[FoRK] Question: Regarding Creating An Tech-Candidate Assessment Application

Stephen D. Williams sdw at lig.net
Sun Mar 24 21:34:13 PDT 2019

Take home problems can be great.  I've used that occasionally, especially for one candidate that everyone but me thought would be a 
questionable hire.  I was sure they were reacting to non-relevant aspects, inferring relevant weaknesses. I was mostly correct.  
However, have to be mindful of realistic timing.  If someone left work a couple hours early to interview and has work the next 
morning, and has any kind of commute, assigning something for that evening is not that respectful. Better to email them at 5pm on 
Friday for a Sunday or Monday deadline.

My most accurate technical interview method was to come up with a particularly good problem that would seem impossible to work out 
in an interview, then walk them through it.  At each step, let them make as much progress as they could with degrees of hints and 
knowledge.  That shows how quickly they can learn, adapt, incorporate and reason with new information.  This problem has a bit of 
physical reasoning, a series of linked data conversions, and a few algorithmic problems.  There are opportunities for creative 
insights, strategies, etc.  I think of the method as being Active Interviewing, Socratic Interviewing.  It gives me a great 
understanding of whether they are a true problem solver, true auto-didactic learner, their capacity for keeping constraints, rules, 
and facts in mind, and what techniques they know about.

It's hard to come up with good problems like that, but they are invaluable for getting a good read on someone.  I used a 20 point 
scale, mentally placing them as we went along.  It proved to be extremely accurate.  The young guy would scored the highest, 18 or 
so, was one of the sharpest developers, now at Google.

It did tend to cause buz-fiz level explosions right up front.  One guy, a minute or two into the problem, threw up his hands, yelled 
at me: "I need to have a phd in lasers?", then basically ran out the door a few minutes later.

Different kinds of development positions require different interviewing techniques, problems, and skill judgments.  Unless 
interviewing for a real staff generalist / architect, I wouldn't use that for a web developer.  I probably should use it for game 
developers however.

Can anyone suggest problems that fit this?

Some examples I've encountered in the past that were along this line:
Building a Google-like search engine
Programming a building elevator

I'm not mentioning my best one here, but I'd like to find others that would fit this use.


On 3/4/19 5:50 PM, Gregory Alan Bolcer wrote:
> Hi Corey,
> I'm not a big fan of in-office tests. If you gave them an overnight assignment, that's probably the best way.
> Also, just discussing strategy on a whiteboard about how they would solve it w/o writing code is a good approach. I saw something 
> just today about understanding-design-building.  I think a prospect who can recite the problem back to you to shows understanding; 
> spends some time working out a design on a whiteboard shows creativity; actually building something as an overnight assignment to 
> be peer-reviewed the next day as a deadline shows problem solving and time management. All are probably the best tests of success.
> So, no to the first two; yes to the third, but only in that context.  I think it should be an overnight assignment as "nesting" 
> aka setting up one's dev env properly for a specific style of development or language isn't a quick off the shelf skil.
> The other issue is the assignments can't be like class assignments.  It should be related to something they really have to learn 
> at the job or related to a recent issue that needed to be solved.  Some of the coding needs to be language specific too. E.g. an 
> understanding of java stream .map and .filter to do some sort of processing or conversion.  Proper handling of nulls or strings.  
> Ability to recognize applicable off the shelf open source or python libraries.  Ability to find development patterns on their and 
> demonstrate the applicability of them for a task. In fact, you might even guide the assignment by putting implementation patterns 
> on the assignment.
> Hope that helps,
> Greg
> On 3/4/2019 4:59 PM, Corey L Hubbard wrote:
>> Hello Gregory,
>> I am an entrepreneur creating a digital staffing marketplace and I wanted to ask if you could answer a couple of questions 
>> regarding creating a test to assess Software Engineers/Developers software language knowledge and test how well those 
>> professionals apply their knowledge to solve real-world problems.
>> My questions are what is the test format multiple choice, essay, coding problem-solving or a combination of the three or another 
>> format entirely. I am open to chat for 15 minutes or you can reply with your answers and/or insights. That said, feel free to 
>> send me an invite for a chat. Lastly, I want to thank you for your time in advance.
>> My Calendly 
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>> Optimistically,
>> Corey Hubbard
>> Founder - DreamHighr 
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