I was contacted via LinkedIn by a company for a position that actually looked interesting to me, as it had better compensation, technology, and benefits than others. However the interview process was quite intensive:

  • It started with various HR type screenings, followed by a tough technical phone screening that lasted over an hour.

  • Then I had another 40 minute technical phone screening by the person who would be my manager. This went well and an on-site meeting was scheduled.

  • After a couple F2F not technical sessions, a gentleman brought in a test, on paper, for me to hand write the answers. I was given 40 minutes to take the test, without using my cell phone for assistance. The questions were very challenging, and required a lot of writing. They were also from more of an academic perspective (theoretical) and not real world. After my time was up, the architect and I reviewed the questions for another 30 minutes.

  • The session concluded with some additional sessions, which went fine, even though my mind was fried.

I emphasize the hand writing aspect of this too as I haven't written anything but my name in the 15 plus years. I never had A+ writing to begin with, so this was very stressful as I wanted my answers to be legible. In addition, it was over the top considering my previous 2 hours of technical phone screening.

To be frank, when the written test was presented I was a bit pissed and almost said "no thanks". I already had given close to 2 hours of my time in technical phone screenings, plus the questions were more theoretical as mentioned before.

Are hand written test still common for software engineering?

  • 2
    Don't know about common, but my company does a hand-written test, mostly because it's way too difficult at our workplace to get interviewees computer access. We also review it right away, which means if something is illegible we can just ask - it's not that big of a deal, we do know good penmanship is not necessary for good programming! – user812786 Aug 17 '17 at 17:27

Everyone has a different threshold for how much is 'too much' when it comes to things like technical tests. Their process sounds intensive but not insane to me and there can be various reasons why they might err on the longer side. They could have been burnt before by a particularly good bluffer (they do exist sadly) and upped the bar to compensate and went a bit far, maybe they want to aim for more than 75% accuracy in their technical screens, or they might just be not as good at assessing skills as fast as you are. It's also possible that they were "testing" for something else - such as your ability to sustain intensive "work" over a longer period, your technical "stamina" as it were.

Either way I don't think it's an out-and-out red flag but given the hiring process is supposed to be a two-way thing I'd just chalk it up as a mark in the 'cons' column and weigh it appropriately when you make your final decision (assuming they offer you the role), given the interview process is something you only go through once for a job I probably wouldn't put too much stock in this aspect though.

For what it's worth the handwritten element would have bothered me as well - like you I haven't done any substantial handwriting in years and my already atrocious writing has been made even worse by lack of practice. I doubt that was anything more than a clumsy attempt to prevent you "cheating" by using google or stack overflow or whatever though.

  • Thank you for this answer. I could not tell if I was being a big baby, or if this was on the fence in terms of being acceptable. – Mister Positive Aug 17 '17 at 12:39

After your long message, your question seems to be:

  1. Am I overreacting, or does this seem reasonable?
  2. What is a reasonable amout (sic) of time for the technical portion of an interview?
  3. Should a test for a senior developer have such a twist of academic to it?

And my answers are:

  1. Yes. People who want the very best have to go the extra mile. I've always found the interview questions are often the most fun I have in a contract. After them, the work always seems to mundane. If you don't like being tested, then you're not going to get more challenging roles.

  2. Depends. Some companies ask for an hour, some for a whole day. You're not going to work out how good someone is by asking them basic phone screen questions. I find the bigger problem with tech interviews is they spend too long on the "tech" and too little time on the "team" and cultural fit.

  3. Yes. What sort of senior developer - truly senior, I mean - isn't keeping up on trends, or doesn't know how to sort a list or what have you. I think you're thinking that "junior developer + 5 years = senior developer". Disabuse yourself of that notion. It is about knowledge, not time. Time is just used by lazy HR as a way to assume knowledge gained.

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