Need A Technical Assessments Do-Over? How To Assess Tech Skills

Need A Technical Assessments Do-Over? How To Assess Tech Skills

Technical interview alternatives for better skill-based hiring outcomes

In today’s competitive job market, talent acquisition teams and engineering leaders face a significant challenge: losing valuable job candidates due to rigid technical assessment exams. While these exams aim to ensure candidates possess the necessary skills for the job, they may inadvertently deter qualified individuals or overlook their potential. So how should you assess tech skills?

As leaders in talent acquisition, it’s crucial to consider alternative approaches that prioritize skill-based hiring while addressing the limitations of traditional technical assessments.

Why traditional technical assessments fall short

Technical assessment exams have long been a staple in the hiring process for engineering roles. However, relying solely on these exams has its drawbacks:

Barrier to Entry

Technical exams can intimidate candidates, especially those who may excel in practical skills but struggle with standardized testing formats.

Limited Scope

Exams may only assess theoretical knowledge, overlooking candidates’ ability to problem-solve, collaborate, and adapt to real-world scenarios.

Bias and inequality

Standardized exams can perpetuate bias and inequality, disadvantaging candidates from underrepresented backgrounds or those with non-traditional education paths. Live-proctored assessments also create stress and anxiety while asynchronous assessments do not. It’s also more conducive to the candidate’s schedule if they need to work around current employment and time zones.

Advice to employers from a Senior Engineering Manager on assessing tech skills

“It’s important to understand what an online technical assessment can and can’t do,” says Hired Senior Engineering Manager Dan Baker. In an interview with Exponent, an online tech community, Dan said, “Know that using technical assessments will not be the thing that provides an automated answer whether the individual is right for the role.”

When using an asynchronous product like Hired Assessments, Dan says “When employers play back the candidate’s work, they’ll see if the candidate is within the acceptable range and how they executed problems. Review the approach they took and see if it makes sense to you. Look for the use of coding patterns that demonstrate expertise.

I am seeing a shift away from purely LeetCode-type questions to ones based on a framework including a file system to find the bug, fix it, create a file, and add a new pattern.

That’s where we see candidates’ creative thinking. We see how they interact within an existing structure. That’s infinitely more valuable – the ability to show how candidates will perform in the role, rather than whether they can do bubble sort or Fizz-buzz.”

Making the case for skill-based hiring

To address these challenges and attract top talent, talent acquisition leaders can advocate for a shift towards skill-based hiring. Research indicates 75% of employers use some skills-based hiring to discover new talent, with nearly 55% using role-specific skills tests.

Emphasize real-world skills

Highlight the importance of assessing candidates based on their practical abilities to perform job-related tasks rather than solely relying on theoretical knowledge.

Related: Which tech skills are most commonly requested on the Hired tech recruiting platform? Go? AWS? Python? Get the details in Trends in Software Engineer Tech Skills: 2024 Report.

Diversify assessment methods

Encourage the use of multiple assessment methods, such as coding challenges, portfolio reviews, and technical discussions, to provide a more holistic view of candidates’ capabilities.

Prioritize problem-solving and collaboration

Emphasize the value of assessing candidates’ problem-solving skills, creativity, and ability to work effectively in teams, which are often more indicative of on-the-job success than exam scores alone.

Reduce bias and promote equity

Implement strategies to mitigate bias in the hiring process, such as anonymizing assessments, utilizing diverse interview panels, and providing alternative pathways for candidates to demonstrate their skills.

Foster continuous learning

Emphasize the importance of ongoing skill development and learning opportunities for both existing employees and job candidates, ensuring alignment with evolving industry trends and technologies.

Alternatives to the traditional technical exam interview process

When it comes to assessing technical skills for a specific role, it’s essential to consider a variety of alternative methods beyond traditional technical exams. Here are some effective approaches:

Real-world projects

Assign candidates a real-world project relevant to the role they’re applying for. This could involve building a small software application, solving a particular coding challenge, or designing a technical solution to a problem. 

Real-world projects allow candidates to demonstrate their technical abilities in a practical context, providing valuable insights into their problem-solving skills, coding proficiency, and ability to deliver results.

Code reviews and portfolio assessments

Request candidates to submit samples of their previous work, such as code repositories, projects, or contributions to open-source projects. 

Conduct code reviews or portfolio assessments to evaluate the quality of their code, adherence to best practices, and ability to write clean, maintainable code. This approach provides a comprehensive overview of candidates’ technical skills and coding style.

Pair programming sessions

Conduct pair programming sessions during the interview process, where candidates collaborate with interviewers on a coding task or problem-solving exercise. This interactive approach allows you to observe candidates’ coding abilities in real-time, assess their problem-solving techniques, and evaluate their communication and collaboration skills. 

Pair programming sessions also provide candidates with the opportunity to showcase their thought processes and receive immediate feedback.

Technical discussions and whiteboard challenges

Instead of relying solely on written exams, engage candidates in technical discussions and whiteboard challenges during the interview process. Present candidates with hypothetical scenarios or technical problems related to the role and evaluate their ability to analyze, strategize, and articulate solutions. 

This approach assesses candidates’ critical thinking skills, domain knowledge, and ability to communicate complex technical concepts effectively.

Behavioral interviews

Incorporate behavioral interviews into the assessment process to evaluate candidates’ soft skills, such as teamwork, communication, and problem-solving. Ask candidates about their past experiences, challenges they’ve overcome, and their approach to solving technical problems. 

Behavioral interviews provide valuable insights into candidates’ ability to adapt to different situations, work well with others, and contribute positively to the team dynamic.

Ready to rethink how you assess tech skills in your interviews? 

By leveraging these alternative methods to assess technical skills, you can gain a more comprehensive understanding of candidates’ abilities, strengths, and potential fit for the role. Each approach offers unique benefits and insights, enabling you to make informed hiring decisions and build high-performing teams capable of driving innovation and success.

By championing skill-based hiring practices, talent acquisition leaders can create a more inclusive and effective hiring process that attracts diverse talent and fosters innovation within their organizations. Ultimately, prioritizing candidates’ real-world skills and abilities over standardized exams benefits both employers and jobseekers, leading to stronger teams and better business outcomes.

In conclusion, it’s time for talent acquisition and engineering leaders to reevaluate their approach to technical assessments and embrace skill-based hiring. That includes more than just specific hard skills.

By focusing on candidates’ practical abilities, problem-solving skills, and collaboration potential, organizations can unlock the full potential of their talent pool and drive success in an increasingly competitive landscape.

Hired helps employers of all sizes assess tech skills

There are many ways to assess tech skills in candidates. Hired offers an asynchronous product that can be bundled with the tech hiring platform. Employers also use it in coding challenge campaigns to tap into qualified talent in new markets or for hard-to-find skills or roles. Hired helps companies plan, promote, and execute coding challenges, completely turnkey. How may we help you?