Best Practices for Creating Effective Take Home Interview Coding Challenges

Engineers can make take-home interview coding challenges effective by assigning real-world problems, discussing candidates' approach, and providing feedback.

Take-home interview coding challenges are a great way to get to know your candidates and what they can do. But a good take-home challenge takes preparation, insight, and communication to work from both sides. In this article, we share a few tips and best practices for creating effective take-home interview coding tests.

Create Real-World Interview Coding Challenges

Asking a candidate about X when they would be doing Y on the job doesn’t sound like good logic. Yet many companies, not knowing how to assess coding skills satisfactorily, rely on generic tests ill-suited to evaluate actual on-the-job skills. Brain teasers and puzzles often feature in technical interviews though candidates will never have to solve them in their day job.

A better way to test candidates is to use challenges relevant to a developer/data scientist/engineer’s working hours. Here are a few examples of take-home tests mimicking real-world challenges for specific technical positions:

Web Developer: Ask candidates to build a sample website, add social widgets to a homepage, or design a mobile app

Data Scientist: Task applicants to estimate future sales using purchase history analysis, clean datasets, or recommend online store items using algorithms

Software Engineer: Challenge candidates to develop a mobile checkout app, an online chatbot that answers simple inquiries, or a sentiment analysis system 

Not only do reviewing engineers get a better grasp of candidates’ potential, but candidates themselves get a glimpse of what they would be doing in the prospective role. This best practice aligns expectations on both sides and sets up the working relationship for success at the outset.

Talk About Your Candidate's Approach

Engineers reviewing the test output should allow candidates to explain their approach. Some best-in-class technical hiring platforms feature options for video recording and/or live rooms for this purpose. Below are sample questions to ask a candidate after a coding test:

  • Could you walk me through your approach to solving this challenge? 
  • Did you get stuck at some point? How did you resolve it?
  • If you could retake this challenge, what would you do differently?
  • What’s the most important aspect of your solution?
  • Can you think of other languages/tools/modules that can be used to solve this challenge? 

Guard Against Fraud 

Engineers know more than anyone else that they are interviewing intelligent people who know a thing or two about how to get around common safeguards. While there will always be ways to cheat tests, it's still best practice to do all possible to ensure test results are valid and accurate. 

Guarding against fraud in interview coding challenges benefits two parties:

The company hiring for the position. A wrong hire can cost companies up to over $220,000 on average, according to the National Business Research Institute. This figure factors in performance issues, teammates' impact, and customer complaints, among others. Taking extra steps to establish fraud protection in take-home tests saves companies the cost of hiring the wrong person based on misleading results.

Genuinely qualified applicants. When unqualified applicants are allowed to get away with tampering with tests, genuine candidates pay the heavier price. Artificial results overshadow their genuine effort, talent, and skill sets. They also lose the opportunity to contribute to a company's growth and transformation. 

Provide Feedback

Feedback might be an afterthought for reviewing engineers — after all, they have plenty of candidates to evaluate. But take a moment to place yourself in the candidate’s shoes: You’ve received instructions for the take-home test, planned and brainstormed your way to the best solution, made sure everything works as it should,  submitted your output — and then nothing. No word on what you did wrong or right. Just a simple message to wait for further instructions. The lack of feedback from interviewers and reviewing engineers is a major frustration for technical candidates.

Therefore, engineers would do well to provide feedback even if it contains negative comments and corrections. This best practice improves candidate experience regardless of whether they were hired for the job. People who are genuinely interested in learning and improving at what they do will appreciate an honest appraisal of their work. Feedback is also a good way to see how a candidate handles criticism and gives senior team members an idea of how they will fit into the workplace culture. 

Find The Right Candidate With Filtered’s Interview Coding Challenges

Filtered offers ready-to-go interview coding challenges to help you align technical interviews with the prospective position. These proprietary challenges include a unique scoring rubric that assesses error numbers and compares applicant outputs to benchmark test cases. Our tests have fraud detection values to ensure the integrity of results. Furthermore, Filtered’s technical hiring platform enables live video and technical interviews to help determine whether candidates are a good culture fit. Pick your take-home interview coding challenges:

Full-Stack Developer Tests: Choose from questions in Java, Python, Angular (1, 2, 4, and 6), React, Bootstrap, Ember, and dozens more

SQL Tests: Our assessments are designed to cover data inquiries, processing, API calls, and data parsing

Data Science Tests: Choose from questions in Jupyter Notebooks, Python-3, SAS, R, Java-8, and more

DevOps Tests: Use our task simulation challenges to test candidates in Python, Node.js, Ruby on Rails, Docker, and more

Filtered is a leader in skills-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 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