As an IT recruiting agency, many of our candidates are required to take a technical test as part of a multiple stage interview process.
Sometimes these tests actually eliminate the best candidates.
So we decided to weigh in on the pros and cons of administering technical tests as part of a company’s hiring process.
Pros of Technical Testing
If you’re recruiting for an IT job at your company, it can be tough to know if the person you’re interviewing actually knows the required programming languages.
Technical skills testing can help.
But not always.
We’ve seen some cases where technical tests backfire and actually eliminate the best candidates.
Cons of Technical Testing
Unfortunately technical testing for job screening may not be as objective and accurate as it appears.
If you’re going to have people write a technical test, you need to be sure that the questions will give you an accurate assessment of the candidates.
Things to Consider When Creating a Technical Test
If you’re in charge of heading up the technical test at your office, here are three things to keep in mind when you are creating a test for job screening:
- Make sure your test is free of badly worded questions:
Wordy, ambiguous questions should be avoided at all costs. There should be no arguments about the answer.
- Make sure your questions are up to date:
If you don’t keep up with the latest technology, there is a chance that the person taking the test knows a newer solution to a problem you pose in your test. If you’re answer key only allows for one answer, you may mark their answer as wrong when really they’re offering a correct answer. Often there are many valid solutions to a question.
- Avoid obscure definitions:
A lot of technical tests ask people to define obscure terminology. People normally work with access to any information they want at their fingertips. It’s likely that if a candidate ever came across one of these obscure terms, they’d just look it up. Don’t expect your candidates to have facts memorized if they aren’t using this information day-to-day.
Other things to consider about technical testing
You may unintentionally insult a highly qualified candidate:
Imagine you’ve been working as a highly skilled, in demand developer for 10 years and you’ve established a successful career in your area of expertise. Someone asks you to take a test to prove your skills. Would you take it seriously?
Asking someone with so much qualified experience can be considered an insult. It’s also very likely that if they’re currently working and they’re really busy. So when time comes to write the test, they’ll be rushed, annoyed and anxious to get back to work.
They might just breeze through the test to get it over with, expecting a chance for a proper interview.
This doesn’t necessarily give you the best picture of a highly qualified candidate, does it?
It’s common for people to experience anxiety when faced with a test. It’s even more stressful to write a test when you’re career is on the line.
A candidate who’s working full-time might not have time to properly prepare for a test, further adding to the anxiety.
Some people simply freeze in test environments even though they are unfazed by the same content under normal work conditions.
The test may not give you the best reflection of your candidate:
Will making someone write a test before getting to meet them give you the best picture of the candidate? Other qualities that are needed to be successful at a job that cannot be tested for include:
- Communication skills
If you’re considering technical testing…
Before you write up a test, you might want to take a step back and consider whether a technical test will be the best way to find a qualified candidate.
Consider what the job requires. Do you need someone who will work with an existing solution, or push the limits and come up with new solutions?
Depending on what you’re looking for in a candidate, you might want to put more emphasis on the candidate’s reputation, references and experience (portfolio) when evaluating them for the job.
If you already have a technical test in place…
Do you think technical testing is a necessary part of the hiring process?
Does your particular test allow for alternate solutions?
Does your office have a technical person on hand who can back up the test results with a face-to-face technical interview?