How To Develop The Perfect Coding Assessment

coding assessment

Our focus in this article will be on the general concepts, objectives, and hints for defining an awesome assessment for qualified candidates. You may notice that great assessments have various similar aspects, yet this guide will make your framework stronger and more effective.

Prescreening assessments are a practical and fast way to filter out candidates who don’t match the requirements. Some assessments allow for a more in-depth look at the candidate’s skills. There is also a type of assessment that is more suitable for live interviews.

Prescreens- This is a short and relatively straightforward task where the answer is not available online. If candidates can ‘google’ the answer, you won’t be able to eliminate the weak.

Take home assessments- Are often longer than a prescreen assessment and normally aimed at a certain domain knowledge. Automated testing should be a key area but some manual reviewing of the solution is acceptable.

Live interview tests- Although they are less common, you can use most types of assessments in a live interview. Algorithms are great in a live interview because they create more communication between the interviewer and the interviewee.

Plan around an overall testing objective

Before starting any project, it is important, to begin with a general plan. Instead of starting from the bottom, look at creating the test from the top-down. This way you know the assessment will be testing for the proposed goal without jumping key stages or getting too complicated.

For example:

  • Testing a certain framework or technology like AngularJS
  • Testing based on certain skill levels, such as junior or mid-level
  • Testing for general knowledge vs domain-specific knowledge

Be sure of the concepts that should be tested

Once your main goals have been decided, it is time to make a list of the aspects that have to be tested. The final assessment needs to test each aspect to the required level without making assumptions and remembering to add challenges and tests for the principal concepts.

Here is what a general outline may look like:

1.Brainstorm on paper all that could be tested

2. Organize each concept

  • Various concepts won’t need extra effort when tested, like the framework or language
  • Others will need to be highlighted as they could be edge cases or focusing on certain skills
  • If you have concepts that can be grouped, do so, as this will decrease the number of steps

3. Reduce the overall list to a sensible set

  • You should end up with around 12 strong concepts that are logically grouped into three or four challenges.

Now that you have a mental picture of the requirements, you can move on to creating a theme for your assessment.

Adding a touch of reality

Candidates will enjoy an assessment more (and therefore display their true talents) when the assessment is realistic. It doesn’t have to be a completed product but anything that has a real-feel, stimulating scenarios from the actual job.

Try taking inspiration from:

  • Media libraries with various kinds of items in the catalog
  • Online stores
  • Virtual game lobbies

Steer clear of:

  • Generic terms such as Foo or Bar for descriptions
  • Overused generic programs like ToDo list and Twitter-like apps

If you must use a generic program, try to make it more interesting and/or substantial.

Plan for a comfortable amount of time

The amount of time will depend on the type of assessment. Prescreens may last between 20 minutes to 1 hour, whereas a take-home can take between 1 and 3 hours to solve. Try to aim for an assessment that can be finished within a couple of hours.

Imagine being the candidate and having to spend several hours for each interview you attend, with no guarantee of being offered the job. A candidate’s time is just as valuable as yours!

Consider a challenge series

You might find that candidates have a better experience if the assessment is broken down into smaller tasks that carry on from the previous, therefore not having to start from the beginning each time.  This may not be possible for each type of assessment but it will provide the opportunity for deeper testing of knowledge as the candidate will have to rely more on their own code.

Creating the perfect assessment will require time and effort from you as you put everything into place. However, once the job is down, you will marvel at your coding assessment as leave candidates with a satisfying experience of your company.