Many tech companies are implementing new ways of assessing the skills of potential employees; one of which is take home assignments. While this is not new, it is becoming more popular. The traditional interview process certainly allows for the opportunity to assess knowledge and personalities, but take home projects are much better for truly assessing a candidate's coding skills.
The take home interview project is advantageous in a variety of ways, when properly used. Unlike timed challenges, or whiteboard interviews that can evoke stressful situations, the take home project can provide a clear indication of abilities as well as create a benchmark for comparing candidates, as long as identical tests are provided across the board. However, it's important for companies to know what's acceptable and what isn't.
Below are three tips that tech companies should consider when assigning a take home project:
#1 Be Respectful of the Candidate's Time
Be sure your project requires less than four hours to complete.
If your take home project requires more than four hours, the candidate may refuse to complete it. Most likely, when software developers and/or engineers are seeking new employment, they are interviewing with other companies as well; each of which are probably assigning their own multi-hour project. This will result in the assignments developing into several hours of free work, resulting in the candidate either choosing to ignore them or simply failing to complete them due to other commitments.
These individuals recognize the value of their time and if you're requiring a significant amount of hours for free, it is likely the candidate will lose interest in your company, feeling disrespected and unvalued. One alternative is to provide a set of clearly defined guidelines and expectations for a project and offering to pay the candidate for its completion.
#2 Make Sure the Assignment Relates to the Job
A key component of an ideal take home project is to ensure the candidate is a good fit for your coding needs. When creating the take home project, be sure to implement specific features that will be involved in routine requirements for the job. This will avoid frustration from the candidate and provide them with a true sense of what the real job would entail. Equally, it will help in your evaluation the candidate's coding abilities.
#3 Provide Clear Guidelines and Specify Outcomes
The take home project is an opportunity for a candidate to display skills and talents. Ultimately, this individual is attempting to impress you and get hired. As such, when designing a take home project, make a point of defining your expectations. Providing a project that is too general and fails to communicate a specific end result will theoretically result in the potential employee stressing to figure out what you are looking for. Be straightforward in explaining your expectations.
#4 Review the Work Candidates Submit
Once the candidate has completed a take home project, review the work submitted. From the candidate's perspective, if time and effort was devoted to complete an assignment, the respectful response is for the tech company to assess it. Being diligent in reviewing the work submitted by candidates will give you a good indication of their performance abilities and the results can be discussed during a subsequent interview. It is quite discouraging to an individual to realize that their project was never reviewed.
Companies need to carefully choose take home projects that will measure skills and also be respectful of the individual's time. Oftentimes, tech companies make the mistake of assigning projects that require several hours or days to research and complete.
Here are things to avoid when assigning take home projects.
- Assign a project that does not relate to anything the person would actually do on the job, if hired.
- Give an assignment that requires a significant amount of time for research and preparation before work even begins.
- Assign a take home project that would require in-depth insight into a specific niche.
- When creating take home assignments, be mindful of the impression it will leave on a candidate. The interview process is a time when the candidate is assessing your company just as you are making your own evaluations. Giving take home projects that are perceived as disrespectful or too broad may result in the perfect candidate losing interest in your company.