Dos and Donts for an Effective Coding Challenge

Coding Challenge

is challenging. Those that are exceptional are in short supply, and dont immediately stand out among the rest. Many organizations include a coding challenge in theirinterview processto identify the best candidates, but oftentimes come up with a false positive. To get the most out of your coding challenge, follow these dos and donts.

Interviewing isnt intuitive to everyone. In fact, its probably not intuitive to most. Your organizations interviewers have other full-time jobs, and they could benefit from your expertise in this area. By providing interview training, your interviewers will be better equipped to identify the best …

Design your coding challenge around a problem your company has faced in the past, or is currently facing. This will give you a better sense of how the candidate would perform on the job, and what kind of impact they could have at your company. It will also give the candidate an idea of the types of problems they would be facing, if hired, so they can self-select as the right fit.

Your candidates are no longer on a level playing field when they can prepare for your coding challenge. Check Glassdoor regularly to ensure that your challenge hasnt been published. Use real problems your business is facing to reduce the risk that your coding challenge has been seen in an interview at another company. You want to make sure that your candidate can actually solve these problems, rather than regurgitate the solutions.

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A great coding challenge will have multiple paths to the solution. If a candidate doesnt reach the right solution, nudge them with alternate solutions and optimizations. Create a dialogue as the candidate either reconsiders their approach, or explains why they abandoned that approach in favor of their own. You will learn a lot about how they think, and how they would jive with your team.

Pair programming is where your interviewer reviews each line of code as the candidate writes it. This should be interactive, where the candidate asks questions and explains their thought process as they solve the problem. The interviewer can also provide nudges to set the candidate in the right direction in case they get stuck along the way. Through this process, you can learn how the candidate thinks, and how they would interact with your team members.

One of the most pervasiveinterview tacticsis when an interviewer asks the candidate to solve a problem on a whiteboard. You wouldnt ask a lumberjack to cut down a tree without a saw, and you shouldnt ask an engineer to code without the tools theyd have access to on the job. Whiteboarding creates the risk that you pass over an amazing candidate who simply cant perform on a whiteboard, or that you hire a candidate who cant translate their whiteboarding skills to solve real problems.

A coding challenge can be a great way to separate top engineers from those that are average or unqualified, but only when used correctly. Your goal is to see how a candidate would solve a similar problem on the job, if hired. Try to make the situation as close to a real-life situation as possible, so there wont be any surprises for you or your candidate after theyre hired.

Learn more interview best practices in our eBook:Top Interview Tips: The Employers Essential Handbook.

Figuring out an interview schedule can be enough to drive anyone mad. Interviewers and candidates are both busy, and availability changes often. There are a lot of moving parts, and you need the stars to align just so, in order to find a mutually available time. And the sooner, the better: your hiring …

Put candidates on a level playing field by standardizing your coding challenge. Each candidate should solve the same challenge, with the same tools, and ideally the same interviewer. The way the interviewer presents the question, and which nudges they provide, can affect how the candidate solves the problem. This ensures that all candidates are being evaluated equally, and helps your team calibrate candidates and streamline feedback.

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