Essential technical assessment for software engineering recruitment.
Should challenges be timed or open-ended?
How should submitted code be assessed?
Code Challenges - Technical Assessment tools for Recruiting
Take home Code challenges, interview questions, tech screens, tech tests, technical assessments, love them or hate them they are an intrinsic part of any hiring flow for software engineers.
CVs and LinkedIn profiles only tell half the story.
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Take home code challenges can take a variety of forms, but essentially they are there to test the skills of a software engineer, they can take the form of interview questions or code problems that that test an engineer’s skills in
The best take home code challenges we have seen engage the developer by testing their all round skills rather than their command of some Syntax. The more ‘real world’ they are the better. They might talk to an API and retrieve some flight data (Skyscanner have an excellent challenge that makes you feel like it’s your first days on the job) or pull product from a list and ask the engineer to create a shopping basket (Just Giving GitHub code challenge)
We actually wrote a whole blog post about how to create a coding challenge.
What type of code challenge to use?
Open ended or Time constrained?
There is no right or wrong here and if you ask 100 programmers you will rarely get consensus. Should the challenge be time restricted (ie the engineer is given a fixed amount of time to complete the challenge e.g. 2 hours) or should they be given as long as they like?
If you ask candidates they would probably opt for the open ended approach. Our data certainly shows 60-70% will go for a challenge where they have a week to complete it rather than 2 hours. However you need to look a bit deeper.
We see a higher percentage of time constrained challenges completed and returned vs open ended ones. There are three reasons for this
Candidates take a role elsewhere. All too often we have missed out on hiring because the candidate was further down the road with another company and they didn’t get the chance to complete their code challenge with us.
Interruptions. We’ve all been there, we start out with the best intentions, but something unforeseen happens which distracts us and we don’t get round to completing the task.
Fear of of candidates spending even longer than me. All code challenges should suggest a time period to complete, even if you give them a week to complete it in. The trouble is candidates will always fear someone is spending longer than them, giving them an unfair advantage (and quite rightly so, one of our client’s offers 10 day challenges, the suggested time to complete is around 4 hours. We ask that candidates advise how long they take on the challenge when they submit. The average is 11 hours, the most we have seen was a whopping 40 hours (yes a working week!!)
The longer the window of opportunity to complete the challenge the more likely something will get in the way
At Geektastic we have a portfolio of Take Home Code Challenges you can license. They have been created by the in-house team at Geektastic and also by our global community. The Java Code challenges have been created by experts in Java Programming.
Who (or what) does the reviewing?
Of course we are biassed here but humans can still do a much better job than a machine reviewing solutions submitted for programing interview questions. Until Geektastic came along you had two choices.
In-House development teams - time consuming and distracting but in house teams know the skills and where the bar is set better than anyone. Often cited as the main reason for missing delivery schedules in house teams can spend a lot of time reviewing submissions.
Machines running unit tests - to save time companies use platforms to outsource the process. These platforms use algorithmic based challenges which aren’t really testing an engineer’s skills but whether they know the algorithm. These challenges need to be able to me marked by a machine.
But now you can have the best of both worlds. You can use the highly talented on demand Geektastic review team. All of them have aced a Geektastic Take Home Code Challenge (eg the Java Word Game or the iOS monuments challenge) which was reviewed by one of our UberGeeks (our review team) and also carried out a number of test reviews to make sure their reviewing skills are as good as their problem solving skills. We also want to make sure they we can give constructive, non opinionated analysis and feedback on a candidate’s code challenge submission.
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So why use Geektastic?
Flexibility - you can create your own challenges or license ours, you can use our team of reviewers or your in-house teams (but no machines!!)
Candidate First - we designed Geektastic from a developer’s point of view. Our code challenge review tool pushes the analysis back to the candidate so they can see where they did well and just as importantly didn’t go well. If someone is going to spend 2 hours on their solution the least you can do is provide them feedback on the review. No-one wants to hear they didn’t get the role with no reason.
Removing Unconscious bias - all our challenges are reviewed anonymously. This means the reviewer knows nothing about the candidate when they carry out the review.
Expert review team - we have an experienced team of reviewers who adhere to a strict code for reviews ensuring consistency and a high level of quality. If we review your own challenge you can append review guidelines for us to follow to ensure we match the standards of your in-house development team.
Looking for information on a particular language? Check out our insightful pages here
As always if you have any questions or what to arrange a demo or discuss pricing or commercials drop us an email at [email protected]
Some of our clients
We engaged with Geektastic to evaluate candidates for some high profile roles we were hiring for because we wanted the human touch you just can't get from automated technical assessments.James AdamsPeople Finder at Just Giving
Using Geektastic’s code challenges has helped me save tons of time assessing candidates.Oscar BergHead of Development at Quickspin