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coding tests for interviews?

We have a number of take-home code tests on our coding platform for interviews that are used to assess the all round skills of software engineers. The ones that receive the most positive feedback and have the highest take up rates are the ones that feel real world.

You can use our expert team of reviewers to assess your candidate’s submission (who work at Google, Amazon, Twitter and other amazing tech companies during the day) or just use our platform to administer the challenge and review it using our code review tools.

Our review team will provide detailed analysis of your candidate’s code in just 24 hours (quite often less). Ping us an email at hello@geektastic.com if you want to see a sample from our coding platform for interviews.

If you can’t find a coding test you like we can even create one for you.

Lots of companies use take-home coding tests for interviews during the hiring process.

It’s REALLY difficult to create that perfect online coding test that keeps the best developers interested.

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….make the take-home code test for interview as close to the real world as you can.

If your business is e-commerce - build a take-home code challenge where the task is to build a shopping basket or checkout (we have one of those), if your business is booking flights ask the candidate to build a flight booking page - even better have them integrate with your API, serve up some products to add to the basket or some dummy flight data to parse and pull into the webpage.

Having spoken to developers this is the single biggest factor that has kept software engineers interested in various challenges over the years. There is nothing more frustrating that receiving a code test do do for an interview, and seeing it is another boring algorithm like checking a string for parenthesis counts, or sorting a list without using inbuilt functions.

Doing multiple code tests can be time consuming and tedious if you are applying for multiple jobs. When the challenge is closer to the real role it starts to get the candidate engaged with the brand, they feel like they are actually starting working there - psychologically this is a huge win. Candidates who aren’t that interested in the challenge will naturally not do their best - therefore it kills multiple birds with one stone.

One of the best ways of making your take home code challenge close to real world is to make sure the challenge poses a problem within the general business domain of the company.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you take this to too far and make this too domain specific, you’ll end up alienating people and could end up with a coding challenge that only lets you hire people who already work for you - so remember to strike a balance.

Code tests should all fulfil the following

  • Open for creative interpretation,
  • Marked by a human (if you have your coding challenges marked by a machine - please stop. Machine marking is a binary solution to a non-binary problem. People are not binary (not matter how geeky we talk). For more on this topic please read our post here.
  • Used for open discussion later
  • Production quality code requested (Clean Code).
  • More than input/output of a single method.Eg, a light UI, an object model, an API call.
  • Simple and clear - can be summarised in a single sentence.
  • Time suggestion, not limit

Several BIG Topics came up in the process of our discussions:

  • Timed challenges.
  • IDE (Code Editor).
  • Realisticness of it being like the actual job.

Geektastic programming languages and frameworks covered by our Code Challenges

  • JavaScript
    • Core JavaScript
    • React
    • Angular
  • Python
  • PHP
  • C Sharp
  • C++
  • Ruby
  • Scala
  • Java
  • CSS/HTML
  • iOS
  • Android

So let’s look at each of those points in detail.

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Timed challenges within Coding Interviews

There are two schools of thought on this - We asked Andy Davis (who helped write this page his thoughts) who also asked Zeno Foltin, a London-based (polyglot) software developer here’s what he said (hint they’re not big fans of times challenges)

Challenges with a hard cut off time. It seems obvious why companies might impose a time limits:

Create a level playing field for comparison - if they have the exact same amount of time and no prior knowledge, we can accurately compare candidate solutions.Candidates know upfront that a fixed amount of of time is needed not a snow ball into hours/days and therefore are more likely to accept doing the challenge

Zeno and I put our heads together on this one and we think not enough thought is put into the downsides of that time limit. For example:It doesn’t actually measure how well they will do on the job as the time pressures in the job are not the same as examination pressures.Faster developers are NOT better developers.A candidate who is slightly slower but can model the domain well, TDD and produce something infinitely better than speedy gonzales (who only writes procedural code) may get unfairly compared as a worse developer if they couldn’t get that across in the timeframe.

Zeno said:

“I don’t think timed challenges provide any value in measuring how well the candidate will do on the job. If it’s about trying to find out how someone handles pressure, do it in a pair-programming session maybe. I think it’s silly to think in our creative industry that putting such pressure on people will bring the best out of them.”

So whilst we don’t think timed challenges are completely useless, it just might not be the type of comparison they think they are making - possibly just a superficial comparison.The compromise here is to have a time limit but make it generous enough that the candidate has time to try out a few ideas. The last thing you want to do is cut everyone off mid flow - this would remove the benefit of having a test in the first place.

IDE

Believe it or not, some coding challenge systems HackerRank, Codility actually force you to write and compile code in the browser - it seems to have become a bit of a fad recently. It’s pretty nifty but it only really works for simple code. It seems to have benefits of scale for the companies using them as the computer tests the inputs and outputs for correctness - but this shows very little respect to the candidate and actually makes their life much harder. It is unable to provide rich intellisense or access to commonly used frameworks or testing tools.

Developers like their tools and we are no different. Writing code in the browser is not part of our weaponry and will not be something required on the job. Browser based code editors are great for tutorials and quickly trying something out you’ve just been taught but as a candidate testing tool, this should seriously be reconsidered.

Likeness to the actual job

We know that is it impossible to condense the real nature of the job down into a coding challenge. But there really doesn’t seem to be any point in asking a developer to complete something like an in-memory algorithm to return them the correct change from a vending machine. Sure, there are some algorithms in there and order of complexity to think about. However, if the job isn’t about solving little puzzles, it really doesn’t appear relevant.

Andy was once sent a zip file from an online fashion retailer and told to refactor it. Whilst this sort of request is a little bit lazy - at least this is probably closer to the real job. Refactoring legacy code is part of almost every job. Furthermore it was actually in their domain. So, big points to them for this challenge, it was enjoyable. The only downside of that is that he never heard anything back (after spending 2 hours on the test too) - this is one of the biggest bugbears we have as developers.

The bottom line around getting challenges close to the real world is:

  • Avoid algorithms unless that really is what you are hiring for.
  • Avoid tests that were clearly designed for a different industry
  • Be more honest with your coding challenge, if you are hiring a bug fixer, how about a challenge where you need to fix a couple of bugs

Coding Interview Case Study: JUST EAT

Zeno worked with them for a year and Andy went through the process last year, so he had also taken the same test.

We both had a great experience with it and rated it the number 1 test we’d done. You can see their test here:- https://github.com/justeat/JustEat.RecruitmentTest

Zeno said:

“I really liked the JUST EAT recruitment test because it is simple - list the takeaways for a given postcode using the API. It requires you write a simple UI to present the information, but it doesn’t tell you much more on how to go about it. It is directly to do with their business, it covers UI and logic (I don’t believe in back-end or front-end only roles), and it requires more effort than a couple of minutes figuring out or googling an algorithm. A well designed challenge, can give an opportunity for the candidate to showcase the best quality work that they can do without hard time constraints.”

The JUST EAT recruitment test is also a very enjoyable challenge. So let’s take a deeper look at it:

  • It is a very clear and simple requirement. Use API to search for takeaways by postcode and display results
  • It covers the full stack of API through to UI
  • If you are a mobile developer, you do a mobile client. Web developers do a Web UI.
  • It is about their domain - online takeaways. It uses their public API, so the takeaways you get back for a postcode search are real. This immediately hooks us into actually enjoying the challenge a bit more because it doesn’t feel contrived.

Open source - JUST EAT decide to list their challenge on their github account - This alone sparked Andy’s curiosity and got him looking at other public projects they had on there. With this, he found himself inside their published code and started to get a feel for the type of code they are already writing at JUST EAT. JustBehave, JustFakeIt and JustSaying were 3 frameworks right there in their account that he could look at and see some of the real code their teams produce - granted this is only the view of the code they want to be seen, but this isn’t code for show, it is code they actually use.

It’s great that even at the coding challenge stage, there is a bit of two way flow of information, just by being open to open-sourcing. There aren’t many places where you get to see some of the code before you go there. It is often a bait and switch of great stuff spoken about at interview followed by a shocking reality of legacy code once you start.

What can we learn from JUST EAT even if you don’t have a public API?

You might be fooled into thinking JUST EAT have unfair advantage of their domain being highly public facing. Even if you don’t “need a balti”, you still know some of the takeaways in your area that they service and when these familiar venues are returned by the API for your postcode. Not everyone can do this as their domain is not so publicly known - but I bet with a little thought, you can be creative enough and throw the candidates a little bone about the real job rather than have them implement a vending machine, phone bill or shopping cart. There is nothing worse than seeing another challenge that isn’t even related to the business sector that the company is in.

Another lesson that can be learned from JUST EAT is not be too strict about the solution. If you can allow the candidate to be creative, you will get a better picture than from an algorithm implementation with a right or wrong answer. Sure, it takes more effort to have a developer mark the solution, but that time will be infinitely better spent if you discover better candidates from it.

Here are some ideas for you, even if you aren’t as publicly glamourous as JUST EAT:

  • If you are Compare The Market - provide 3 insurer APIs and request the developer calls all 3 and display results in order of best quote.

  • If you are Shazam, provide an API that accepts a music snippet and identifies it?

  • If you are Uber, can you have an API showing closest car to a set of coordinates and have the developer write a little client to request a ride?

  • If you are Tesco, yes yes ok, you can do an online shopping cart

  • If you Buzz Fizzes, you can… well… nevermind.

  • It is a continual learning process

  • In agile software development, we are told to embrace change. Things will change, so build change into the process and not make it an afterthought.

  • Like anything else, accept that you won’t your challenge right the first time.

  • Developers WILL complain.

  • Some good candidates will slip away - refusing to do it.

  • Some good developers will ‘fail’ it.

  • Some bad candidates, will find their way past the challenge and waste precious time that you could be spending with Ninjas Just a joke, there’s no such thing as Ninjas…

  • …and even if there is you don’t want them

  • …and even if you think you do, you just alienated them and half the developer community by using the word Ninja, whoops.

  • You should plan to get feedback from candidates taking your test and LISTEN to this feedback.Warning: FEEDBACK WILL BE EMOTIONAL, especially if they ‘fail’.

Let’s conclude by reminding ourselves of some of the important points that we’ve explored

  • Let candidates use a comfortable environment - do you really want them to write code in the browser or is their own IDE a better choice?
  • If you impose a time limit, think carefully about the implication of that limit, are you going to cut off a good candidate mid flow. Is it really a fair comparison just because time is equal?
  • Can you make it relevant to the job? We all now know that Google’s silly questions about painting jumbo jets and shrinking people into blenders didn’t find them any better candidates than traditional questioning - does the same apply to coding challenges?
  • Can the coding challenge cover a little front-end and back-endBe very specific in the requirement. It is ok to say, you may present this on a simple web app. But requirements like “tests are optional” is a huge dilemma for a candidate - this is unfair and risky especially if you have in mind what you want (ie tests).
  • If you value performance over clarity, tell the candidate this. Algorithm tests lend themselves to right or wrong (plus performance) - this makes it easier to mark, but making it easier to mark is NOT your goal. Your goal is to filter out the time-wasters, yet algorithms are the easiest to plagiarise
  • Iterate, you won’t get it right first time. Keep tweaking it.
  • Finally - Make it relevant to your business sector if you can. The best developers aren’t just coders, they care about solving real business problems. Make it clear you understand this by making your test relevant to your business.

 

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About Andy Davis

Andy is a software developer. He’s been writing software for over 20 years and helps businesses solve interesting business problems, by helping them create the right software. He also helps teams with their developer hiring strategy as he believes that hiring the right people has a multiplier effect on awesome software teams.

Ever wondered how Geektastic is different to other assessment platforms like Codility and HackerRank - we wrote a comparison piece.

We compare Geektastic to HackerRank and Codility

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Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

So what is Geektastic? I hear it’s more than a technical assessment platform

Let’s face it - the current process for hiring software engineers has (lots of) room for improvement.

At its core Geektastic is a platform that manages code challenges. We believe a candidate is worth more than a score and humans perform much better reviews than machines.

There is more to coding than solving an algorithm.

We help employers and recruiters assess the technical skills of software engineering candidates through deeply insightful, code challenges.

We have built our own unique bite-size Express Code Challenges for our developer community to enjoy before they commit to taking our 2 hour Peer Review Take Home challenges.

We also help match developers from our community with employer’s roles. Because our community take code challenges to complement their profile they can show off their skills to potential employers.

The very best engineers in our community (those that ace our code challenge with 4-5 stars across the board) join our well paid UberGeek Review Team and earn a secondary income reviewing code challenges in their spare time (£25 per 30 minute review).

Our UberGeek review team also approve express code challenges which have been created by the community just to make sure they are 100% - we pay £10 for each express code challenge reviewed and published.

What programming languages does Geektastic cover?

We support a wide range of programming languages including JavaScript (incorporating frameworks such as node.js, React and Angular), Java, PHP, Python, C#, Java, Android, Swift, Objective C, Scala, MySQL, C++ and Ruby. We are constantly adding new ones, so if you have a language we are not covering please contact us at hello@geektastic.com

How secure is my data on Geektastic?

We are fully GDPR compliant. We operate a fully secure platform using SSL encryption and we never store your passwords in plain text.

All developer profiles are anonymous, as a developer you join and create a profile. You can use OAuth like Google or Github to authorise the application or you can use a local username and password.

I am a developer, please tell me how Geektastic works?

So why should I join Geektastic as a Developer?

Good question! We welcome developers from all over the world to join our fast growing community. As you might have gathered we are trying to change the way software engineers are hired.

There are a number of reasons you should join

  1. You can earn a secondary income doing code reviews in your spare time. We pay £25 per 30 minute review peer review and £10 per express code challenge review.
  2. You can be fast tracked for some amazing software engineering roles, whether you are looking for an office based role or you want to work as part of a remote/distributed team.
  3. You can benchmark your skills against a global developer community. We show you where you compare to other developers in our global community.
  4. You can create and share Express Code Challenges with our community. Once you have taken a couple you an start to create your own. We have created some guidelines you can read here.

I’m sold. So what’s the process for a Developer joining Geektastic?

  1. To benchmark your skills, to join the paid review team team or get fast tracked to a great new role you’ll need to complete around 20 Express Challenges per language (these take an average of 1-2 minutes to complete. 
  2. If you are keen to join the paid review team you’ll need to get in the top 5% of the global community. You will then be issued with a peer review code challenge - we use these to assess your all round programming skills, if you ace the peer review you are in the paid review team. 
  3. If you are looking for a new role you will need to set yourself to ‘actively’ or ‘passively’ looking. This will mean you start matching with roles on the platform. We have signed an exclusive partnership with a tech recruiter called Third Republic. Our matchmaking algorithm start the process of matching you with roles but their expert team will then manually review your profile to ascertain whether you are a good fit for the role. You can apply to them directly if you see a role you like the look of, also they will be in touch with you to see if you are interested in anything they think is a good match.

What type of roles do you have posted on the platform?

They change all the time (obviously) - but they are all software engineering ad DevOps jobs. They are all broken down by programming language (eg Java, Python, PHP, C#, JavaScript, Scala, Kubernetes, Ansible, Terraform), tech skills, years of experience, how much salary you will be paid (before the taxman gets his hands on it), and whether they are based at a particular location or are remote. We have partnered with a specialist tech recruitment company called Third Republic to handle recruitment on our platform.

How do I take a peer review code challenge to try out for the review team?

First you have to complete 20 Express Code Challenges in a given language. These are the multiple choice challenges created by our expert team of reviewers and members of the community who have a high enough rating to become an author. Score well in the Express Challenges to unlock your qualifying Peer Review challenge. We are looking for a developer to rank in the top 5% globally before we can open up a peer review.

Can I share my review with companies who aren’t yet on the Geektastic platform?

Of course. You’ll be investing sound 30 minutes on our Express Challenges or 2 hours of your precious time completing one of our peer review code challenges. 

You can then share your public profile which shows off your results. 

You can post it on your LinkedIn profile, Personal Website or create a QR code and tattoo it to your arm if you like.

We hope that prospective employers will use that instead of asking you to take another tech screen.

How can I become a reviewer on Geektastic?

What steps do I go through?

What step do I go through?

We have a number of steps to becoming one of the review team. For obvious reasons we have to be very thorough (clients expect our team to the same quality as their in-house team).

  1. First you need to register and validate your email (1 minute)
  2. Create a profile - we are mainly interested in your core programming languages so we can allocate you the appropriate qualifying challenge (2-5 minutes)
  3. Complete some Express Code Challenges to show us your skills.  These take around 1-2 minutes each. You will need to complete up to 20 challenges (this is how we obtain a true ELO score). 
  4. If you get in the top 5% you will open up a peer review qualifying challenge.
  5. Take one of our peer review qualifying code challenges (2 hours).
  6. Our review team will then thoroughly evaluate your solution and provide you a detailed review (we aim to have this back in 24-48 hours)
  7. If you get voted to join the team (you’ll need to be be getting 4-5 stars across the board to be voted in) we then ask you to carry out two dummy reviews as we need to make sure your reviewing skills are as awesome as your coding skills - we do give you some guidance to help you understand what we look for in a reviewer (this takes approx 1hour)
  8. Assuming your reviews are up to scratch you are upgraded to Ubergeek Review team status, we’ll add you to Slack and you’ll start to receive messages from the system inviting you to carry out reviews. We pay you £25 for each peer review you perform and £10 for each express challenge you approve. We accrue all reviews and pay you the amount due at month end - either by bank transfer if you are in the UK or by Wise, Revolut or Payoneer.
  9. Once you are in the team we’ll add you to our Slack group, this notifies each team (JS_Ubergeeks for example) when a new solution has been submitted or Express Challenge has been created which needs reviewing.
  10. You can pick up as many or as few as you like, we don’t have a minimum you need to complete in a week or month, we also don’t guarantee how many you’ll be able to review as we are beholden to our clients’ candidates submitting. Some of our Ubers did write an answer someone posed on Quora on this point. All we ask is you complete a review within a few hours of starting it so we can get the results back to the candidate who will be waiting.
  11. Oh and lastly, we’ll send your UgerGeek T-Shirt and decal.

Sound exciting? Register to become an Uber Geek today Register now

Why should I join Geektastic to carry out code reviews?

Geektastic is a great way to earn a secondary income. You choose when you work and for how long. We pay you a flat rate for reviewing candidate’s submissions straight into your bank account at the end of the month. You also get to collaborate with other Uber Geeks. We call it earning and learning.

Can I work from home?

Of course, that’s the great thing about Geektastic, you can work from wherever you like.

Can I join the UberGeek Review Team from outside the UK?

We have Uber Geeks from all over the world, from Argentina to Australia, LA to Beijing.

I specialise in a programming language not covered by Geektastic?

We are always looking to add new programming languages. Please email hello@geektastic.comwith your details, and your chosen language and we’ll be in touch.

Do you have a cap on how many challenges I can review?

You are limited by the number of challenges the platform creates for you to review. There are client generated solutions (i.e. where they have invited a candidate to take a Geektastic challenge) or where a developer has joined our platform. As all challenges are anonymous you will not be aware of which type you are reviewing. The volume of challenges is driven by the number of clients inviting candidates, the number of developers joining the platform and how many other UberGeeks there are doing the reviews. Please note this is not a full time role as demand fluctuates.

Why is Geektastic the best technical assessment platform?

How much does this amazing service cost?

Prices start at £250 per month - no annual fees, you can pay everything monthly (or €300 or $375)

Each review done by our review team is £50 per review (or €60 or $70)

You can license our challenges from just £20 per month (or €24 or $30)

All our pricing can be found here Geektastic Pricing,

Does Geektastic use machine based automated candidate testing?

Nope. We use real human reviewers to perform our reviews. Please have a read of this blog post for more on our thoughts about how to perform code challenges

How long does it take to review a candidate’s code challenge submission?

Most come back the same day. We aim to complete all reviews in 24 working hours but when throughput volume is high we can take up to 48 hours to respond.

Do you integrate with third party ATS platforms?

Yes, we are integrated with both Greenhouse and Workable.

You’ll need any account with both Geektastic and Greenhouse/Workable to operate our code challenges on their platform.

Once you are ready to start sending out invites you just request and API key and send it over to your ATS provider (with Greenhouse you send it to your account manager, with Workable they provide a self service interface on their website)

After they are connected you can then invite your candidates and view the results directly from your ATS.

Can I try before I buy?

Yes, we offer a free trial to test out our assessments before you buy. You can have two free assessments on the house.

Would you like to test out a Geektastic code challenge on a candidate for free? Register now

How do candidates take the challenges?

Before you can invite your candidate you need to register as a Hirer and either license a Geektastic Challenge or create a custom code challenge.

You then invite them to take a challenge by entering their email, first name and surname and the challenge you want them to take into Geektastic.

The system automatically triggers an email to the candidate asking them to take part in the challenge.

Each challenge usually requires certain tools such as an IDE to be set up on the user’s machine in advance of the challenge (the challenge instructions warn them about this prior to the clock starting to tick away).

The candidate also needs to find a time window (usually two hours) where they can log into the platform and carry out the challenge. Once they have completed the challenge they upload their solution as a zip file.

Can I use my own challenges rather than the Geektastic challenges?

Yes, you can upload your own challenges using our code challenge builder tool. These challenges remain private and will only be used by you on your candidates.

Can you help us grow a more diverse team?

All our reviews are completely anonymous. The reviewer has no idea who they are reviewing - this means they can be completely impartial.

Removing unconscious bias is crucial in recruitment flows. If the same team that carry out the review carried out the initial phone screen or first round of interviews they will have started to build up opinions, both conscious and unconscious - there is a risk that these will flow through to the review they perform on the code challenge submission.

Using Geektastic’s platform removes the risk of these biases affecting the review.

Do my candidates remain my candidates?

100%. 

You have spent a lot of time sourcing and wooing your candidates. When you invite them to take a code challenge on our platform they remain ringfenced to you.

They do not register on the platform, they do not create a profile - they simply come to the platform to take a code challenge and receive their review.

I've been invited to take one of your code challenges, what next?

I am applying for a job and have been asked to take a Geektastic code challenge

You will receive an email from the system which contains instructions detailing what you need set up on your machine (this varies depending on your technology stack) and how long the challenge will take to complete. 

Once you are ready you follow the link in the invite to our site.

Once at Geektastic you can choose to start the challenge when it suits you.

All challenges are carried under time limited conditions (some are 2hours, others you can spend as long as a week working on your solution). Once you are ready to go you hit the ‘start challenge’ and the challenge is revealed.

Once completed you upload your challenge solution in a .zip file.

Are your challenges time constrained?

Yes, all challenges have a fixed time - otherwise they could run forever and that’s not good for anyone. They tend to fall into two categories, short time constrained challenges (usually 1-3hrs) or what we call ‘open ended’ (but what we mean is you have a week to 10 days to complete the challenge).

Before you start your challenge it will let you know how long you have to complete your challenge. Please give yourself enough time at the end of the period (i.e. when the clock starts going red on the page) to zip up your solution and upload it to the platform so it can be reviewed.

Do I have to use a browser based IDE?

Nope, you can use your own IDE.

We know how annoying it can be to be asked to take a code challenge, let alone have to code the solution is some unfamiliar, browser based IDE which is also recording your every move. That’s a bit like asking someone to take their exam on one of those crazy kneely chairs and use chalk to write your answers on a blackboard

When do I find out the results of the assessment?

We perform a line by line review, star ratings for categories like code quality, solution design and problem solving skills and provide high level summary points, then you receive an email from the system to take you to the review and also allows you to feedback your thoughts on the analysis.

What happens if I don’t complete the challenge in time?

We advise all candidates to submit whatever they have at the end of the period, regardless of whether they have finished or not. 

If you don’t submit in time it’s not all over. We do provide clients the tools to open up the challenge to allow you more time to complete it - so if you suffer the old ‘dog ate my homework’ scenario then please contact the person that invited you and they will be able to decide whether to open the challenge up again.

Do you allow multiple submissions?

You can upload multiple submissions during the challenge window. However we always assess the last submission so please ensure the last submission is your ‘final answer’.

What do I do if I have problems whilst working on my code challenge?

Please contact the person that issued the code challenge if you have any issues with your challenge, they can then contact Geektastic support if they can’t resolve the issue.