How To Use Coding Skills Tests For Technical Screening?

What are coding tests and how do they help recruiters - WeCP (We Create Problems) Blog

Finding tech talent for your company’s needs can be a hassle, and studies reveal that as much as 86% of recruiters face trouble hiring well-qualified employees. That’s a lot! This is where coding tests offer some real promise – they can help you sift through the noise and filter out some quality talent.

Coding tests are used by many major corporations and were originally pioneered by Microsoft. They are must-have tools for companies to determine the caliber of incoming candidates, especially for technical positions. Of course, it is not an all-in-one deciding factor for whether to hire an employee or not. However, they offer the potential to assess candidates with an objective framework and better understand who may be a good fit for the job.

What are coding tests? 

Coding tests are typically programming challenges that help technical recruiters test programming skills and competencies of a developer or programmer. A good coding test will measure a candidate’s capacity for problem-solving skills and understanding of coding.

How does it manage that? Well, one way is by asking candidates to write and analyze code or fix software errors.

What are the different types of coding tests?

Companies generally choose to conduct their coding tests in two ways; the first is to conduct them during the interview, while the second is to conduct an online test before the interview.

Online coding tests for interviews are especially useful as they:

  • Screen out unqualified candidates from a large pool and speed up the interview process
  • Have softer time constraints; in-person interviews can only conduct so many tests in a given time frame
  • Eliminate the need for in-person space and resources, thus making the recruitment process technically easier and less costly

The framework of a coding test generally varies as per the position’s specific requirements. Tech companies often use standardized coding tests in their recruitment process. However, some companies prefer to design custom tests instead. A custom test offers the benefit of uniquely assessing specific key skills contrary to a blanket standardized test.

Coding skill tests

When assessing candidates, a recruiter aims to determine how well the candidate is expected to perform in the role and their long-term potential. A coding skill test can help determine whether or not the applicant meets these criteria.

Depending on what the role’s requirements are, a coding skill test can focus on evaluating key traits, such as:

  • Logical reasoning: A coding skill test designed with algorithmic or analytical coding problems assesses the candidate’s thinking and reasoning abilities, which are the key performance indicators.
  • Language-specific proficiency: Having algorithmic knowledge is not enough to write quality code. Understanding the desired programming language, including its syntax and framework, is crucial. Language-specific problems or project-based tasks are therefore necessary to assess candidates properly.
  • Workplace potential: Understanding how algorithms work or knowing programming languages does not indicate how a candidate will perform in the workplace. Thus, coding skill tests that test a candidate’s real-world problem-solving ability are necessary. Applicants can be tasked with solving a real problem or improving on an existing code, or fixing its errors to get a clear understanding of their competency.

Thus, a coding skill test can help recruiters find candidates that excel at problem-solving, have appreciable experience and offer the potential to add value to your company.

Coding skill tests can be graded automatically or manually, although the former is far more convenient. After the test is conducted, a metric is used to grade it against. Many companies like have specially designed coding skill tests with dedicated grading processes, which help assess a candidate’s competency.

3 ways how do coding tests help recruiters

Coding tests are a proven method for effectively evaluating developers. They help in streamlining the recruiting process and help companies gauge the aptitude of their applicants.

1. Screening Technical Candidates

The core reason behind why companies use coding tests lies in how they offer an objective criterion for assessing a candidate’s technical skills. The tests can function as first-round filters. They can help employers gain an understanding of the candidates’ skills and screen out unqualified ones immediately. While they are not the verdict on hiring, they are an effective medium for filtering out unfit candidates.

Coding tests help speed up the recruitment process dramatically and reduce the interview rate by 50%.

However, it is important to note that any coding skill test used by a company should assess the actual programming abilities of the candidates, not just the algorithmic skills.

A coding test that evaluates candidates based on just algorithmic skills does not adequately gauge the participant’s programming abilities. Instead, the test acts as more of a memory test – judging the candidate’s ability to recall textbook knowledge.  This is why coding skill tests should instead focus on real problems that the candidate is expected to tackle in the workplace.

2. Finding the right fit

Beyond the evaluated skillset, a vital characteristic that programmers should possess is the ability (and willingness) to learn. Whether or not a candidate possesses this quality can also be evaluated in the subsequent interview. However, coding tests provide an all-inclusive picture of a candidate’s abilities to perform in a job and help recruiters make more informed decisions.

3. Fair Evaluation

During the recruitment process, it is vital to offer candidates a coding exam that is fair in its evaluation. It’s important for the examinee to feel the test is fair. Otherwise, they may become frustrated, and you may lose a potentially ideal candidate. Moreover, a fair evaluation is also beneficial for the company, as it helps find the right match. There are several steps one can take to make a coding test fair.

First, take a moment to identify what your expectations are, and more specifically, what skills should the coding test assess? The answer to this question largely depends on the role itself – what skills are necessary to excel in it? If the coding test is not designed accordingly, it is ineffective and also unfair to the applicants.

A fair test will also be nuanced and take into account real, practical coding challenges. It should consider what the candidates will be dealing with in their job instead of assessing them on purely conceptual algorithms and data structures.

A test that evaluates its candidates on skill and competency is naturally fair, as it eliminates bias influences that may otherwise creep into the recruitment process. Click To Tweet

Having all your candidates give identical tests performed before the interviews have proven to diminish the effects of a recruiter’s unconscious bias.

4. Making candidates comfortable

A common complaint about coding skill tests that programmers have is that the exams take candidates outside of their comfort zone and hinders their performance. Recruiters can combat this problem by providing candidates with a reasonable timeline to perform the exam and conducting it in a welcoming environment.

Senior developers, especially, find it frustrating if the coding test doesn’t replicate a natural coding environment. A real-life coding environment will not restrict developers from accessing external resources. Thus, providing candidates with access to resources such as Google and StackOverflow creates a more productive environment. Moreover, the test itself should reflect coding tasks that would be performed in the workplace.

What should your coding test look like?

There are many ways to design a coding test that captures the nuance of programming:

  1. Tests designed around language-specific frameworks are suitable for determining a candidate’s basic skill set
  2. Standardized tests can have a detrimental effect on the hiring process as it can be tedious and even frustrating for the candidates to perform
  3. Well-crafted tests should engage candidates and be tailored to the position’s requirements

1. Adequately timed and manageable

Many applicants find coding tests to be too time-consuming or too time-constrained. Long coding exams leave candidates frustrated and may hinder their performance.

Ideally, companies should provide candidates with challenges that can be solved within 20-30 minutes and give them a total time of 1 hour to complete the challenge.

Alternatively, some interviewers require candidates to perform live coding also referred to as pair programming interview. Live coding, as the name suggests, involves a software challenge that the candidate must perform in real-time. It is generally tougher than an online coding test but maintains the candidate’s alternateness and keeps them engaged. 

A pair programming interview is further beneficial as it helps the employer evaluate the candidate’s communication skills, behavior, and approach to problem-solving.

2. Right scoring

Automated coding tests are especially handy as they absolve recruiters of any need to manually check the tests and help speed up the recruiting process. By calculating scores quicker, automated systems can speedily sift through applicants and select those who obtained high grades.

However, some candidates complain about “unfair” rejections made by automated score checkers. They argue that there is no single right answer to a programming challenge. To combat this problem, it’s important for recruiters to look for an online coding test platform that is reputable and approved by other developers. It is also critical to find a technical assessment platform that supplies feedback tools to ensure a fair assessment.

Conclusion

Just last year, the percentage of candidates taking coding tests reached a record high of 69%. This makes one point very clear – tech companies are looking at coding tests as an effective way of evaluating potential employees. Using coding tests allows companies to distinguish the unqualified from the qualified and helps streamline the recruitment process so that it is more efficient and practical.

Ultimately, the goal of any ambitious recruiting team is to add value to its business. This can be achieved by hiring the right candidates for each role and cultivating a productive, progressive work environment. Coding tests are a useful tool for determining which candidates are the best fit for your company.

Have any more questions about coding tests and how they work?

Get in touch with WeCP (We Create Problems) – The #1 technical coding test platform.

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