How to Use a Code Test Interview to Get the Best Applicant

April 21, 2022
A code test interview is a great tool for finding high-caliber tech talent, but only if it is well-prepared, well-executed, and adequately challenging.

A code test interview is a great tool to zero in on what matters in technical hiring: skill and expertise. Too often, skills become obscured by appearance, background, or education. A good code test interview demonstrates what candidates can do, not what they claim to do. Here’s how to use a code test interview to find the best candidates in your applicant pool. 

How To Conduct A Code Test Interview

Depending on your technical hiring process, a candidate may take a code test interview in different ways:

Live Whiteboarding. Candidates use a whiteboard to write code and solve a problem, typically with an interviewer or team leader supervising their work. Whiteboard tests can be conducted onsite or online with a specifically designed technical interview platform. 

Take-Home Coding Test. Candidates are given a coding challenge they can complete at home and on their own time. This form of coding test usually takes the longest depending on the difficulty of the challenge.

Pair Programming. Candidates are paired with a programmer from the employer's team to solve a coding challenge. The pair usually share a common coding platform to complete the task under the supervision of the interviewer. 

Once you have decided on the coding challenge and how the candidate will take the test, take these steps to ensure the code test interview is ready for your applicant: 

  • Choose the code language that candidates themselves would use on the job.

  • Instructions should be clear and easy to follow — make sure to ask applicants for any questions or clarifications.
  • Use coding challenges that mirror real-world projects, preferably those likely to occur on the job.

  • Set a reasonable timeframe for completing the test.

  • Provide a reasonably difficult challenge. It should not be too easy or impossible to solve. A truly motivated candidate will enjoy a worthy challenge and feel they have worked hard to earn their spot if they are ultimately hired.

  • Be generous with feedback. Even if applicants do not get hired, they will appreciate your taking the time to go through their work and help them improve for their next interview. 

No interview template will fit your company’s hiring funnel perfectly. But continuous adjustment and improvement will eventually make the code test interview reliable and repeatable for your technical hiring process. 

Provide the Right Tools and Environment

Interviewers should provide candidates with adequate coding tools and a conducive environment that mirrors those on the job. Ideally, candidates should be focused on writing code on the day of the test instead of figuring out how the assessment platform works. One solution is to share the platform and coding tools with candidates beforehand. If this is not possible, prepare a walkthrough video or other resources to help familiarize candidates with the coding test platform. 

HR and recruiters should also be ready to assist candidates with troubleshooting technical issues should they arise during the test. 

Lastly, both the interviewer and the candidate should check the stability of their Internet connection before the code test interview. 

Code Test Interview Assessment 

After the test is completed, candidates’ output should be scored and ranked for comparison. The best practice is to have a predetermined standard for evaluation instead of relying on one’s own judgment. Subjective standards for assessment can change during evaluation, sometimes for reasons unrelated to the skill test. Below are some guidelines to build an evaluation standard for code test interviews:

  • Check if the code fulfills the required function and does what it needs to do.

  • Check documentation and notes that explain the coder's thought process.

  • Comments that aim to assist other people in reading the code are a good sign of empathy from the applicant.

  • Check if the candidate uses best practices in building the code, ex., using multiple small functions. 

  • Check if the code is easy to maintain.

  • Look for a clear line of methodology and use of well-placed variables.

  • Test for security.

  • Test for speed and deployment.

  • Check for plagiarism.

By using a code test interview score as a beginning point instead of a CV or resume, recruiters and employers can find the best caliber of applicants for their teams. Code test interviews can be taken onsite, online, or at home, depending on the company’s technical hiring process. Candidates should be supplied with adequate coding tools and the environment they need to perform the challenge. A code test interview should be moderately difficult and mirror real-life challenges at work. HR and recruiters can also build a positive candidate experience by setting a reasonable timeframe for the test and providing feedback afterward. 

Choose The Right Code Test Interview Tool

Choosing the right tool for code test interview assessments is essential for a valid evaluation. Filtered offers expert coding challenges with support for 30+ languages. Our tests are designed to cover multiple skill levels within major engineering disciplines. Our platform is also equipped with fraud detection so that you can hire technical talent with confidence.  

Filtered is a leader in skill-based, data-driven recruiting technology. 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 also 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