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What developer candidates need to know about the Karat interview.
Hiring software engineers is notoriously challenging. Whether it’s a lack of time to conduct technical assessments, inability to find the right candidates in the first place, or lack of reliability in the recommendations — it’s hard to find an approach that works.
Most technical hiring processes start first-round technical assessment:
Below you’ll find a guide to each type of technical assessment, including how to use them to hire software engineers and determine final recommendations.
Code tests are timed, automated assessments used by technical recruiters to filter candidates in or out at the very beginning of the hiring process. They require candidates to write and run working code that solves a single question or set of questions.
Technical recruiters will typically invite candidates to complete the test via an email invitation. The most common technical code tests are Hackerrank, Codilty, and CodeSignal.
Candidates are on their own to write and run solutions to questions presented to them in a code test. Most code tests produce a binary pass or fail recommendation based on absolute completeness and correctness.
These limitations can negatively impact candidates from underrepresented and nontraditional backgrounds. For example, if a candidate’s solution uses the correct algorithm and data structures but includes a minor error like a typo, it will fail many code tests.
Code tests are useful in high-volume hiring programs that focus on junior developers. University Recruiting programs that recruit new grads frequently use code tests. Some use a combination of a code test and technical interview to determine which candidates to advance or reject.
Code tests are not an ideal technical assessment for specialized engineering roles and more senior candidates. These candidates are less likely to sign up for the code test because they associate it with junior candidates and feel it will not represent their skills. And they’re right — code tests produce less reliable recommendations. This is because the nature of code tests relies on a coding exercise rather than a discussion on business logic complexity or code review. The latter is more relevant to specialized and senior software engineering roles, like software architects and DevOps.
A take-home test is a coding problem that candidates have multiple days or weeks to complete.
Candidates are allowed to use their own programming environments. Sometimes take-home tests include similar questions as code tests to explore algorithms and data structure knowledge. Other times, because of the additional time and flexibility given to candidates, they ask candidates to build or extend applications with tools they use on the job.
Take-home tests are reviewed and scored by the in-house software engineering team. Some teams use an interview rubric aligned to specific competencies to score the test and make a recommendation. Others go by their own experience and gut. The latter creates a haphazard approach that can produce noise and bias.
Take-home tests can be handy when:
Take-home tests may not be useful if you are concerned about:
Live technical interviews are the most human-centered technical assessments. Not to be confused with a phone screen, technical interviews should include questions and problems that are relevant to the role and are solved with the guidance of a professional interviewer.
Interview rubrics mapped to the technical interview are used to produce recommendations. They describe competencies relevant to the role and what different levels of mastery look like. Candidates can receive partial credit, too.
The score drives the recommendation. Each indicates the likelihood of the candidate getting an offer. For example, here are Karat’s recommendations:
Hiring teams will need a technical interview during their first-round technical assessment to increase candidate completion rate, eliminate false negatives and false positives, and save software engineering time throughout the process.
Here are a few tips to be successful with live technical interviews:
For more information about the pitfalls, pros, and cons of different technical assessments, check out “Technical Recruiting: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.”
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