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We are looking to hire software developers.

The current trend right now is to give candidates a challenge before even talking to them. Most of these are at least a couple of hours long.

I think it's unfair to ask for such committment. At the same time, I do want to give a 5-10 min challenge as a filter, like a famous FizzBuzz.

What I'm worried about, is that the candidates will copy and paste the answer into the email and render this filter useless. The general problem is that I want to give a very simple test, as to make sure that it is truly a 5-10 min commitment and so to keep it meaningful I need to keep the test time limited.

Of course, I can set up 10min Zoom calls. But that defeats the purpose. I can do something similar with sending out emails and recording reply times. But again, it's a large time investment.

Question: Are there any online text editors that will record what the user puts in and then give the ability to replay it? Are there alternative tools that could help in our situation?

PS. Workplace might not be the right place for this question. Please direct me to a more appropriate place if that's the case

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  • How would you have handled this in a face-to-face setting? If the test would have been part of the interview, why couldn't you do the same via screensharing in Zoom?
    – Llewellyn
    Nov 9, 2020 at 19:00
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    You can set up a quiz in Moodle and use the Lockdown Browser for control.
    – Solar Mike
    Nov 9, 2020 at 19:02
  • @Llewellyn the point is to filter out applicants before a face to face interview. From our understanding we could cut up to 80% of applicants as not-capable without talking to them. And the best part, it would not be a subjective measure, so it would be fair.
    – Anton
    Nov 9, 2020 at 19:25
  • I'm not so sure you can eliminate 80% with a 5-10 minute question. That is still a google-able complexity and may not be the filter you think it is. I could just google the answer and then type it in. This tool will just show me typing the correct answer.
    – cdkMoose
    Nov 9, 2020 at 21:51
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    As having been through job search recently may I chime in and say how much I hate the "current trend". It completely ignores experience and places value on things like cheating and plagiarism.
    – solarflare
    Nov 11, 2020 at 0:22

4 Answers 4

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You want to put a technical filter question in? But you're worried that the applications will copy/paste the answer?

The solution's simple: create a technical question that doesn't have an easily-found online solution.

I mean, geez - you don't have to literally do Fizz-Buzz exactly. It's just meant to be a simple, easy-to-do programming task. Just make your own! Then someone can't simply google a full solution.

Examples:

  • Make a program that outputs all the numbers between 1-100 that are either 2 or 3 times a prime number
  • Make a program that takes any number less than 1 million, then figures out how many 1's are in its binary form.
  • Make a program that figures out how large an unsigned integer can be.

... etc, etc.

(and if you're worried, "But they might just google how to do bits of the puzzle and assemble a solution from that!"... just consider: that's what being a programmer is.)

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Ask for something simple in the relevant technical area.

I have an alternative solution.

Say you want to hire a Django developer. Maybe ask them to publish a Django site that displays their name and prints their name to the console. Maybe you ask for an open API that when called displays their name. Depends on what you need. They can push it to Azure or some other cloud provider that has a limited free tier.

It would take me about 10-20 minutes to do that task as I already have a grasp of Django. A bit longer of a commitment, but not onerous. But you will spend hours if you have never used/deployed Django before. It can't be copy and pasted and is trivial for anyone who knows their stuff.

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I think you're missing an important point: the "cost" of completing your pre-screen is easily paid, and is going to be a factor in determining who applies.

The question is not, "Should we do this or some other, less time-consuming, screen?" The question is rather "How many responses will we get, of what quality, if we use these two screens?"

If you are advertising for a plentiful group, such as junior level javascript or .net coders, there will likely be a large number of respondents.

If you are trying to hire the kind of ultra-senior people that get mentioned in books, they probably won't be looking, and would consider an hour invested in a random filter task to be a waste of their time. But they would also consider fifteen minutes a similar waste, so running ads for God-like engineers is not the way to go, regardless.

Whatever group you're trying to attract, if you can get sufficient interest then stop -- mission accomplished! If you don't get sufficient interest, maybe your filter is the reason. Or maybe the requirements are the reason and the filter has nothing to do with it. (Did you ask for a Rust coder with 17 years of experience?)

There are plenty of ways to screw up the hiring process. I don't think a filter screen is going to screw things up. It might slow you down for a while, but that's all.

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Here are three options:

http://interviewing.io It records the shared code editor and the audio for later review, but it requires you to participate in the technical interview itself.

http://triplebytes.com They do the remote technical pre-screening for you. It's all automated. The drawback is that they're super expensive since they expect a commission on anyone you hire through them.

http://hackerrank.com There is HackerRank. Their time-limited tests do not need to be attended by you. And those tests can be administered by their platform at the convenience of the test-taker.

With that said, no remote testing option is absolutely foolproof. If someone has their friend take the test, there is really nothing you can do about that, except test them again in a more controlled environment.

And with all three of those options, the browser clipboard gets disabled, but that doesn't mean there aren't other ways for the test-taker to look up the answer. So whatever screening question you ask, I would recommend that it be a little bit more complicated than just the standard FizzBuzz problem.

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  • Nice links and solid answer.. But "And with all three of those options, the browser clipboard gets disabled" could be hacked with a script (Thou that change might be detected).. ;)
    – iLuvLogix
    Nov 12, 2020 at 12:04
  • @iLuvLogix, Thank you. Yes, and worse still, if the test-taker is a decent enough typer, he can probably just copy an answer found on another web site (or found by a friend) by simply typing it out. Disabling the clipboard does very little. Nov 14, 2020 at 7:35

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