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Coding Challenges have a place, but where?

Technical & Coding Challenges have a place, but where?

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Article posted by Ashley Davis

Following on from our previous blog, To Challenge or Not To Challenge? That is the question, we wanted to explore in more detail when technical or coding tests are relevant.

After polling our wonderful Cloud community, we discovered that the majority of candidates were willing to complete a test for the right role (43%). We also found the primary reason for not completing a technical or coding challenge was when tests were not relevant to the position.

This all implies that challenges have a place in the recruitment process, but it is essential to know for what role and what level they are useful. We discussed this with two senior Hiring Managers in the Cloud space, and we’re excited to share our learnings with you.

When is it important to use a technical test?

The most important level to be using technical tests or coding challenges are the Junior-Mid and Mid-levels. At both these levels, you are expected to be coding day in day out, so a challenge is essential to assess their level and ensure they hit the ground running. It was also highlighted that the best form of test is to use broken code and ask the candidate to fix it. This keeps the test relevant to their day to day tasks and highlights the all-important problem-solving skill.

When implementing tests as a Hiring Manager, there are some considerations to make. As I’ve already mentioned, the tests need to be relevant. It sounds simple, but we have had experiences of Engineers and Developers applying for a role with a specific tech stack and then given a test on something different. This just simply wastes everyone’s time and harms the hiring company’s employer brand.

The number of tests in an interview process is another critical consideration. One test is sufficient, but we have seen processes with two or even three tests!

When should a technical test be avoided?

After speaking to Hiring Managers, they all agreed the most common mistake is testing at Graduate and Junior levels. At Graduate level, the conversation needs to be framed around mid to long term career plans and understanding a graduate’s experiences and motivations for starting a career in development. Tests at this stage are worthless.

More commonly, however is testing at Junior level (12 months experience). There is a temptation that even with minimal experience, a technical test can help identify better candidates, but this is a mistake. One Hiring Manager suggested that if a test were needed, then a numeracy test would be a good alternative while ensuring the test was broken down into smaller problems, therefore not overwhelming junior candidates.

At a Senior level, technical tests can put off the top talent, and this was echoed in my poll with many Senior professionals stating challenges put them off. The focus of the interview needs to be around their variety of technical skills plus any sprint management or managerial skills relevant to the role, which just can’t be tested easily.