• Career advice, Career counseling, Employers

As 2021 comes to a close, we look at the interview technique of take-home testing to see if it’s going to stay firmly in the “DO NOT REVISIT” box, along with a lot of issues from the last 2 years. With added padlocks. Take-home testing is definitely a marmite subject, with some companies swearing by the method, and others moving on to other more flexible and enticing solutions for the candidate.

In a fast-growing environment like the tech industry, companies are under a lot of pressure to employ the best talent, with the best outlook, at the best rate. So why stick to a method which sees the biggest drop out rate in the interview process? You’re increasing the potential to lose a great candidate that already has another offer on the table and no free time to mess around on completing yet another take-home test. We’ve broken down some ideas to bear in mind:

Reasons to ditch:

1. The best talent is too busy and will be receiving offers from other companies

2. You won’t see their best performance. Most of the interviewees will be currently employed in busy jobs, so you’re putting the candidates under a lot of pressure to find the time around their already busy lives.

3. Code can be copied. It’s easy in a home setting to copy code or seek advice from others, so the take home tests are unreliable when you’re trying to gauge a candidate’s coding skills.

4. If the candidate asks you to. If you have great candidate you want to get on board, but they’re too busy to complete a take-home test, are you really going to let them slip through your fingers?

5. Make sure you have some alternative options available.

6. You might be alienating women. Even in 2021, women still deal with the majority of the childcare in a family. Asking them to take on hours of unpaid work whilst juggling their family life can add an unequal amount of pressure, which is the opposite of what we need in an industry that is already famed for gender discrimination.

Alternatives to take-home testing:

1. Ask for examples of work that the candidate can talk around at the interview stage, including the problem and solution and general thought processes.

2. Test-pairing. By bringing the candidates in house for a live coding interview you not only get to assess them as they work, but also how they work with other members of the existing team. This can be carried out over 30 minutes to an hour, taking much less time than a take-home test.

3. Offer the candidates the option to complete a shorter test as part of the on-site interview if circumstances don’t allow them to successfully complete a test at home. This stops great potential team members dropping out due to external circumstances that are unrelated to their skillset.

4. If you have to insist on a take-home test, ensure that it’s short (under 2 hours) and enable the candidate to be able to complete it flexibly when it suits them.

Food for thought:

1. If you really want to give your candidates a take-home test, give it to your team too. If you expect the candidates to have time to complete the test, you should expect no less from your current team. This way you’ll have comparative results to show in contrast to the candidate test, and get a better understanding of how they’ll fit in and compare against your current team.

2. Combining a short at-home coding exercise with a debriefing face to face interview allows the candidate to talk through their processes and spend less time on the project at home. It also ensures that you’re giving the candidate the appreciation they deserve for taking the time to complete the exercise in their own time.

3. Ask yourself if a take-home test is really necessary, or if you’re just enforcing it because it’s the norm? Can you look at alternatives that will drive up candidate interaction instead and lessen the drop off rate?

4. Assess whether a candidate would be up for a take-home test upfront at the initial stages of the process. That way you can factor that into the development and plan to use one of the alternative methods above if you see potential in them that’s worth exploring.

5. Some people actually prefer a take home test! They can be beneficial to candidates that hate the pressure of a live pairing in an environment they’re not used to. It’s always good to give a few options.

How can we help?

If you’re looking for interview strategy advice, we can help. In-house or at arm’s length, it doesn’t matter to us, but it matters to you. So you choose and that’s the way we work. Either way, you will be able to focus on the important things like showing off your awesome new recruits and delivering a recruitment strategy that surpasses expectation to those that matter.
To help you through, we use a wealth of powerful recruitment tools, we tie it all together, benchmarking your proposition against the industry, monitoring trends and keeping you in the loop with real-time updates through your own private collaboration channel.

Get in touch now.

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