Human Resources Blog - Spark Hire

How to Design a Perfect Coding Test For Your Next Hire

Finding the next hire for your coding team can be challenging, especially if each candidate has an excellent resume and a stellar GitHub profile. So, how can you decide who is the best fit for your company? This is where a coding test can help you. 

A good coding assessment helps you check candidates’ technical abilities and see if candidates have the mindset to resolve the problems you’ll give them at work. But how do you design a coding test? Here are a few tips you should follow:

1. Identify the Skills You Want to Test For

The purpose of the coding assessment test is to determine whether a candidate is a good fit for your company. The first thing you need to identify is if the person has the skills needed to do their job well. 

An excellent way to approach this is to pinpoint one must-have and one good-to-have skill that new hires should possess. 

Do they need to know a specific programming language? Or can they just learn that along the way in the company? Do they need to be an expert in algorithms? Or do you just expect them to have a mindset to resolve problems?

Don’t just identify the technical skills you need to test for. Pinpoint the soft skills you need to check as well. 

For instance, maybe you need someone who can think outside the box. For this skill, look for examples of where candidates came up with creative solutions to challenges.  If the successful candidate is to work in a large team, consider including tests to see how well candidates work with others. Teamwork is one of the critical qualities you should be looking for in a candidate.

2. Pinpoint the Metrics to Consider

Once you know the skills you want to test for, identify the metrics against which each candidate will be assessed. If, for instance, you’re looking to evaluate their knowledge of a specific programming language, you might pinpoint coding as a metric.

The metrics are important because they can help you accurately determine the best candidate. You can judge your candidates based on the results of their coding test. Those hard skills, the learned skills they need to do the job properly, play an important role when selecting a candidate.

3. Decide on Your Test Format

Now that you know what you’re testing for and the metrics you will use, it’s time to decide on the test format. Maybe you’ll give your candidate a basic coding question and then ask them to write a program in a specific language. Or maybe you prefer just giving a coding problem to solve.

It’s a good idea to keep the tests short, particularly if you have many candidates. Aim to make the test less stressful with easy-to-understand questions, but consider increasing the difficulty throughout the test. The important thing in such a scenario isn’t if they complete the test, but how far they get and how they manage the stress.

You can include hints to complex questions to point the candidates in the right direction. Although you’re testing a candidate’s ability, you should still give the candidate the best chance to succeed. 

You have to decide on how you’ll score the test as well. Consider moving away from binary scoring in favor of granular scoring. That means doing away with a pass or fail scenario and looking at the test data in detail to judge the candidate’s potential. 

4. Consider Running a Live Coding Test

You can ask the candidates to take the test home and give them a deadline for submission. If you’re looking for experienced coders, though, I suggest you consider running a live coding test instead. Besides, according to Dev, live coding tests are more time-efficient. You don’t need to wait for a day to know how a candidate performed. 

Live coding assessment tests include writing code in the presence of an interviewer or a panel. The test is usually conducted via a video interview and includes screen-sharing. During the test, the applicant is required to complete a brief. The candidate must think, write, and explain their logic during the process. It is both a test of their skills and ability to perform under pressure. 

With live coding tests, you won’t only see how well (or badly) the applicant codes. You’ll also see the candidates’ attitude and communication skills. The test is as important as the questions the candidate asks to solve the problem. Do they ask for help when they get stuck? Or do they just try to do everything on their own? You’ll more or less have an idea of how candidates will act in the workplace if hired.

Bottom Line

Technical assessments are an essential part of the hiring process and together with HRIS software they help companies find the right candidates. However, they are only effective if you customize them to your needs. That means you need to know exactly what you are looking for in a candidate for them to be hired. 

Designing the perfect coding assessment test includes asking the right questions, getting the format right, and zeroing in on the best possible way to judge the candidate’s potential. Make sure that your test doesn’t just measure technical abilities. It should also evaluate a candidate’s soft skills. 

Do all these things, and you’ll end up with the best person for the job.

About the Author

Tom Winter is the lead Tech Recruitment Advisor and Co-founder of Devskiller, a developer screening & online interview platform powered by RealLifeTesting.™ Devskiller has helped companies like ING, Accenture, PayPal, and Deloitte improve the quality and speed of their technical hiring.

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