C Coding Challenge: How to Hire the Perfect Fit

Aerial view of programmer in grey jacket with three monitors: left screen running code, middle screen compiling code, right screen with an integrated development environment.

Employers are turning more to coding challenges than any other assessment to test a potential employee's skill set. While coding challenges become more prominent in all technical interviews, one language stands out. The C programming language is of vital importance to a multitude of other programming languages. Implementing a C coding challenge within your interviews can assess a candidate’s ability to perform job responsibilities.

What is a C Coding Challenge? 

The tech industry often refers to programming language C as the “mother of all languages.” C is the basis for many programming languages, including C++, C#, Objective-C, Python, Java, JavaScript, PHP, and more.

Understanding the C language is crucial for various technical positions due to its global support and versatility. Technical positions, from programming architects to quality analysts, will use C/C++. Many high-valued tech companies use C and directly related C languages daily in their programming departments, such as Apple, GitHub, Google, Microsoft, and YouTube. 

Necessary Skill Sets For a Qualified C Programmer

Due to the language's versatility, programmers will implement C into multi-language applications to enhance certain functionalities. 

An experienced programmer must have certain technical skill sets to achieve this, including:

  • Compilation
  • File Handling
  • Command Line Arguments
  • Algorithms
  • Data Structures
  • Mathematical Logistics 
  • Recursive Functions

You can assess all of these hard skills in a C coding challenge. Unfortunately, it’s much harder to assess soft skills within a coding challenge unless the hiring managers have specifically tailored it to encourage these skills. However, unlike manual reviewers, artificial intelligence resume screening can easily determine a candidate’s soft skills from their resume. All the candidates will have a candidate profile in which the artificial intelligence can summarize these skills to for the hiring manager's review. 

Creating a Successful C Coding Challenge

Assessing a C programmer isn’t easy. C coding challenges take time to develop and have to assess specific skill sets. Therefore, a qualified candidate must competently complete C coding challenges in many forms, whether written code, multiple-choice questions or verbal responses. A thorough C coding challenge will implement a take-home test and real-time coding assessments. 

Take-Home Test

The take-home test is designed to be the first barrier that separates unqualified programmers from qualified. Despite being a take-home test, questions must be diverse to get a true overview of the candidate’s talent. 

Multiple-choice questions, such as the one below, can assess basic-level understanding of programming. However, multiple-choice questions are not the best way to assess a candidate’s skills, so they should not be the only questions used in an assessment. 

1. Out of the answers below, which one most closely represents the definition of a syntax error?

Multiple-answer questions, such as the one below, can help assess a candidate’s thoroughness and their full-comprehension of the question. 

2. Which of the following are characteristics of a static variable in C? (Select all that apply.)

Take-home tests can incorporate recorded answers for interviewers to assess hard skills and soft skills such as communication, solution-oriented problem solving, and confidence. The recorded answers can also provide better proctoring and verify the identity of the candidate, therefore fulfilling a more accurate assessment.

For the recorded answers, the questions should empower the candidate to expand their thought processes. Asking a definition based question will not give the hiring manager insight into the candidate's comprehension. Questions like the one below will encourage candidates to showcase their best skill sets.

3. Explain the steps of the compilation process and give examples of what a C programmer needs to keep in mind during each of the steps.

Take homes tests don’t need to be graded manually. AI can automatically grade these tests and present the results to the hiring manager. This method will save interviewers time weeding out unqualified candidates.

Real-Time Coding 

Creating a thorough assessment using a C coding challenge also involves implementing real-time coding. When giving a real-time C coding challenge, the optimal assessment would be virtual. This way, you don’t waste time scheduling every candidate physically and arranging for screen projecting, etc. If an assessment is held on a virtual conference board built specifically for engineers, every team member of the recruitment team can closely examine the user's code and work. 

When giving this part of the assessment, it’s vital that each candidate uses the same integrated development environment (IDE) so then the assessment is fair. If one candidate uses an IDE that has specific debugging features, it may look like they can navigate through the assessment easier than another candidate without those features, despite accuracy. This scenario can skew the results of the assessment. The IDE should also save each candidate’s code to their candidate profiles for later review. 

Environments you can provide to candidates during interviews that can benefit the quality of the assessment:

  • Custom Coding Environment
  • Virtual Whiteboard w/ Digital Design Features
  • Pair Programming Environment

When determining the questions to ask for a real-time C coding challenge, consider incorporating real-world coding scenarios that your development department may encounter. This step provides candidates with a better understanding of the problems they may experience if offered the position, ultimately documenting a more realistic assessment. 

  1. Write a program in C to create and store information in a text file.
  2. Write a program that accepts a base ten (non-fractional) number at the command line and outputs the binary representation of that number.
  3. Given a pre-written application that does not currently run, fix the errors, so then the program runs efficiently. 
  4. Create a recursive function that finds the factorial of any given integer from user-input. 

Ultimately, C coding challenges are important for technical position assessments and help assess a multitude of skill sets to find the perfect hire fit for your open position(s).

Filtered: Finding The Candidate Fit For You

Implementing a C coding challenge within a candidate assessment for open technical positions gives your hiring team a better understanding of the candidate's qualifications, but there are many things to consider when creating and assessing the challenge. 

  • Provide every candidate virtual environments that are custom built for engineers.
  • Use varied questions with real-life applications for a realistic assessment.
  • Create candidate profiles that save test results, code, and unique skills for later review.

Ultimately, these are not plausible when done manually. It takes too much time for all parties and allows the competition to offer up their positions to candidates first. That is why Filtered is here to help. 

Filtered is a leader in skills-based hiring. Our end-to-end technical hiring platform enables you to spend time reviewing only the most qualified candidates, putting skills and aptitude at the forefront of your decisions. We’ll help you automate hiring while applying objective, data-driven techniques to consistently and confidently select the right candidates. To get started, contact our team today or register for a FREE demo.