Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about making coding tests a required component of job applications. Some employers see them as an easy way to screen programmers, improve candidate quality, and save recruiters time. But developers say that searching for new jobs and writing cover letters are two of the most annoying aspects of the job search. So we couldn’t help but wonder how programmers feel when they’re also required to take a short test before applying.
We reached out to a few developers to hear their thoughts about job applications with programming quizzes. Read on to find out what we learned.
Most developers understand that if they want to pursue a job opportunity, materials like a CV and even a cover letter are necessary evils. But Sean Killian, a Product Developer at Enola Labs, tells us that a required coding test at this stage could discourage talented developers from applying.
“I believe coding tests do have a place in the interview process, but I think the real question is where in the process,” Killian told us. While he doesn’t see a lot of value in pre-application exams, he says that programming exercises later in the interview process are incredibly valuable tools to evaluate a developer’s ability.
Kyle White, CEO and Co-Founder of VeryConnect, agrees that you could be missing out on incredible programmers if you require them to take a quiz before submitting. He adds, “Companies that do this are placing an incredible burden on developers with whom they have no previous relationships.”
Our CEO Joel Spolsky says that one of the worst types of interviewers is the Quiz Show Host. They often recite trivia questions off of a sheet of paper and award points only when developers respond with the “correct” answers. Itai Danan, a Software Designer at Cybernium, says that the same can be said of employers that include coding tests as part of the application process.
“They test a developer’s ability to solve riddles quickly, but they don’t tell you which ones are good programmers,” Danan says. He also told us that in his experience, employers give developers as little as 15 minutes to complete these tasks, which he feels makes it an unfair way to weed out candidates. “The number of programming languages and library features has grown exponentially over the last decade—and even the best developers look things up as they work on critical projects.”
Of course, there’s only so much you can do if your engineering managers insist on quizzing developers before they apply. But if that’s the case for you, Jerry Nihen of Jay Nine Inc suggests rethinking your approach to how you evaluate a developer’s code after they’ve applied for one of your open positions.
“I prefer asking for sample work projects as part of the developer job application. Later on, this allows me to ask developers to explain the project and how they contributed,” Nihen says. “Asking someone to write working code before they apply for a job won't help you fully understand how and why they make decisions, what role they’ve played on prior teams, and (most importantly) their problem-solving skills.”