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I interviewed with a middle-sized company (~500 employees) in Europe for a software developer position. The company's main business is software development. I had two interviews with the company. One with my potential boss and another one with the CEO. In both interviews I was asked standard HR and soft skill questions and some very general questions about my research (I did a PhD and this is my first job in industry), but I didn't had to write a single line of code or answer any technical question.

Nevertheless I got an offer that sounds quite good. However, I'm not sure what I should think of a company that does not conduct any coding tests. For all other companies I interviewed so far, I had at least a small coding task. Is this a red flag? I think it could be one, since if they hire like that, how do they make sure that they hire decent developers?

I realize that there is a very similar question: Is it an alarming sign, if a company's hiring process for senior/lead developer doesn't include a coding task? However, in my case, I wouldn't definitively be the best or most experienced developer and in theory I'm sure they know how to do a code interview since the company's core business is software development.

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  • Did you share any of your older code through a Github account or such?
    – Erik
    Apr 9, 2017 at 21:15
  • Yes that was also surprising for me. I'm unsure what to think about this offer...
    – user6189
    Apr 10, 2017 at 6:27
  • in what field of work is the company Apr 10, 2017 at 6:51
  • 5
    The company may have figured that the BS/MS/PhD in Software Engineering adequately and credibly represents that you've passed whatever technical tests they would want an assessment on. The assumption may or may not be accurate, but it's not especially unreasonable.
    – WBT
    Jun 12, 2019 at 17:03
  • 1
    In Europe there is a trial period of typically three months for finding out if you live up to expectations. Dec 7, 2022 at 2:28

8 Answers 8

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No, it is not.

Coding tests are problematic - in IT it is trivial to execute a test (either by asking questions, or giving a task or whatever). As such, in IT you tend to find a lot of this measuring technical skill.

But IT isn't about whether you can do widget X (unless you're being hired for a very specific task), but is more about your ability to tackle and solve problems. Sadly, this is not exposed in any technical test I know of.

As a result, there is an explosion of technical tests that measure if a person can do task X, but not how quickly they can learn to do task Y, or how capable they are of gathering the requirements for problem P.

And it is task Y & problem P that decide the fate of a project, not the trivial execution of task X.

Which is a long way of my saying that "technical tests measure a quality that is inherently useless in determining a capable candidate, but are easy to do". That this company has not bothered with a technical test, to me, speaks volumes of the philosophy they might have, and that your interview was probably more about fit and culture than anything else.

Regardless, you would be a fool to judge if you wanted a job based on the interview process used (note the word process there). That process is something decided by a team generally very orthogonal to an IT team, and so should not impact your decision.

Things that should are: company funding (crunchbase.com), company product (the company website), personal growth and training offered by the company, salary, time off, location, team and culture fit.

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  • Thank you for your statement. I agree with the sometimes infuriating technical tests as they seem not focus on the engineering and even architecture aspect, but rather small pieces of generic tasks. Nonetheless as the OP mention, apparently no technical questions were asked, not even, "what technologies would you normally use for X" or "what do you like about Y (technical) approach".
    – SaltySub2
    Sep 3, 2018 at 2:22
  • A code test about specifics is unnecessary, but a short, quick test to confirm the applicant is a programmer (aka something like the FizzBuzz test) is very useful to confirm they can do a programming job. You'd be amazed at the number of people applying who can't do it, who apply because of the high salary but can't actually code. You do not want to hire someone who doesn't know what an if/else statement is.
    – windblade
    Dec 11, 2022 at 21:34
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In Germany it is not uncommon to not include a coding test, as I replied in your linked answer. But as @joe-strazzere says, it is very odd that they didn't ask technical questions. Essentially they didn't check if you are up to their standards, and that most likely signals they have none.

Take it with a pinch of salt but in my personal experience, the harder it was to get a job, the better it turned out to be. If you feel you got in with no effort at all, it would be a warning as to what to expect.

Since you are asking this question, clearly you are concerned, so you may as well take your time to do some deeper research into the company before joining in.

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  • Some coding tests can be not relevant. However indeed it is concerning when a company (especially of that size) acts "too fast" and does not show some restraint and does not conduct what you expect would be due diligence.
    – SaltySub2
    Sep 3, 2018 at 2:21
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If I saw it as a red flag that a potential employer didn't give a coding test, then I would never have a job. I have never been given a coding test.

I know some companies do give tests, and I know that some positions always seem to give tests. But I have not been applying for those jobs. Over the years the priority of the coding tasks within the job duties have varied from low to high but they are always more worried about the other aspects of being a good worker.

A coding test only tests for one small aspect of development. The conditions they put on the test determine what aspect they are emphasizing in the test, but that doesn't do a good job of estimating the other situations. For example: making somebody code on a whiteboard, doesn't tell you how good they are at solving hard problems.

The lack of technical questions is more worrisome, but it does depend on what the definition of technical is and what your job duties will be. It could be that your technical knowledge (PHD) is much greater than the position requires.

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Short answer

It fully depends on the position.


Long answer

When interviewing for entry-/junior-level positions it - at least in germany - it's rather uncommon to be asked a lot of technical questions, or being asked to partake in a coding test.

The reasoning for that is simple: You're a junior, and they expect you to be unfamiliar with the technologies they use. What they also (should) expect is that you'll adapt quickly, and learn fast.

Interviews for low-level positions are most commonly used to evaluate the general fit of a candidate, i.e. by asking the interviewee questions about his free time activities, his culture, preferences, expectations etc., which result in an evaluation much more valuable than a simple coding test.

Of course, generally speaking an interview consisting out of both, a coding test and a check for the fit should be best, but from my personal experience I'd say that companies nowadays put more focus on the fit, then they do on the coding capabilities.

Last but not least you should be aware of the probation. If the company should come to the conclusion that you're unable to do anything even remotely related to coding, expect to be let go, i.e. if you cannot program a simple FizzBuzz-test... but you really shouldn't be interviewing for a programmer job in that case.


TL;DR

This is common - in germany - when interviewing for low-level positions, as the general fit of the candidate is deemed to be more valuable, and the candidate can still be let go during the probation if the coding skills are truly awful.

So, no, generally not a red flag.

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I wouldn't sweat it. I have a mixed background with companies giving coding tests and others that did not. I had received an offer from a VERY large tech company (EMC Corp) back in the day and after meeting with 5 or 6 people, I wasn't given a coding test or asked a single technical question. One interviewer simply asked me about music since I had "playing guitar" on my list of interests (I have since removed this entire section since I have learned that it is not relevant). I accepted the offer and was quite happy there until the company began to tank in the early 2000s.

I would be more interested in the product, work, people and ultimately the pay. Don't bother worrying about their interview process... that isn't your problem.

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Well, first of all, "you have a PhD," which ought to count for something.

Then: "I never asked for 'a coding test' whenever I hired anyone." I wanted to talk to them. I simply presumed that they actually knew how to work with a programming language (or other system) at the level of competence they described. And of course, if they were lying, "that's what 'probation' is for." (But it never happened.)

Also, I honestly never thought that it was fair to ask someone to be presented with a problem for the first time and to "be ready to solve it upon presentment." You're not in college anymore.

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Do you want the job or not? How they interview is purely up to the company, now you got a job offer and you're looking for red flags?

Unless you have something better to do and are independently wealthy you can go get an income and have a probation period to have a closer look at whatever you want.

No one experienced expects too much of someone straight out of academia, I've had to teach professors the most basic things many times. I actually wouldn't expect much from them in the way of coding. What I would expect is they can learn fast and document well.

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  • Well I don't need this specific jobs, there are other jobs I can get. However, the company exists since 70 years, the business they do seems to be well organized, interesting and sustainable, and the offer they made is also a good one. However, as @angarg12 said, I'm thinking that the lack of asking any technical question or a coding test could indicate a lack of quality.
    – user6189
    Apr 10, 2017 at 8:02
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    Why worry about the quality of their product? It's not yours, you're out of class now and won't be graded on it. The quality of their payroll system is the key.
    – Kilisi
    Apr 10, 2017 at 8:12
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    Well, the quality of the product is not my first concern. It's more the quality of their processes, my future peers and so on. I'm worrying about these thing because I'll have to work with these things in the future.
    – user6189
    Apr 10, 2017 at 8:16
  • At least answer the question before giving the reprimand.
    – Brandin
    Apr 10, 2017 at 9:21
  • @Kilisi I think you have a pragmactic view and it is also a valid one. I once worked at a company where they did not have any standard and the velocity was decreasing each sprint, I was not feeling great even if the money was great. So I guess it is a personal taste, your option or another is good depending of you.
    – Tom Sawyer
    Apr 10, 2017 at 11:53
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If we are talking about an ordinary job at an ordinary company that pays you ordinary money, it's not a red flag. Maybe you would handle an interview differently, or maybe I would, maybe it's not clever, but it's up to them.

Where it is a very, very, very red flag is if you suspect that there may be a scam. The job advert is not for real, they just want job applicants as marks so they can steal from them. Like you need a course there that you need to pay for, you need some documents that you need to pay for, or any of the many scams that you can read about on money.stackexchange. These people wouldn't ask technical questions because they don't actually have any knowledge about the job, the just want to trick you into handing over money.

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