How to Assess Developers’ Coding Skills Before Hiring

Hiring Tips

The IT sector was estimated to witness 63% growth in the last quarter of 2022. With such statistics, the job market has become a battleground for recruiters, each trying to get the best developers available. How can you go about finding the best in a recruitment landscape teeming with talent? And how can you do this as fast while keeping the cost to hire as low as possible?

Before we dive into the methods you can adopt to test developers’ coding skills, let’s look at some of the conventional methods used to assess developers and why they don’t live up to expectations.

Resume Is Not Enough

Resumes are a good starting point, but they don’t tell the full story. They provide a chronological overview of the candidate’s job history and experience, not the rounded view of their on-the-job skills that you are looking for. Candidates portray themselves in the best possible light in their resumes, highlighting their achievements, strengths, certifications, etc. There could be an element of exaggeration or even deception in resumes. Conversely, you may lose out on a talented developer because of his inability to create a well-written resume. Therefore, resumes are not always the best indicator of talent.

Whiteboard No Longer Does the Trick

Whiteboard interviews have long been used to determine developers’ coding competency but they are not necessarily an effective skill assessment method. While whiteboard coding tests give an idea of the developer’s coding skills, they are limited in scope and do not bring out the developer’s creative problem-solving skills. The output is not checked in real-time as the written codes can not be executed on whiteboards. Through rote memorization, the candidate may ace the whiteboard interview but may flounder when faced with a real-world software development problem.

Methods to Assess Candidate Skills

Programmer Portfolio

Developers eager to showcase their talent know the value of having a good portfolio. The programmer portfolio should give you a quick idea of the kind of projects they have been involved in. You may check for projects similar to the ones you want to hire for and the tools, languages, and platforms they have worked with before. If you are looking for freshers, you can have a look at their personal projects to understand their interests and skills.

GitHub Account

GitHub accounts serve as an extension of programmer portfolios by displaying the candidate’s contribution to open-source projects and the number of personal projects they have been working on. They are a reliable source of info on the candidates’ proficiency in various programming languages and tech stacks as well as their diversified programming interests. The number of commits, pull requests, and issues they opened gives an idea of their activity on GitHub. With this insight, you can identify developers who most resonate with the roles you are hiring for.

StackOverflow Activity

Another platform where developers share/solve each other’s problems is StackOverflow. You can check the candidate’s problem-solving skills and how they communicate their problems in StackOverflow. The platform also showcases the candidate’s experience level by the way they answer the queries and the level of queries they answer. Their reputation in StackOverflow, like GitHub, is objective as they are reviewed by peers.

Coding Assessments

While programmer portfolio, GitHub, and StackOverflow provide secondary evidence of a developer’s coding ability, carefully curated coding assessments provide a clearer picture of the suitability of the candidate for the designated role. An online coding assessment is particularly useful when you have to select from a large pool of candidates. A standardized test with a mix of objective and descriptive questions with varying levels of difficulty can help you evaluate developer skills more accurately and objectively. An auto-grading system doubly ensures that the evaluation is fair and bias-free.

Pair Programming

A pair programming interview is a live coding exercise where both the candidate and interviewer can code live in a shared integrated development environment. A live coding session will help to find how a candidate thinks and approaches a problem. Therefore, unlike whiteboard programming, pair programming tests how a candidate will perform on the job. Pair programming can be used subsequent to a coding assessment or as a primary evaluation method while hiring for senior roles. With assessments becoming remote, the live coding sessions ensure you are making quality hires for important roles just like you would do in person.

Online Coding Assessments Are the Way to Go

It is clear that for the evaluation of developers to be effective, it will have to be comprehensive. But if you take too long to evaluate a candidate’s coding skills, you risk losing them to others. But going on a hiring frenzy without doing due diligence can be just as damaging. The need of the hour is a fail-proof pre-employment assessment that is holistic, thorough, and objective. 

Online coding assessment tools take care of this to a large extent, enabling recruiters to spot top tech talent from a large candidate pool. There are several solutions in the market, but it is important to go for one that is customizable, user-friendly, and cost-effective. This will not only save you time and resources but also set a common benchmark for assessing developers. Everybody gets a fair chance and you end up with the best possible hires in the shortest duration.