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An alternative approach to technical assessments

22 Nov 2022 by Teemu Tiilikainen

Here’s a scenario of how you might carry out technical assessments in your organization: Candidates spend X hours to complete an extensive code test to prove their software development skills. Your team spends approximately one hour to prepare the test for each case, two to three hours for evaluating them and 1,5 hours for feedback session to review the results.

Since software development is so much more than just programming – it is team work, communication, expectation management, project management, R&D and more – do heavy technical assessments like described above really do the trick? After all, the goal is to understand how the candidate approaches technical problem solving and if their way of working would fit the future team. Wouldn’t it be more fruitful for everyone involved to invite top candidates for a coding session to see how they work together with some of your key team members? In this article I’ll present an alternative way to carry out technical assessments.

Technical assessments matter, but so does how they are carried out

Let’s face it: People are quite allergic to spend hours, much less days, for homework – especially if the potential employer is not the most wanted one like Amazon or Google. So, instead of a heavy code assignment, you might want to try the following: Split a two-hour technical interview into three parts, and you will get a pretty good idea whether the candidate’s skills are at the required level or not.

  • Interview – go through the projects the candidate has participated and roles within teams they have had verbally
  • Code review – check candidate’s ability to design modular libraries, how they review existing code and give feedback
  • Code test – check their ability for logical thinking and review their way of using tools

To put this into a more vernacular form, let’s use familiar examples from construction business.

Interview

If your team or client is looking for people who could participate in designing and building shopping centers (maybe banking backend systems in software development), then perhaps it’s not great if the candidate only has experience from building single-family houses and when building those they have had ready made frameworks for them (e.g. setting up Shopify webshops).

Code Review

They are shown this old single-family house and they should be able to point out the details in that particular building that would not be adequate, do not follow the current standards and maybe give out their plan how they would upgrade the house to match modern standards.

Code Test

Imagine giving the candidate a 2by4 plank and asking them to build a small frame out of it. You want to pay attention to the tools they choose for the task (are they using a hammer when skilsaw would be the best option) and if they are using the tools the right way (e.g. are they trying to hammer nails with screwdriver).

 

Like said, software development is so much more than just programming.  Some parts of that will always be left without proper assessment whether you have an extensive technical assessment or not. That’s why there’s the probation period. Within the six months you should either be able to teach the missing skills or cut the losses. The next time you assess technical skills, focus on how the candidates solve technical problems and how they work with your key team members. If you like what you see, you know what to do.

 


Talented has been disrupting IT recruitment since 2016. We help senior software professionals to find their dream jobs, guided by one’s personal career ambitions and preferences. Talent’s needs first, the rest second. We also help companies to attract, recruit and retain the best software professionals through Talent Acquisition, Employer Branding and building winning Employee Experiences.

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