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Elements of a World-Class Online Coding Interview

Elements of a World-Class Online Coding Interview

Coding interview success happens when you pay attention to the right things. What comes into play beyond a developer’s primary competency?

Tech Recruiting

Elements of a World-Class Online Coding Interview

The aim of any interview is to find a good match for both parties. Companies want the best coder they can get, and coders want a role that suits them. But there are many different skills, attributes, and personality traits that factor in to making the right hiring decisions.

Sure, you’ll want to learn about the programmer you’re considering, but how will you exactly analyze the value this person will bring to your company?

Organizations are shifting towards using technologies to conduct employment interviews. This helps to lessen costs and globalize the labor market. And when it comes to hiring someone as technologically savvy as a computer programmer, it’s easy to see why an online coding interview is the way to go.

Online coding interviews are more of a skills assessment than an actual interview, and it’s important that hiring managers should know what to keep in mind when conducting them. In this article, we’ll go over the elements of a world-class online coding interview—so when you get in front of your interviewee, you’ll know precisely what to do.

Test the candidate’s problem-solving capabilities

During an online coding interview, you’ll want to incorporate problem-solving into the mix. If the coder cannot solve problems, there’s a good chance they don’t have what you’re looking for.

Coding interviews (sometimes coding challenges) are typically used to weed out coders who may not have the skills or resiliency to get past the first round of an interview. They narrow the list down to only the qualified candidates with the right skills for the job.

You’ll likely want to host the coding challenge through a platform like Codility (more on why this is important later). You’ll then include a link to the challenge for the candidate. Throughout this challenge, the candidate will be assessed on their problem-solving skills. For some challenges, you can set the expectation that there will be no outside help. For others, you can collaborate directly with the coder.

With either setup, you’ll be able to see first-hand how the coder handles coding problems typically found in the field. During this part of the online coding interview, it’s important to have the candidate document their work and leave comments. This will ensure you can review their approach to the problems with other decision-makers.

Assess their primary coding skills

Of course, you’re probably most interested in the candidate’s hard skills. Are they proficient in the languages you need? Can they manipulate code like a computing wizard? Or are they lacking certain hard skills that would make it incredibly difficult to carry out their primary tasks in a particular role?

Asking what languages the candidate knows is great—also strive to find out how they’ve used those languages in the past. These answers will help you measure how passionate the applicant is about programming.

The correctness of the code is always going to come into play. As mentioned above, the online coding challenge serves to check that a candidate has the requisite abilities for the basics of the role.

Efficiency should also play a big role in your evaluation. Take into account how fast the developer is able to complete assignments, and how his or her speed affects the quality of the work itself. As we often find, working too quickly can lead to errors and overlooking important details.

Pay attention to their soft skills and attributes

Paying attention only to hard skills isn’t going to provide you with the full spectrum of what you need to know. Pay attention to their soft skills and signs of other positive qualities you’re looking for—examples can include responsiveness and tone of voice when collaborating with an interviewer, their overall professionalism, and more.  

These all hint at the bigger picture of what it’s like to work with this candidate. Coders who take a while to respond to your emails may be focused on other priorities, or have some work to do on their time management. If you’re catching signs of resistance or negative attitude during the assessment process, don’t ignore them. Attitude and positivity are big culture factors.

Surprisingly enough, one of the most important developer performance measures is their personality. This shows you just how far someone can get in this field when they can work well with others. If you’re hearing enthusiasm in their answers, that’s probably a good sign that they're collaborative and eager to tackle projects.

Have them assess themselves honestly, too

Asking candidates to assess their own strengths and weaknesses is also beneficial, and information gleaned here should be tucked away for the future if they are hired.

How the candidate answers questions about themselves can reveal worlds about their personality, self-awareness, and self-confidence. Encourage honesty, because neither of you will be happy if you try to fit them into a role for which they are unsuited. In fact, you may find through this process that they’re even better suited for a different role, so we encourage you to stay open-minded throughout the process.

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