Software Engineer Skills Assessment: Testing Beyond the Technical

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When giving a software engineer skills assessment it’s important to value the candidates time and your own. Interviews are for both picking the perfect candidate and for the candidate to see if it’s a good fit. This means there needs to be planning and preparation of questions, software, and scenarios. 

Skills to Look For in a Software Engineer Candidate

To accurately assess a software engineer candidate, you must know what skill sets a software engineer should have before the assessment. There are some necessary skills that every software engineer must acquire to get the job done and some skill sets that are specifically essential for your company and the position you are offering. 

General Skills For a Software Engineer:

  • Critical Thinking
  • Adaptability
  • Object Oriented Programming
  • Teamwork
  • Data Manipulation
  • Detail Oriented
  • Creative

The specific skills needed for the open position determine the order of importance of these necessities. If the position is a senior software engineer, the candidate will likely need stronger leadership qualities than a novice. The specific job can also determine how much of each programming language the candidate should know. If the job is entirely in C++ there would be no reason to hire someone who strictly knows Python or Java unless you are willing to train that person in C++. 

The majority of the time, all the qualified software engineers will have similar technical skills. They will all have great experience and a talented work ethic. Contrary to common belief, what separates the good from the great is the soft skills. Talking to existing employees in the company can help you shape an idea of the type of person and soft skills you are looking for in the software engineer skills assessment. Does the team need a quiet qualified person willing to follow the rules impeccably, or are they looking for an idea maker willing to speak out and challenge the status quo for the better? Although soft and hard skills can be seen as separate entities, they usually go hand-in-hand. Assess the skills together, and you will get a well-rounded notion of the candidate. 

It’s also important to note your company's core values. This notation will come in handy later during the software engineer skills assessment process. The perfect candidate will align with those values and are more likely to accept the position if offered.  

How to Conduct a Software Engineer Skills Assessment

After analyzing the specifications of the position and noting the level of importance in the list of skills, the questions can be written to guide the candidate to emphasize their skills truthfully.

The multiple choice technical questions should be answered on a take-home test. There is no sense in wasting the candidates' or your employees' time if they don’t have the essential technical skills. After the take-home test, the next step should be a face-to-face interview. This process includes face-to-face virtual interviews as well. In this step, the candidate will answer the questions that show their personality and verifies their hard skills. 

What are your biggest strengths and biggest weaknesses in both the technical and social aspects of the job?

This question is a cliche for a reason. It opens up the candidate's mind to self-acknowledgement and helps you understand what you take on if the candidate gets hired. It analyzes the soft and hard skills of the candidate in one go, which is exactly the purpose. 

  • Each question needs to encourage elaborate answers from the candidate to get a true reading of their skill sets. 

What’s the most important thing when checking a coworker's code? 

This question assesses the candidate's hard skills of debugging and critical thinking. It encourages the candidate to elaborate, therefore revealing more about themselves. 

  • Follow up questions keep the interview more like a conversation than an interview. The comfortability of the software engineer skills assessment can help the candidate relax and answer truthfully. 

If there was a slice of code that a rather difficult coworker wrote and you noticed something wrong, how would you mitigate the situation?

This question is a great follow-up to the last one. It assesses teamwork, confrontation, and communication from the candidate. 

  • If your company has a core value of integrity, ask a question to determine the candidate's integrity. 

Our company's core values are ___. Which one of these do you align with the most and why?

This question gives the candidate some information on the company without them asking for it. It can help the candidate understand what you are all about and decide if they align with these ideals. The candidate will likely choose one of them even if they don’t align with any core values, but this can be determined by studying their body language and enthusiasm.

When determining which questions to ask a candidate in a face-to-face interview, throw in a few that extend upon their answers on the take-home test. This step will allow them to elaborate and give you the verification that this is the same person who took the test. 

Using software to assess real-time scenarios can also help you determine the skill sets of the candidates as well. Using a virtual whiteboard, you should be able to ask the software engineer to create a workflow diagram of specific software in development. Using a screen sharing feature and coding environment, the engineer should be able to work out small programs in real-time while explaining their thought process to the team interviewing them. These specifically adapted environments for software engineers can add to the comfortability of the interview and allow them to show their true skills. 

When holding a software engineer skills assessment of multiple candidates, it’s important to be prepared. Of course, in instances where you are unsure of what you are looking for, the candidates can guide you during the interview. However, it’s always better to have a guided outline of how the assessment will go down, so the only thing you have to focus on during the assessment is the actual assessment. 

Remember, candidates can surprise you with their talents and skill sets even when you are prepared for the assessment. Ultimately this is what we are looking for in terms of assessment. We want to be as prepared as possible to hire those who fit the criteria and stick out. After all, diversity is the finest gift a software engineering team can offer. Having diversity can ensure all technical areas are covered, and all aspects of creativity are being upheld to the highest of standards. Filtered can help you find the perfect software engineer for your team using skill-based, data-driven recruiting technology.

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.