Testing a different hiring approach

August 27th, 2007

After a long deliberation, I decided to change our hiring process. I don’t even open the resumes people send, I invite them to send some code. I send them a problem that they need to solve using whatever language or tool. Giving the fact that code is what we ultimately sell, that sounds like the most sensible thing to do. If the code is good, or promising, then fifty percent of the problem is solved.

The ability to make good judgments is also something I’d like to test, but I have no idea how. That would certainly resolve the other fifty percent of the problem.

8 Responses to “Testing a different hiring approach”

Ken Egozi Says:

I totally agree

When I was hiring, I was going over Resumes, and screen out the un-interesting ones (one language people, etc.)
Then I’d ask them to solve some fizz-buzz / string.reverse / whatever simple task, on a language of their choice, plus some basic SQL questions.
only then I’d have gone forward to an actual interview.

goodwill Says:

Hey I have interest to do the test… even though I am still not brave enough to depart to Brazil and help :P You can send some test to me or share some of them among us ? :P

Paul Kohler Says:

A code test is a very good idea – however(!)… One of the most thorough interview processes I went through had an “at home” documentation and coding test. The frustrating thing was that there was very little in the way of guidelines (e.g. make a design doc with no preferred template at all which is simply unrealistic in the real world!) Similarly, the code “test” was small but the openness to implementation unguided – there was no way to tell what kind of solution they were after – even to the point of a preferred way of structuring the submission.
Regarding judgements – on design and implementation I assume – just set a problem and provide guidance such as “use an XYZ pattern too handle the BLA… ” etc. I also find that how people write their test code is a great indicator of what they are thinking…
Again, provide some guidelines and probably an expected amount of time – perhaps twice what you would take when you know exactly what you are after!

hammett Says:

@goodwill, sorry, I can’t disclose that.

@paul, I hope I was very clear on what I’m expecting, and what and how we will evaluate the solution. I’ve also given five days to development.

Brian Donahue Says:


A company in my area asks prospects to write an essay. I am not sure exactly what the topic is – likely something technical, but their argument was that they felt that reading a written essay by someone was one of the best ways to judge their intelligence, communication, etc. That, plus a code sample, might be a good approach.

Peter Mounce Says:

We did a very similar thing – we were recruiting a client-side-focussed (XHTML, CSS, JavaScript) web-developer, and resumes weren’t getting us anywhere, so we made quite an open-ended micro-site in HTML, and a Photoshop of what it looked like after one of our guys had spent an hour or so in CSS. The basic brief was to make the bare HTML look like the Photoshop, or come up with their own design and make it look like that.

We said the candidates could take as long as they wanted, just so long as they understand that the longer they spend, the more we expect out of them at the conclusion. We left room for interpretation as well as some specific instructions (“you’re NOT allowed to edit the HTML except via JavaScript” (because the post is more to do with skinning a web-application for multiple clients)), to test how they _thought_.

It worked brilliantly. I didn’t need to look at anything but the completed tests, of which there were far fewer (because someone non-technical could screen on basic looks), and we had a 100% do-the-test / hire-rate after that :)

Dennis Says:

I really disagree with this approach. First of all, we should respect the candidates, and providing them with “home work” is not a good start, it’s not a school or university. A lot of candidates will turn down the opportunity immediately. I think personal interview is the best way for both sides.

Dave Newman Says:

I think its a great idea. I’ve seen too many people slip through interviews, talking up their years of experience, only to see them put SQL in their web pages, and my worst peeve of all: Right click – copy, right click – paste.

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