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I was contacted by a recruiter from a large company. He asked me to do an online assessment to check my technical proficiency. He gave me a broad list of topics to study. I did the practice assessment and it went very well, however the real assessment went terribly.

The assessment had two programming questions. You were given the method signature and a series of automated tests were applied against it. It had to compile for the tests to be applied. In the first question I got stuck at the end trying to convert the return value to match the supplied method signature, so it didn't even compile. I red over the second question and had ideas but ran out of time before writing any code.

I strongly feel I would have been able to get everything to work if I had more time.

The practice was easier and the study material was not related to what was on the assessment. I don't mean to sound arrogant but in a sense I found this to have been a bad way to spend time. Together I spent at least 4 hours studying, doing the practice assessment and the real assessment. If it had been for a job that I really wanted, I wouldn't mind but the recruiter only gave a broad sense of what the job would be doing. Is this normal for getting hired in the tech industry? Should a person bother to do a test even if they aren't sure they want the job? OTOH since I did invest time already and have thought of a solution, I would like the opportunity to complete this assessment. Should I email the recruiter asking if I can retake it? When doing an assessment is it a good idea to ask how they score it? For example is it better if it compiles but gives no right answers?

At the end of the test it asked for feedback about the assessment. Should I have included that if I had more time I could have done more?

If I am confident in something, and have done it before, I can work well under pressure and go fast. I do not work well under pressure if it involves thinking up a new algorithm. How can I use this information to target my job search?

In a certain sense I found the assessment was up to luck. The questions made extensive use of the Map and List interface. When studying I focused more on algorithms and other data structure the recruiter had said. If it had been a Vector on Queue I wouldn't have had to read the documentation and would have done much better.

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  • There are multiple questions buried in here - you should extract them into separate questions if you want them answered well. – HorusKol May 19 '20 at 13:18
  • To do better the next time you take online coding test, the answer is simple: Keep practicing "Data Structures and Algorithms". There are many online websites that train you to be better at these subjects. Many current hiring managers at Google, Amazon, Microsoft, etc... will tell you that in the past, they too failed the coding interviews at those companies many times before they finally succeeded after doing more homework. So, Good Luck to you. :-) – Job_September_2020 Mar 13 at 8:01
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Should I email the recruiter asking if I can retake it?

No. They've already moved on to another candidate.

When doing an assessment is it a good idea to ask how they score it?

The recruiter won't know the answer. They just have a checklist of things that a candidate has to do, and if one of them is 'Pass the assessment with a score of 70 or above', that's all they'll look for. The assessment company is an external supplier for them - they just purchase the right to use their questions.

At the end of the test it asked for feedback about the assessment. Should I have included that if I had more time I could have done more?

Not really relevant. They won't give you extra marks for that. They're really looking for comments like 'This {specific section} is incorrect', or '{x} could have been worded better'.

If I am confident in something, and have done it before, I can work well under pressure and go fast. I do not work well under pressure if it involves thinking up a new algorithm. How can I use this information to target my job search?

These assessments are very common the development industry. Why? Because a lot of developers can talk a good game, and pass a few certificates, but can't deliver code. There is a weakness; there aren't many assessment companies out there. Keep applying for jobs (preferably, jobs you want...), and you'll soon see this exact (or very similar) assessment turn up again. And you'll know the answer...

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    "No. They've already moved on to another candidate." I wouldn't be so sure, and it is extremely little to no harm in writing up a followup email. It may go to a bin, you may get a response, I sure saw that happen a few times. – Tymoteusz Paul May 18 '20 at 17:19
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    @TymoteuszPaul That's a reasonable point. You're correct - what's the worst that can happen? You'll be in the same situation, so why not send an email. I haven't edited the answer, I think it's fairer to show that that was my original thought, and I'm happy to be convinced otherwise. – PeteCon May 19 '20 at 3:23
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Checking if the candidate is able to solve a given task within an ambitious time limit is the very point of these tests. Most candidates would do great "if the time didn't run out".

No, you shouldn't ask to retake the test, it would sound very naive.

And yes, they are popular in several industries.

Just move on. Sometimes you win, sometimes you fail. That's life.

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I strongly feel I would have been able to get everything to work if I had more time.

I can tell you that the majority of candidate feel this way and communicating that to the recruiter is not necessary.

Should I email the recruiter asking if I can retake it?

Generally there isn't a "retake" option with automatic assessments. Companies will typically have a cooling off period such as 6 months before you can apply for a position again.

When doing an assessment is it a good idea to ask how they score it? For example is it better if it compiles but gives no right answers?

I think you just need more practice. Most automated assessments are very similar. Best solution solves the problem and passes all of the automated tests. If the company you're interviewing with is smaller someone might read your solution and evaluate it manually to see if your code is sufficient. I know this because I have been doing this for our open positions.

At the end of the test it asked for feedback about the assessment. Should I have included that if I had more time I could have done more?

Again this is unnecessary, because most candidates could do better with more time. It's about what you are able to achieve in a limited time frame and not necessarily about providing a complete solution that passes every test. Unless you have very specific feedback about how the problem could be improved i.e. automated test number N is wrong because of XYZ, I would advise you to skip the feedback. The feedback I have seen usually count against the candidate, because they often times just blame the problem and not introspect on their own approach.

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Is this normal for getting hired in the tech industry?

No, just development mostly.

Most of the tech industry is based on qualifications and experience. But due to the nature of development, people with similar papers can differ widely, hence the tests.

How can I use this information to target my job search?

Just keep trying, but 4 hours for a job you don't really want is a bit extreme.

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    everything from PM in the tech industry to management consulting. Tests in math, numerical thinking, verbal reasoning, logical thinking, economics, IT, analytical thinking, presentations. – BigMadAndy May 18 '20 at 19:37
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    @BigMadAndy did you ever manage to pass one? – Kilisi May 18 '20 at 20:35
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    @Kilisi no, BigMadAndy is still unemployed and talking from a position of no experience... really, what a question “did you pass one”... – Solar Mike May 19 '20 at 6:21
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    @Kilisi I was asked in an interview “can you use excel?” I said yes, then they sat me at a desktop to play with some data... I used a technique and the assessor said “can you do that again - I have never seen that and it looks like it will help me a lot” so I ended up teaching the assessor... Got the job! – Solar Mike May 19 '20 at 8:33
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    @Kilisi, of course, most of them. Why? :) I actually find them ok, just don't like those hokuspokus ones (professionalism, personality tests, games that acc. to the employer can tell them my strengths and weaknesses). – BigMadAndy May 19 '20 at 20:19
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This is a normal thing for large companies to do such assessment tests. And yes you need to have prior practice in order to complete these assessments on time.

I have gone through a few tests and it gets difficult to complete the test on time when you get stuck at some point.

There are some websites those allow you to actually practice such questions and I strongly feel you need to go through them before going into such an assessment test.

Nevertheless the actual core knowledge of the programming language you are trying to test for is a prerequisite.

Yes its ok to email the recruiter that you can do better and will like to have another opportunity. They do offer more opportunities after some period of time.

But it depends on the policy of the recruiter.

Do ample preparation before going again for the test assessments.

There are programming related practice websites like https://www.hackerrank.com/ https://projecteuler.net/

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