Sun Feb 26 2023

4 Best Tests to Screen Developer Skills Before Hiring

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High-quality software developers have to be at the top of their game in multiple disciplines: programming, mathematical aptitude, analytical skills; the list goes on. A resume and a portfolio will demonstrate a candidate’s experience and skill set, but to be certain you're sourcing the best talent, you'll need other ways to test applicants.

In 2022, the top challenge met by hiring managers when recruiting developers was finding sufficiently qualified candidates. Because of the nature of software development, a single test for developers isn't going to be enough to accurately screen candidates. Hiring managers need a range of tests to accurately determine a candidate's ability.

With an effective recruitment process that properly vets developer candidates, you can better identify talented software engineers to join your team. Hiring the right employees from the start will save you significant time and money, helping you find the ideal candidate quickly and accurately.

Hiring developers can be a challenge, but it doesn't need to be. We've put together a list of the five best screening tests to ensure you hire the best talent out there.

Table of contents:

  1. Live coding tests
  2. Automated tests
  3. Programming questionnaires
  4. OCEAN personality test

1. Live coding tests

Evaluating your candidate's coding skills is one of the most important steps in the hiring process. As well as testing their technical skills, live coding challenges test your candidate's ability to think on their feet.

You'll want to ensure your software developers can produce high-quality code in a set amount of time. With this real-time assessment, you'll observe how the candidate performs under pressure while putting your applicant's problem-solving skills to the test.

There are multiple advantages of live coding interviews, but most of all they give you a deeper understanding of how applicants think and communicate while coding.

A big advantage of live coding tests is that rather than simply seeing the end product, you'll get to see how each candidate arrives at that point. For example, on paper, one candidate may have six years’ experience, but the skill test reveals that a younger, less-experienced applicant has a better approach to solving issues.

Put simply, end products don't tell the whole story, and these tests offer valuable insight into how individual developers work.

However, one of the main criticisms of live coding challenges is that the content is unrealistic and therefore doesn't accurately test skills to match the job. With this in mind, the key to getting the most out of your live-coding tests is to use realistic content that is representative of the day-to-day tasks expected of candidates.

Let's look at how to carry out a live coding interview.

How to do it

Candidates can either solve a task on a (virtual) whiteboard — writing code by hand — or with a pair programming test, where the interviewer and interviewee collaborate to solve a hypothetical coding task. Both options are suitable for interviewing remote developers.

So where do live coding interviews fit into the hiring process?

There's no right or wrong answer, but we'd suggest about halfway through. This way, you'll have already screened out unsuitable candidates, but it'll be early enough to ensure hidden bias doesn't influence your decision.

When deciding on the tasks you'll use to test a developer's skills, you'll want to use representative exercises that don't require first-hand knowledge of details specific to your company that would make the test too difficult to solve. We'd recommend starting with shorter, simpler exercises that'll help your candidates get into the swing of it and boost their confidence.

Keep the testing time to a maximum of 45 minutes. Remember that this test aims to assess a candidate's coding process, rather than the end result, so don't immediately rule out applicants if they don't manage to complete the test in time.

There are many live coding platforms available to help you set up your assessment. Here are some of the top options:

  1. Codility
  2. HackerRank
  3. CodeSubmit
  4. HireVue
  5. CoderByte

To get the best out of live coding challenges, hiring managers need to define what qualities they're looking for in a candidate besides their coding skills. That way, you can look out for a variety of skills when running live coding tests, not just coding skills.

Live coding test for developers Source

2. Automated technical tests

Automated tests are a great way to save time as they automatically sort highly-skilled candidates from the novices. They allow you to run quick, reliable tests where candidates code their way through real-world tasks, from identifying a bug in a defective piece of code to synchronizing a multi-threaded application.

Designed to test programming skills, you can set up an automated test to evaluate applicants in just one area (e.g. web developer skills), or using multiple programming languages and technologies such as Java, Python, Fortran, Perl, LISP, etc.

Recruiters can rely on coding test automation technology to analyze a candidate's skills, which are automatically evaluated. Their performance metrics are then emailed to hiring managers as individual coding ability reports.

These tests are arguably the most efficient way to evaluate software developers' programming skills before hiring, and they also eliminate any room for human bias. Candidates will have to perform well across different areas, such as code design, readability, and solidity—giving hiring teams an objective, holistic view.

These assessments can be done at home, at any time, making them ideal for hiring remote developers. They’re a modern way of conducting technical testing that doesn’t require the manual effort of creating and evaluating technical skills tests.

Let's look at how to set up automated tests.

How to do it

There are multiple platforms that offer a range of pre-built programming tests for employers to send out to applicants using a unique link. To ensure a professional edge, they also allow personal branding, like adding a company logo or personalizing the domain. The platform takes care of all the marking and analyzing, and emails the results to the client.

The best-rated platforms are Tests4Geeks and TestGorrilla.

The key when it comes to automated tests is to choose a suitable deadline. With Tests4Geeks, candidates can complete the tests in a period of three days to two weeks, but we'd recommend allowing three to five working days. A longer time period can a) allow newer developers to seek assistance for the questions and b) result in in-demand developers finding an alternative job quicker.

3. Programming questionnaire

If you're a hiring team looking for software engineers, analyzing candidates' problem-solving skills is a must. While other tests focus on determining technical skills, programming questionnaires give applicants an opportunity to show off their capacity for critical thinking.

Many of the questions appear deceptively easy, which filters out many of the weaker candidates and highlights the exceptional programmers.

With these questionnaires, candidates can think their way through real, practical problems that they might encounter in your company. Many of the questions will include real-life situations, and ask for a candidate to detail their chosen course of action to resolve it.

How to do it

If you're looking for a pre-prepared questionnaire, FizzBuzz, Top Coder and Google Code Jam offer some of the best in the industry. Once you’ve decided on your questionnaire, you can send them out by link to your candidates, and specify the length of time they have to complete them.

Once completed, candidate results are emailed back to you by the provider as individual reports. As well as overall results and performance metrics, you’ll be able to look at every answer and evaluate each applicant’s answers. How each candidate performs will be a measure of their ability to think laterally and come up with answers to challenging problems.

4. OCEAN personality test

Often referred to as The Big Five, the OCEAN personality test is a classic tool used in many recruiting processes across many different industries. It offers insights into a candidate's soft skills by identifying their scores on five key personality traits:

1. Openness to Experience: measures a person's natural inclination to new, experimental, or adventurous activities. 2. Conscientiousness: propensity for discipline, organization and efficient prioritization. 3. Extraversion: how outgoing or exuberant a candidate may be. 4. Agreeableness: pro-social traits, such as kindness, patience and compassion. 5. Neuroticism: capacity to deal with high tension and stress levels.

To complete the test, candidates will go through a list of statements that affirm or deny each OCEAN trait, scoring between 1-5 on each.

OCEAN personality test for developers

A candidate's scores can indicate their capacity to work in a team, their communicative and collaborative skills, and willingness to try new things, rather than just their programming knowledge. It's a way of distilling their core traits into comprehensible metrics; it may be fairly reductive, but psychologists widely affirm the OCEAN test as a reliable tool. There's also no doubt it's helpful for recruiters, who need to make decisions and hire developers.

If hiring managers have a broad knowledge of candidates' strengths and weaknesses in terms of their personality, they're more likely to place them in roles that suit their character, which in turn produces more satisfied employees. The test results allow hiring teams to assign recruits to the roles and responsibilities they are naturally better at. Finding the right candidate isn't just about assessing their coding skills, it's also about how they'll fit into your company.

How to do it

Implementing an OCEAN personality test is very simple, with various platforms like TestGorilla or Truity. With these assessments, you can also incorporate personal branding to maintain a professional image. The questions follow a similar line, and usually only take about ten minutes to complete.

Candidates rate their agreement with a statement from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). For example, if a candidate answers 5 to, ‘I am open to changing my beliefs,’ and similar questions, they’re likely to score higher in Openness to Experience.

Now we’ve had a look at the best tests for sourcing the best talent available, let’s have a look at some of the top tools you can use to carry these out.

Want to learn more about hiring tech talent for your startup? We’ve compiled some top tips for hiring software developers at a startup to help improve your hiring process.

Best tools to evaluate developers' technical skills

Testing technical skills is a must. Here are some of the tools that help you do it.

Tools to test developers.jpg

What is the easiest way to hire developers?

As we've seen, the recruitment process for software engineers is a fairly complex one. However, with the right planning, you can be sure to secure the best from the talent pool. From good communication skills to outstanding coding knowledge, you'll need to evaluate your candidates in multiple disciplines to make sure they're the right fit for your company.

With ongoing advancements in tech, software engineers will be in high demand over the coming years, so you’ll need to have thorough, efficient hiring processes in place.

Given the complex nature of these processes, companies seeking software developers often decide to outsource talent recruitment. This limits time spent recruiting top talent, reduces the cost of hiring developers, and offers a more experienced approach to tech recruitment.

One such agency is Remotebase.

Remotebase does all the work for you by sourcing, vetting, interviewing and hiring remote developers. With over 80,000 engineers in the top 1% of global talent available, you can rest assured they’ve got the ideal candidate for your open position.

Hiring with Remotebase gives you peace of mind, knowing that you’re bringing in top talent, eliminating the risk of hiring a bad fit for your company. Remotebase offers a free two-week trial with your developer, and if you’re not happy—you don’t pay a thing.

It’s fast, easy, and reliable — exactly what you’re looking for in your tech hiring process.

Landing your ideal software developer has never been easier. Start hiring top talent today.

Test for developers: FAQs

What are the benefits of testing for developers?

Thorough, effective tests for vetting software engineers enables you to make evidence-based hiring decisions, saving you time and money. It can be a complex process, but with predefined tests and a holistic evaluation, you're more likely to find your ideal developer.

How does a live coding interview work for developers?

During a live coding interview, candidates will be tasked with solving a coding problem while being observed by hiring employers. These tests give valuable insight into applicants' critical thinking processes.

What is the cost of hiring developers?

Hiring new employees is not cheap; it usually costs around $4,129 to hire a software developer, and that’s before you start paying their salary. That’s why thorough screening using a variety of custom tasks is more likely to ensure that your investment pays off.

How long does the hiring process for developers take?

Finding and hiring the right candidate usually takes about 2-6 weeks. It's important to find a balance: you must have sufficient time to thoroughly vet candidates, but mustn't leave too long between assessment stages.

How do the suggested screening tests account for the diversity of developer roles and skill sets, such as front-end versus back-end development, or specialized areas like machine learning?

The suggested screening tests aim to provide a comprehensive evaluation of candidates' abilities across various disciplines within software development. While they may not directly address every specialized skill set or role, they offer a broad assessment framework that can be customized to specific job requirements. For example, live coding tests and programming questionnaires can be tailored to include tasks relevant to different domains, while automated technical tests can cover a range of programming languages and technologies.

Can these screening tests adequately assess a candidate's ability to work within a team and communicate effectively, which are essential skills in many software development environments?

While the suggested screening tests primarily focus on assessing technical skills, they may not fully capture a candidate's ability to collaborate and communicate within a team environment. However, elements of teamwork and communication can be indirectly evaluated through certain aspects of the tests. For instance, live coding interviews provide insight into how candidates approach problem-solving and communicate their thought processes. Additionally, recruiters can supplement these tests with other assessment methods, such as behavioral interviews or team-based exercises, to gauge interpersonal skills more directly.

Are there any ethical considerations or potential biases associated with using personality tests like the OCEAN test in the hiring process, especially in terms of fairness and relevance to job performance?

Personality tests like the OCEAN test offer insights into candidates' soft skills and personal traits, which can be valuable in predicting their compatibility with a given role or work environment. However, there are potential ethical considerations regarding the relevance and fairness of using such tests in the hiring process. It's essential for recruiters to ensure that these tests are administered and interpreted responsibly, avoiding biases and considering the broader context of job requirements and cultural fit. Additionally, candidates should be informed about the purpose and implications of personality testing, with transparency maintained throughout the recruitment process.

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