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I've partaken in a few different software job interview processes that involved multiple choice tests. To be specific, I'm not talking about coding tests with a few multiple choice questions tacked on the end, but rather interview processes where one of the steps in the process is "complete this lengthy multiple choice test." Doing this things this way seems like a very lazy way to screen candidates, and the tests invariably involve at least a few questions about some arcane portions of some specific library or the web API, which only tests my ability to google the answer rather than anything else.

In my experience, having an entirely multiple choice test step has correlated with deficiencies with other areas in the interview process/company, but I'm wondering if this is just because companies I interacted with previously just happened to use multiple choice tests and have other problems.

Is there any data suggesting that multiple choice tests are effective at selecting good candidates, suggesting that a good company might use them, or should I continue to regard multiple choice tests as a red flag?

closed as primarily opinion-based by paparazzo, Dukeling, gnat, Mister Positive, mcknz Jul 19 '17 at 15:26

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • They might be testing you to see if you actually complete the test. Perhaps that want someone who refuses to do something so silly. – Pete B. Jul 19 '17 at 13:53
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    My experience is that any test during an interview is pretty useless. I think a conversation experience and how to handle specific scenarios can tell an interviewer a lot more than being able to define polymorphism or recognize which of 5 diagram symbols represents a class (I've had both questions on tests). A test can tell you if someone has textbook knowledge of a language, but nothing about whether they can use the language. – bluegreen Jul 19 '17 at 14:00
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    Many certifications are multiple choice. – paparazzo Jul 19 '17 at 14:06
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    @Paparazzi I can't say that increases my opinion of multiple choice tests. – Ryan1729 Jul 19 '17 at 14:17
  • This starting to starting to sound like a rant. If you don't want to take the test then move on. – paparazzo Jul 19 '17 at 14:29
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The simple fact that questions are asked in the form of multiple choice seems fairly irrelevant.

A much better gauge would be whether the questions are reasonable for the types of roles you're looking for and things you care about. But you probably still shouldn't put too much weight on this, and rather use the interview process as a whole as well as opinions of others to determine whether you want to work there.

If, for example, you have no interest in roles requiring expertise in any given library, a multiple choice questionnaire with many questions like these would be a bad sign:

What is the name of the function that does X in this library?
What does function Y do?

If you have an interest in algorithms, a multiple choice question like this is reasonable (albeit basic):

What is the average-case time complexity of binary search?

It's not uncommon to expect software development candidates to do some test before having an interview, even at top companies, although this is usually a programming test on e.g. HackerRank.

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    I think you are right that the questions themselves are probably more important that the multiple-choice format itself. Ironically I think I was looking for a quick, easy way to determine if a job opportunity is worth pursuing, while complaining about companies looking for quick and easy ways to evaluate employees. This answer is is also a good reminder that interviewing is a two-way street. – Ryan1729 Jul 19 '17 at 16:41
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I do not think it is a red flag.

Only thing you can research from your end is if the company is doing well or not. If they are doing well that means their interview strategy, however bad you think it is, is working out for them.

Also, you do not know if they will solely decide based on MCQ. May be they will have a personal interview as well later and the first round is only for screening candidates.

There are just too many possibilities why they are doing what they are doing. I do not think you should assess the company based on the assessment technique they are using to assess you. (Within reasonable limits!)

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No.

There's no grand consensus on how to hire people, and the only constant I've found is that most companies (including the one I work for) are pretty bad at it. The fact that they are bad at testing candidates doesn't tell you anything - they may still be a good place to work.

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I would say it's at least a bright orange flag.

There is increasing push-back against any pre-interview testing among software developers. While, I wouldn't argue the hard-line that any test is bad, I do think the test needs to be relevant and short.

If the test requires more than an hour, it's probably too long (i.e. not respectful of your time). If the test isn't going to be able to differentiate between someone who can and someone who cannot do the job, it's irrelevant.


The test you describe tells me that the company doesn't understand how to differentiate between those who can and cannot do the job. That tells me I'm likely to work with some folks who cannot do the job.

For me, that's a deal-breaker. I don't want to work with people who cannot do their jobs. I don't want to work for a company that's fine with poor performers. That's me. Other people put value in different aspects of a job/company.

It is totally possible that the company does know how to screen and applies those real screens later in the process, but unless I'm desperate, I'm going to invest my time/energy to a company that doesn't immediately appear less competent.

  • You're assertion that there's increasing push-back is founded in what? I certainly haven't see that. – Michael Kohne Jul 19 '17 at 16:55

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