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What is an interviewer trying to achieve during a skills test?

To see if you can do the actual job, or to see how you problem solve?

How are those types of interviews termed?

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  • Welcome! I think this would be called an Assessment. As to what it's for, I'm sure others will answer this a lot better than I could.
    – freekvd
    Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 10:58
  • It depends on the task, is it a coding task or is it a presentation with a slideshow, or something else?
    – user29055
    Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 12:48
  • I've also heard the term "practical" used... but realistically I don't think thete's a standard terminology for this.
    – keshlam
    Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 14:36
  • @keshlam I agree since it depends on what field you're applying. In sales, they might ask you to "sell" something, but for a programmer they might ask to solve a problem in some language.
    – Dan
    Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 14:56

3 Answers 3

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They address a lot of things and the tasks can also be of various kinds. For example, I would take a data scientists's interview as an example and explain you:

  1. A common puzzle: To assess how you approach a problem, and how innovative and fast is your thinking process.
  2. Solve an end to end stats problem: This can either be on paper or you can be asked to code. This tests your problem-solving approach in the domain and your skills in the same. (Technical skills test)
  3. Show data and ask for patterns: To assess how you approach data, for finding patterns in it, so that you can build better models. (Again, innovation and skill in the domain tested)

So, these are some common questions, whose specifics vary across domains and roles.

Basically, your skill in the domain, problem-solving ability, your thought process(remember the interviewer's asking you to speak aloud during these qns?) and your innovation abilities.

How are those types of interviews termed?

They are termed as assessments, but in most cases, they are plainly called interviews (as the problems are part of an end-to-end interview process)

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  • I've done these types of assessments from home, in-browser, timed multiple choice. Without supervision by an interviewer. Would you still call it an interview?
    – freekvd
    Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 11:03
  • @freekvd No, those are called assessments in that case. Puzzles, problems solved during an on-site interview can only be called as interviews. Thanks for pointing it out. You're right
    – Dawny33
    Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 11:05
  • @Dawny33 - I would call every communication with a potential employer an interview, from the moment one contacts a potential employer until one gets and accepts the job offer. (And maybe well after accepting the offer; those first few months on the new job also qualify as an "interview".) Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 11:19
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In my experience in software development, those types of interviews are called "Technical interviews"

They can use these kinds of interviews to assess a number of different things, such as how you approach a problem, how good your problem solving skills are. Is your solution to the problem bog standard or does it have something that makes you stand out.

The most recent technical interview I did, I was actually told at the start that it would be impossible to finish the task to the fullest extent in the two hours I was given, but I was to have at least a working product at the end. So the idea there was to see how I prioritised my work, if someone had an excellent single section of the problem, but not a full working solution then that would be a red flag to an employer.

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I would call them new hire interviews.

People lie about their abilities. In the worst cases, they don't even know that they're lying. It's called the Dunning–Kruger effect. Paradoxically, extremely competent people oftentimes find themselves to be rather incompetent, but extremely incompetent people oftentimes find themselves to be quite competent. Unfortunately, this latter set of people tend to submit lots of resumés (lots and lots and lots of resumés). It's sometimes hard to tell from the resumé whether an applicant is subject to the Dunning–Kruger effect.

Because of this, many employers use some sort of skills test as a filter, particularly for new hires.

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