I work for a small company that builds an SDK for developers to use and provides support to help the developers build workflows and troubleshoot bugs. A good analogy would be something like Stripe.

We have trouble finding qualified candidates as the main roles require someone who is comfortable troubleshooting and writing code, being a salesperson, and dealing with customers.

We have found that a good way to evaluate candidates is to send them a take-home assignment PDF that includes instructions for setting up the SDK and a small coding challenge that tests their ability to read our documentation and piece together a simple workflow.

Managing this process in our small company has been a pain. Since the assessment is timed, I have to email back and forth with the candidate to first find out when they're available for the allotted time slot. Then I have to schedule Outlook to send the email and make sure that I don't turn off the computer so that the email goes out. There's all kinds of little manual things to do including checking the email times to see how long it took them, forwarding their response to the appropriate reviewer, and manually following up with candidates when they are slow to complete the assignment.

My question is, does anyone know of a good website, Outlook extension, or some kind of tool that allows a small company to easily manage scheduling, emailing, and reviewing take-home assignments for candidates?

We are too small to use the complex and expensive HR software suites like BambooHR, Greenhouse or Lever.


Most of these kinds of discussions usually include two key phrases:

We have trouble finding qualified candidates...

We have found that a good way to evaluate candidates is...

I don't know why, but very few people stop to reflect on the mutual exclusivity of these notions. To me, it's impossible to seriously talk about the stated question, which is about dysfunction of managing the communication process involved, without first just talking about the general dysfunction of this approach at all.

For me, what this means is to potentially re-evaluate the assumption that your existing methodology is good or optimal. Speaking as an experienced software engineer myself, I decline all interviews that either contain onerous hazing-style trivia or involve significant hours of my personal time (such as take-home problems or preparing presentations).

The main reason is that it speaks volumes about a company if they believe their positions are so coveted and so requiring of drastic candidate filters that they believe they can ask for large, uncompensated blocks of your time. Another large reason is that the desired outcome of take-home problems is often ill-defined, meaning you might spend a lot of hours of your personal life on a solution that is technically well-rounded and shows great communication, only to get burnt by someone in the evaluation pipeline who is using it more as a political filter, whereby they can manipulate vague parts of the problem statement to essentially disqualify anyone but their political favorites. This leaves the candidate in a situation similar to guessing the teacher's password.

With these kinds of larger-scale dysfunctions in the mix, the extra management chore of back and forth communication, managing time limits, communicating about evaluations, all cannot be seriously addressed -- certainly not by just looking for a tool to wrangle the communication.

Essentially, the premise of the question requires revisiting.

  • I appreciate your answer and in general I agree with your premise. Our take-home test is not long, is not coding heavy, and has a clear goal. We ask you to recreate a web page that is completely un-styled but has the core functionality. Essentially, "Can you read the documentation and build a workflow". It replicates the non-sales responsibilities of the role. Lastly I do believe that hiring a role that is part programmer, part sales, and part support is more challenging than either of the 3. We also pay above market rate with generous commissions structure. Thanks again for your answer. – J Rongsinger Mar 9 '18 at 16:44
  • 3
    It still leaves the big issue of taking up someone's personal time in that way. You say it's not long, but everybody has different working styles, different pacing. I would say the problems about take-home assignments are especially glaring when there is a short time limit and the candidate must solve it in one continuous time block. In that case, pay them for their time, or instead just use technically probing questions in a regular, conversational interview to get the same information. But something like, "we think our test is really simple in the given time black" doesn't cut it. – ely Mar 9 '18 at 16:47

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.