There is any number of resources that can aid you in the art of coding interview challenges, the trick is knowing what it takes for the employee to build an effective coding challenge scenario. There is nothing particularly horrible about a coding challenge, but they are a crucial tool for recruiters to narrow down their potential candidates.
While a time-saving tool for the recruiter, they have their downside. If a candidate is unhappy with the challenge it can affect your company image. How skills are assessed is one of the major complaints from candidates during the recruitment process. Nowadays, unhappy candidates aren’t just going to tell their friends about the negative experience, they are going to post it online for the whole world to see.
What are interview coding challenges?
Interview coding challenges are a form of test to check the abilities of candidates. It is a way of seeing how a candidate works before actually hiring them. They can occur before or after a phone interview, or an on-site interview. Some employees like to provide them during the technical interview.
They can be in the form of brain teasers, business problems, coding tests, or behavioral questions. The results will be more complete if you use more than one method.
It is probably best to provide the coding challenge before the on-site interview. This way you can see those candidates that have suitable skills before sitting down with them, effectively saving yourself from carrying out a face-to-face interview with all of them. If carried out properly, you can eliminate 8.6x more candidates prior to the interview.
Work sample interview coding challenges
You want your screening and interview methods to be as realistic as possible for evaluation purposes. While the test should be a challenge, it should also motivate them. By nature, developers love a challenge, but only when they are fair and have meaning. You should evaluate your candidates on skills that they will have to use on a daily basis. For this, coding tests should be:
- Based on work samples
- Standardized- the same for everyone applying for the job
- Focused on problems from real-life business
- Scored or graded rather than pass or fail
- Not excessively long
When you are creating your challenge, make sure they are not commonly known, or easy to find online. You may end up assessing people’s ability to Google rather than code.
How difficult should a coding challenge be?
There is a fine line between too difficult and difficult enough. There are strong links between difficult job interviews and higher employee satisfaction. Google is just one of the companies that are famous for their interview practices, but not for the good! Many developers felt that the test didn’t assess their skills accurately. Always keep your tests relevant and suitable for the job level (junior, middle, senior).
How to make an interview coding challenge meaningful in 5 steps
1. Mirror the work to be done
Steer clear of algorithmic quizzes and brain teasers. These types of skills can be self-taught and often only practiced before an interview. While many people use them, you will benefit from taking a different direction to the rest of the crowd and provide a coding challenge with fairness.
2. Be objective when assessing skills
As developers are carrying out their work, it is normal for them to look things up and use other resources like Stack Overflow and GitHub. It’s not fair to assess them in an interview if they don’t have the same assess to resources they would have in the real world.
3. Use different types of questions
The more varied your questions are, the better idea you will have of the candidate’s skills. Include multiple-choice, database, code review, programming task, code gap, essay question, and code pairing.
4. Choose the right subject
Try role-based coding assessment to ensure the tests you are providing are suited to the job description and the skills that are needed.
5. Carry them out properly
You can use in-person or take-home coding challenges, the decision is whatever is best for your needs. Pair programming is an ideal way to see how your candidate works in real-time. It is a way for you (or your developer) can code together with the candidate.
6. Give feedback
Candidates will have to invest their time and effort into a coding challenge, it is only fair that you provide some constructive criticism. If candidates are learning something, even if they don’t get the job, they will not feel like it’s a waste of time.
Interview coding challenges can be highly effective when used in the right way. They can eliminate candidates who don’t have the right coding skills and in turn saving you time. To make sure the practice is fair and objective, ensure your coding challenges are realistic and relevant to the job description.