How to Test Coding Skills Before Hiring Developers
Hiring developers can be challenging. Figuring out which candidates are the best for your team takes some research and some screening tasks. Here’s our method for how to test coding skills before we hire.
Applandeo & Justyna Baran
Apr 27th 2022
software development company
software house poland
If you’ve spent any amount of time hiring developers, you know how competitive the market can be. Demand for highly-skilled professionals often exceeds supply. That competition is only set to increase over the next decade. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 22% increase in the number of open positions for software developers and quality assurance specialists by 2030, further restricting an already tight labor market. With so much demand, it can be a challenge to attract the right people to your organization. So how do you know you’re hiring the right candidate?
Software development, of course, is more than just writing code. It’s also about how well a developer works on a team, how effectively they communicate with clients and other stakeholders, and how well they manage their workflow.
Resumes or LinkedIn profiles and portfolios are a great start but don’t give you the whole picture. Prior research on the recruiters’ side is the key here. Making sure experience and skills match the job role as well as ensuring that there’s a cultural fit are essential parts of any recruitment process for developers. Find out some of our ways to screen candidate developers and be sure that you’re getting the most out of your recruitment.
No matter what tech skill you’re hiring for, you’ll need to know how to test coding skills before you hire. Like other highly project-based professions, it’s hard to get a sense of ability from a resume alone. Here’s our way of making sure developers on our team are a good fit.
Do the Research First
Competition for senior software engineers is fierce and companies are hiring from a global pool of candidates. Disruptions from the pandemic as well as larger trends toward remote work have not helped. Having a sound strategy here is crucial to finding the right people.
First, you’ll need to know what kind of developers you’re looking for. Identifying the right skills whether it’s front-end, back-end or a specific programming language is crucial.
Before posting an open position, a good manager will have to answer some basic questions:
What current team needs exist?
What knowledge and experience does a candidate need to have coming in, and what do you expect them to learn in the position?
For senior positions, you should require commercial experience, but for junior or even mid-level developers an attractive portfolio with well-written code on GitHub or other repositories can be just as good. Bonus points if a candidate is a contributor to Open Source projects.
Review a Developer Portfolio
Once you launch a job ad, it’s time to start the hunting part. As with most project-based roles, you’ll want to see some proof of previous work to back up any of the skill proficiency claims your candidates are making. Developer portfolios can be anything from commercial projects they’ve worked on to personal projects or snippets of code they’ve written. Portfolios are a great place to start because they can reveal a lot about a candidate’s experience as well as their ability to condense it in a way that showcases their work.
On one hand, it’s a glimpse of their “hard skill” technical ability and “soft skill” communication ability. Both are invaluable to recruiters and technical leads who will be interviewing at higher levels. These portfolios give interviewers a great vantage point to initiate discussion and delve deeper into a candidate’s experience, drive, and personal goals.
Take a Look at Their Github Repository
Any open-source code a candidate has contributed to is another great way to get a better picture of whether a developer will be a good fit for your company. You can see which open-source project the candidate has either created or contributed to — and which he or she has maintained on the platform. Involvement in the open-source community can also show you how a candidate interacts with other developers and how useful some of the solutions they’ve created are to the community.
Like the portfolio, it gives you a glimpse of some of the code a candidate has created or contributed to. But unlike a portfolio, it’s harder to control the narrative on Github since it’s a public forum. Taken together with a portfolio and CV, it should be a kicking-off point for further discussion as recruitment progresses.
Even though you’ve spoken to the candidate and looked at a portfolio, you’ll need to assess their coding skills in an environment where you can observe. A practical test is the most effective way to vet software engineer skills.
You can find both free and paid testing tools online that you can customizable for various languages and aptitudes.
A take-home test is a good alternative if you want to see a candidate’s ability to follow through on a more extended project.
For such technical jobs, you’ll want to check some of the skills your candidates are claiming on their CVs. It’s a great way to see both how a candidate operates under a bit of pressure and how well they communicate.
You can prepare a technology-specific coding task and either watch over the developer’s shoulder if it’s in person or have the candidate share his or her screen with the interviewers to assess the candidate’s skill level.
Have the candidate talk through his or her decisions throughout the test. Of course, these tasks can come across as stressful, which can affect performance, so it’s best for these types of skill assessments to focus on observing the developer’s thought process.
Be sure to agree on skill assessment criteria ahead of time as an organization to hold interviewers to a grading rubric. Your team leaders can help develop exactly what those criteria are for each open job.
A coding test is an online tool for technical screening. It allows you to identify your candidates’ skills across various languages before you invite them onsite for further assessment.
Coding tests are pre-employment assessments that help recruiters in the technical screening. Candidates need to solve practical programming problems in any programming language. You can send these tasks ahead so candidates can do them at home.
However, the take-home sample is not the only thing we look at. We also expect our candidates to be able to:
Precisely describe technical processes using relatively simple language
Decompose problems into simpler steps by way of analysis
Compose simple individual pieces into a more complex process or solution
Ask questions and resolve ambiguity as concretely as possible
Soft Skills Assessment
The technical ability goes a long way in a developer role at any software company, but it’s not everything. Soft skills like emotional intelligence and effective communication are a few of the things that you should be screening for in your recruitment. You want new hires to meld into your existing team.
Choose candidates who demonstrate that they can work well on a team and be conscientious with their colleagues. If you’re hiring developers that will work on international projects or will be in contact with clients, you may also want to screen for language ability to avoid any communication barriers.
Getting a sense of motivation is also an important angle to try to understand in the recruitment process. Leadership roles in previous companies, interesting side projects, or open-source code contributions are all great ways to get your developer candidates to open up about why they love their field and what skills they can bring to the company.
Screening for motivation is often downplayed during the hiring interview compared to experience, knowledge, and skills. Learning about an individual’s motivations is as essential as their previous experience, though. It tells us how closely their preferences align with Applandeo’s work characteristics. It also gives a good sign of how satisfied and motivated they’ll be in this position.
Companies spend a lot of time and resources trying to overcome misalignment between the job requirements and what people like to do. So, you need to spend the time in the interview to make sure that you’re getting the right fit. And evaluating motivational fit is different from evaluating skills because we’re trying to predict what the candidate wants to do rather than what the candidate can do.
It’s in the employer’s best interest to choose the candidate whose preferences align with the job we offer. At the same time, the candidate should also care to get a realistic view of the job to make a deliberate decision.
Our tips on how to test coding skills before you hire developers will help you make good decisions as you build a team or fill in needs as they arise. It’s essential that you assess both technical and non-technical skills to be sure that anyone who joins is a good fit. Be sure to look into a candidate’s portfolio and open-source contributions and then as you progress, look at technical skills as well as soft skills. Taken together, these assessments should give you solid hires that will not only be great at their jobs but will help develop their teams as well as the organization as a whole.
No doubt, hiring a senior software engineer can be a complicated journey. However, understanding what they do and the technical and soft skills required will make your recruitment process faster and more efficient.
In summary, what makes a senior software developer is not just their technical skills, experience, or soft skills. But, the best of them have all of these qualities. Their skills and experience should enable them to manage their team’s and clients’ expectations.
However, finding the best senior software developer may be challenging for you. With the very competitive recruitment field, you may not have the time and resources to hire the right one for your company. But don’t worry — this is where we come in.
Our senior developers and project managers will work with you to fulfill your software projects.
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