Hire Developers

Tips, Tools, and Tests You Need to Run Developer Assessment Interviews

By Aditi Chandrasekar

Being a tech recruiter today is tough. Being a great recruiter is even tougher. 

Matching the business-critical needs of your company with the skills of tech talent on the market. Keeping up with ever-evolving tech stacks and trends in the programming community. Discovering new channels to find talent. These are just a couple of the demands on the modern technical recruiter — and that’s saying nothing of larger market forces exerting pressure on these teams. 

With that in mind, we came up with a list of tips, tools and tests for developer assessments to help tackle another year of sky-high recruitment goals.

 

What are Developer Assessments?

Though the developer hiring process varies across industries, experience levels, companies, and teams, a few stages of the developer assessment process are considered standard.

To test a candidate’s programming skills, most hiring teams rely on coding tests. These are often in the form of pair programming interviews or take-home assessments, and they’re a sure-fire way to evaluate a developer’s job-related skills. In addition to fluency in key programming languages, such tests also allow teams to gauge additional factors in a candidate’s submission, including code cleanliness, scalability, and testability.

Additional stages of the hiring process — system design interviews and project interviews — vary according to the experience level required of the job. Some hiring processes might contain multiple rounds of each of these types of stages, while others may focus on a more streamlined assessment process. Regardless, a thorough technical assessment generally consists of:

  1. A Phone Interview Round
  2. A Technical Screening Round 
  3. A Pair Programming Interview Round
  4. A System Design Interview Round

 

How to Hire the Right Developer

Hiring strong technical talent requires recruiters to excel at every step of the developer assessment process, including:

  • Evaluating coding assessments 
  • Testing knowledge of databases, operating systems and computer networks
  • Understanding working style
  • Assessing communication skills.

“Collaboration and communication skills are often just as important as technical depth. While testing candidates on their CS staples such as algorithms, data structures, and language proficiency there is certainly more to a well-rounded candidate,” said Mason Itkin, a senior software engineer in the industry.

But there’s no silver bullet. The right developer for one company or team may not be the right one for another. Saying that, here are some high-level philosophies to live by:

Test for Technical Skills

Developers use a range of technologies to build websites and applications. Assessing the skills that candidates know, and specific competencies with them, is critical to hiring the right talent.

Of course, the technologies that developers use vary widely depending on their role. That said, there are a few categories that these technical competencies tend to fit in.

Programming Languages

Programming languages are foundational to a developer’s skills. While there are hundreds of programming languages out there, developers will specialize in particular ones depending on their role.

For example, common back-end programming languages include:

  • PHP
  • Ruby
  • Python
  • Java
  • .Net
  • C
  • C++
  • C# 
  • SQL
  • Rust
  • Go

Programming Frameworks

In addition to programming languages, developers will also know programming frameworks for working with specific languages. Recruiters evaluating developers will often find themselves looking for job openings that require competency in specific frameworks. A recruiter at a social media company, for example, might find themselves sourcing and evaluating candidates with direct experience in Ruby on Rails.

Tools and Other Technologies

This is a broad category that encompasses the tools or concepts beyond coding languages that developers might need to know in their roles. These include:

  • Database tools (SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, Hadoop)
  • Cloud frameworks (Azure, GCP, AWS)
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • User experience (UX)
  • Content management systems
  • Graphical editing tools (Photoshop, Illustrator, Sketch, Figma)

Test for Soft Skills

Developing software is a highly collaborative process. A study published in 2017 showed that engineers spent an average of 9.4 hours every week writing code, presumably in collaboration with other company engineers. As remote work becomes the norm, technical competency alone isn’t enough to succeed for a developer. Soft skills are a must in any software development role. And soft skills are even more critical in a digital-first or digital-only environment.

Soft skills is an umbrella term for a variety of aptitudes needed to collaborate well, including conflict resolution, problem-solving, collaboration communication, and receptivity to feedback. Technical know-how is important, but these behavioral skills are increasingly what differentiates a good developer from a great one.

Team and Cultural Fit

Soft skills differentiate developers, but oftentimes technical assessments are not enough to evaluate if they’re right for the role. This is where culture-fit or culture-add interviews come in, which are a great way to assess whether a developer will adapt well to your company and team.

For an effective culture fit interview, make sure that your questions address your company values. These can be embedded into questions about their career history, future goals, and their preferred work and management styles.

Questions during this round are often open-ended:

  • What motivates you to do your best work?
  • Have you ever taken a professional risk? What was it?
  • How do you respond to critique?
  • How do you prefer to communicate with your colleagues?
  • When was the last time you made a big mistake at work, and how did you address it?

These questions give insights into the candidates’ work personality. Seemingly small traits like preferred mode of communication can have a huge impact on their work and collaboration at your company, so it’s important to assess their “culture add” and pay ample attention to the soft skills they possess.

3 Ways to Assess and Hire Developers

Companies of every size and industry have aggressive hiring goals for their technical teams. Optimizing the way that you assess developers will be critical to successfully conquering your mounting hiring goals. Here are a few proven methods for evaluating a candidates’ fit.

1. Developer skills assessments

A developer’s job is wide-ranging in nature, so it’s important to be equipped with a variety of questions to test developers’ technical, system design, and communication skills accurately.

To craft the perfect programming tests, keep in mind what exactly you’d like to focus the test on. Is it knowledge of data structures and algorithms, or depth of thinking? Using a screening tool will help to quickly create a technical challenge that suits your needs and automatically review, score, and rank the submissions without bias.

2. Pair-Programming and Live Virtual Interviews 

A pair-programming test is a great way to kill two birds with one stone and test both a proficiency in a programming language and communication skills. In remote-first or remote-only environments, being able to collaborate effectively in a virtual environment is an important skill for developers to have. 

3. Programmer Portfolios 

Increasingly, developers (and not just web developers) are unleashing their creativity and developing their own websites from scratch. Portfolios give developers the ability to showcase their skills and achievements to potential employers with more time than a timed assessment. 

Embracing new technologies, products, and services can only prove beneficial as hiring teams face ever-increasing recruitment goals. Talent is a company’s biggest differentiator — so make sure you’re equipped with the right tools to recruit the world’s most in demand talent.

 

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