Monday, August 07, 2006

Two Hour Technical Task Too Much?

Our recruitment process includes a programming task, which we give candidates as a preparation for the first one hour interview. The task is typically very simple and it is possible to complete it within roughly two hours. The intention is to assess whether a candidate is a) able to solve a simple task independently, b) able to demonstrate know of how to ensure quality (e.g. automated tests), and c) willing to invest that time for joining a team of highly skilled people.

In over 100 applications in the recent months we have never had any complaint by the candidates. Instead we see good results with regards to the performance of the successful candidates.

However, there was one case where a candidate sent an almost "rude" response after he received the programming task:
"IMHO only a fool will spend 2 hours sitting for a technical test without the employer having gone through some trouble to have a pre-selection round first."
And later he added
"I happen to be not only adept on the technical front, but also socially observant and capable of making (mostly correct) strategic decision."
Do we expect too much? I know of several other companies who use technical tasks for engineering positions as well, for example ThoughtWorks.

In this particular case we decided to not invite the candidate based on him not being willing to comply with some simple rules which are part of the policy of our company.

I wonder who else is using technical tasks as part of the recruitment process. It would be great if you would be willing to share your experiences.


Yazhi said...

Hi Manfred

Ex-peaceling here. You arrived there just as I was leaving so we never met. Found you through some blog trawling (which I tend to do a lot of ...)

With regards to your post, I don't think the 2 hours is a very big ask.

As part of my current role, I conduct technical interviews. This usually suffices for hiring contractors but for employees and graduates, we send them on 3 hour aptitude tests.

In my experience as a job hunter, 2-3 hour aptitude tests and also programming tests are the norm.

Perhaps, the only point I'd raise is the order in which this is done. With a tight NZ job market and the competition for top talent, some candidates might be more positive about prospective employers who invest a little time in them first.

Do you at least give a screening phone interview first before the task?

Manfred said...

Good to hear from a former colleague! You won't believe how much this place has changed ... to the better!

Yes, by default we do a short phone interview first to cover some very basic stuff, including visa status.

Kind regards,

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