is only the case when tests are realistic, practical and relevant.

This is a very common problem for our clients, explained iTech CEO Kishore Khandavalli. He added, Hiring managers frequently make the mistake of administering tests that are theoretical and ‘bookish’ in nature. That’s the wrong approach and it’s frustrating for the talent too. In my experience, the level talent do not want to take a written test, they want to have a dialogue or show you what they are capable of.

The very nature of these theoretical programming tests is just that theoretical. As such, they lack a firm rooting in the actual day-to-day work the individual would perform.

Many companies are now using a more informal, spontaneous and very effective approach to developer testing: you simply ask the candidate to sit down at a computer and observe as they start coding. Remember, you must ensure the programming test is relevant to the type of work that they’ll be asked to perform in the event that the individual is hired.

What Can You Learn From Administering a Coding Test During the Hiring Process?

A hiring manager can gain insight into a number of different areas when a sit down and code approach is utilized. This includes the opportunity to:

  • Assess the candidate’s speed (or lack thereof);
  • View the candidate’s coding process;
  • Evaluate the quality of the code; and
  • Determine the strategy that underlies the coding.

Timeframe matters when administering programming tests in interviews. In cases where an in-office interview is not possible (or desirable), you can use a screen-sharing app to view the candidate’s coding work in real time. It’s also possible for the candidate to record their actions using a screen recording tool like Screencast-O-Matic. In addition to offering insight into the amount of time it took the candidate to write the code, you’ll also have an opportunity to view their process.

The question of when to administer the programming test is also relevant. There are no hard and fast rules concerning precisely when you ought to ask a candidate to demonstrate their skills. For a typical programmer, testing during the interview process tends to make sense. But in cases where you’re seeking unique or highly sophisticated coding abilities, it may be most effective to administer a test as part of the pre-interview process. This allows you to screen out any individuals who lack the skills required to get the job done, resulting in a faster, more efficient recruiting process.

Notably, you’ll need to involve a development team leader in this process. That’s because a fair amount of technical expertise is required in order to effectively evaluate a person’s technical capabilities and talents. Of course, programming skills are just part of the staffing equation. It’s also vital that you’re hiring talent for the right soft skills and cultural fit.

The hiring experts at iTech are available to assist in all of these efforts, whether you’re seeking to hire a team of developers to close a staffing gap or need a few IT professionals to join your team for an urgent project. With offices in Dallas, TX, Edison, NJ and Burlington, VT, among other locations, we specialize in providing temporary onsite developer and IT staffing for large companies throughout the U.S. We invite you to contact iTech today to learn more about how we can guide you through the IT staffing process.

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