It’s been a little while since I’ve put one of these blogs/rants out but this one’s been scratching my brain for a while so couldn’t keep it in for much longer.
Interview processes. Oh my god, the interview processes. From binary trees to runtimes, algorithms to the soft-skills side of the process as well. How do companies screw up their processes so badly? I don’t think I’ve spoken to a developer who hasn’t been through a seriously sucky technical interview before and I don’t think companies realise how much it affects their image.
The first thing, that’s almost too obvious to mention, is just ridiculous technical tasks. If I had a penny every time I spoke to a developer who had to go through an obnoxious technical task, I’d probably have around £3.00. That’s not a lot of money, but there are enough mentions of stupid technical tasks for me to realise there’s a problem. I’ve heard of technical tasks where you take four hours building something out in Angular, then building that same thing out in React. I’ve heard of technical tasks where you go in-house and work 6 hours solid on technical skills. It’s just baffling that the hiring manager honestly thinks these are the best way to determine the skill of a candidate via a technical challenge. The task takes too long and it’s too intensive – it reflects badly on the company and is definitely unnecessary to determine the skill-level they’re looking for.
Don’t get me started on the technical tasks that don’t even match the job a candidate is interviewing for. It’s embarrassing that someone should be sat in front of a whiteboard and told to work on hackerrank and leetcode style questions to prove you’re a decent UI developer. It’s a completely different skill-set and is often a way for companies to blanket test candidates. This leads to one of the major problems we often encounter – companies, big and small, aren’t looking for the best cogs to fit the overall operations they’re running – they’re looking for the best of the best with every single hire. This is what leads to the embarrassing ‘rockstar’ and ‘ninja’ developer adverts that hiring managers *actually* put out.
At RedCat, we’ve helped tweak the process for a couple companies we work alongside to make sure it can go as smoothly as possible. We’ve tried working with different stages in different orders, various types of tests and different ranges of people taking the interview, and I’ve personally come to a few conclusions I thought I’d outline here; most companies do this first, but I think you should always go for a phone-call first for two separate reasons. Firstly, it shows that you as a company are interested in the profiles and personalities of every candidate that goes forward – they might not be right at the time but it’s a small world and always worth speaking to everyone. Secondly, if the company thinks someone’s great, it gives the company the chance to sell themselves a little bit and go into the further details that a job ad or recruiter can’t always give justice to.
Secondly, I always try and advise against a take-home technical test. Something I catch myself saying a lot – undoubtedly drummed into my brain by my manager – is that looking for a new job is often like having two full-time jobs. It sounds a bit silly, but it’s a stressful little period with lots of recruiters, initial phone interviews and struggling to find time off. If you leave someone to do a take-home test that takes a couple hours, you’re battling for someone to find time in the evening or over the weekend to guarantee that test is completed. Even though people will almost always find time to complete the test if they really want the role, companies do have to appreciate that people have prior commitments as well as unexpected things coming up.
Hopefully, if you took the time to read this you’ll be able to see some of my frustrations! Sitting on the recruiter’s perspective, the process itself can be one of my biggest struggles to overcome and work around. I will always try and help candidates through a process no matter how tricky – or I wouldn’t be doing my job right – but I also think some companies have to be more conscious of their processes to make sure they’re getting the best talent.
If you want to talk to me about how much you hate whiteboard tests, drop me an email at JP@redcat-digital.com
Written by Jack Prior, Consultant – Front-end Development
LinkedIn: Jack Prior / RedCat Digital
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