7

A colleague and I, both mid-level developers, were having a disagreement regarding a recent job prospect they had where the individual from HR asked my colleague if they'd be willing to do a language-specific coding quiz. Unsurprisingly to me, because my colleague has a great job history and is very skilled, they've recently had a dozen recruiters reach out to them since setting their LinkedIn status to "looking for jobs" and only one so far has requested this.

The colleague asked for my opinion and I felt that for non-junior level developers, it seemed tacky. Surely a detailed resume showing 5+ years of employment as a programmer should filter an individual from the "quick screening" tactics that cost a company barely any time but could cost an applicant hours. My colleague amicably said it makes me sound snobbish; I retorted that their time is valuable and they've proven themselves to need not be subject to this style of screening.

So, assuming the market is hungry for developers and my colleague is appropriately skilled for at least a mid-level position, is it worth their time?


Update: For clarification, the point I'm trying to get at regarding "pragmatism" has less to do with arrogance of "Im too good for this" and everything to do with the fact that if every employer asked this, as it stands with 12 interview prospects, my colleague would be looking at 12+ hours of personal time in quizzes/assignments.

1
  • @bharal In general, is it arrogant to know your worth and consider your time not worth something? If an employer asked you to do a twenty hour coding assignment to earn a shot at an interview, are you being arrogant for turning it down? I'm confused at the arrogance in this situation. – 8protons Feb 27 '20 at 1:11
7

As others have said, it depends. How badly do I want the job? How onerous is the test? I certainly would not be insulted just by the ask. From my own experience screening job candidates I know that people lie and exaggerate on their resumes with some regularity. I wouldn't hold it against a company to do a brief verification of my skill level before investing more time and trouble talking to me. I'm perfectly happy spending an hour of my time taking an easy online test. Spending a week on trial project? No thanks, that's abusive. Something in between? Well, how badly do I want the job?

Larger companies may also face the issue that having inconsistent hiring processes can open them to charges of discrimination in hiring: "Why was candidate A given a 2 hour examination in C++ usage, while the exam was waived for Candidate B?"

5

So, assuming the market is hungry for developers and my colleague is appropriately skilled for at least a mid-level position, is it worth their time?

Everyone gets to place a value on their own time. And everyone gets to place a value on the possibility of landing a particular job.

If they value hours of their time more than they value their chances of landing the job, they should decline to spend any time on take home quizzes and assignments. Likely that also means walking away from that particular job possibility.

Otherwise, they should work hard to do whatever the hiring company asks.

Similar thoughts apply to any other type of screening. If the candidate feels that their experience means that they shouldn't need to bother with the screening being requested (perhaps coding tests, perhaps phone screens with HR, perhaps answering particular questions, perhaps background checks - whatever), then just decline. Usually, that means moving on to a different job offer. But that's always a decision we each get to make.

Personally, I'm not a fan of take-home quizzes. But is a good job worth an hour or two of your time? For me it is. But everyone can come to whatever conclusion works for them.

1
  • 2
    Just a little tweak, but it's the value/chance of the job minus the value of other jobs that you can get without the effort. In large markets, time that you spend on the quiz and studying is time you could have spent on other companies, so there's the opportunity cost to consider. Of course that's not true in a small market though – Mars Feb 27 '20 at 3:43
3

Let's approach this from the other side.

You claim to have 5 years of experience, but claims aren't proof. Maybe your company sucks. Maybe you lied. I have 2 ways to check your abilities:

  • standardized tests (checkable certifications)
  • our house test

That's it. With this, we can weed out the fakes and under-qualified.
We might weed out those who are too busy or arrogant to take the test, but losing a good candidate is better than hiring a bad one. (Something similar was said in Cracking the Coding Interview).

You also said:

as it stands with 12 interview prospects, my colleague would be looking at 12+ hours of personal time in quizzes/assignments.

Why do I care? For my ideal, you're only interviewing with my company, because you truly love it. 1 hour isn't unreasonable*--it's your fickleness that led you to spend 12 hours chasing companies when you're only actually going to enter one. If you were a dedicated candidate, you'd only have 1 hour of tests. The other 11 hours are your fault.

You also state:

"Surely a detailed resume showing 5+ years of employment as a programmer should filter an individual from the "quick screening" tactics that cost a company barely any time"

This seems to be the main premise of your question, but do you have any evidence for it? Considering skipping to the interview phase means skipping to the phase that requires work by HR and work by the interviewer(s), if you save even 1 bad interview, you saved 1-3 hours of company time.


*12 hours of effort isn't remotely unreasonable for a job search either....
**The above are not my actual thoughts on the matter, but put yourself in the other side's shoes.


Also highly related

9
  • 1
    You realize those "at home screening tests" all have answers people can plagiarie from online, right? Those "excellent candidates" might well be phonies, who's wasting who's time? – solarflare Feb 27 '20 at 4:47
  • @solarflare Please come back to this post when you have some numbers to refute those large companies' claim that these efforts don't lose a significant amount of good candidates while blocking a significant amount of phonies from passing through. If you get that data, you might also consider selling it to Amazon, Google, etc. – Mars Feb 27 '20 at 4:51
  • Plus I attributed the claim to Cracking the Coding Interview, which I believe attributes this policy to Google/Facebook/Amazon/etc – Mars Feb 27 '20 at 4:53
  • 1
    google.com.au/… - There was about 226,000 results you can weed out the ones that are irrelevant considering you seem interested in facts. – solarflare Feb 27 '20 at 4:53
  • @solarflare What are you trying to imply about the hackerrank thing? – Mars Feb 27 '20 at 4:54
2

It entirely depends on the situation.

How much do you want the job? And how much is known about the job (role, responsibilities, and remuneration)?

Then you will have to set a personal threshold - "I will accept a 3 hour test for a job at Company X that offers a 10% increase in my current salary".

Surely a detailed resume showing 5+ years of employment as a programmer should filter an individual from the "quick screening" tactics that cost a company barely any time but could cost an applicant hours.

You would think - but then plenty of people have spent 5 years getting the same 1 year of experience 5 times over. Of course, there are other ways to potentially filter candidates like this, but if a job opening has garnered a reasonable number of applicants (I'd regularly get a 100 or so applicants for each position I'd advertised) then companies are going to want to minimise the amount of time to evaluate each candidate.

And something worth remembering - companies are generally prepared to lose one or two of the "right" candidates in the process if it means they won't inadvertently select the "wrong" one.

5
  • What does "getting the same 1 year of experience 5 times over" mean? – Mars Feb 27 '20 at 5:53
  • @Mars there are some people who learn the basics of development and then just keep solving the same problems over and over again without learning anything new. – HorusKol Feb 27 '20 at 5:56
  • 1
    In that case, I'd assume they then have some kind of specialized skill and have gotten a little bit good at it...compared to someone who in 5 years worked in 5 totally different platforms and essentially has 1 year experience 5 times. But even in that case, they should have a greater understanding of the platforms out there – Mars Feb 27 '20 at 6:01
  • @Mars no, that's not the meaning of the idiom... it means not learning anything beyond what they first learnt... it's also not generally meant literally - but figuratively... if they'd spent 5 years getting very good at a particular framework/language/platform then they actually do have 5 years experience. – HorusKol Feb 27 '20 at 6:08
  • Ah, its an idiom! Got it. Never heard it before – Mars Feb 27 '20 at 6:20
1

An applicant isn’t applying for all jobs and the practice doesn’t correlate with pay and probably not with workplace fit, so what is common or generally acceptable isn’t really relevant.

What needs to be considered are (a) is there a current job, (b) how important is it to leave the current job if there is one, (c) how important is it to get the position with this company at this time.

That last is where the fact that interviewing is a two way street comes in: since it offers no benefit to the applicant, the only reason to consider a position that requires a take home test is that the position is worth the investment, either in a positive (they pay/benefits/people are great) or negative (anything to get out of this place, going to loose my house/car/insurance unless hired somewhere soon) sense.

If the applicant has, or expects to have, a lot of interviews, it makes sense to prioritize those that don’t require a test, as that would make it faster to work through the available positions.

If the expected number of interviews before success is relatively small, then it doesn’t much matter.

I will say there is one exception to the above: if working with a recruiter where the test can be taken once and applied to multiple companies/positions. If that is the case, then it’s probably going to be worthwhile to take the test, as they will be in a better position to negotiate salary and hiring with the additional evidence.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .