Pre-Assessment Tests – Managing high volume tech recruiting

There are plenty of recruiting challenges that are unique to tech talent.

  1. Everyone is hiring tech talent! So, it follows that there is high competition for tech talent.
  2. The hiring frequency is higher because tech talent accounts for a major chunk of the workforce in most companies.
  3. Even at the screening stage, recruiters need the expertise of the hiring managers and developers to sift through to the best engineers.

Given these challenges, filtering hundreds or thousands of resumes by looking for keywords might not be the best way to get to the best of tech talent.

A better way to go might be pre-assessment tests. Pre-assessment tests are objective and help recruiters and hiring managers to look beyond just college names, degrees, race or even gender to truly hire the best talent based on their skills to do the job.

They’ll keep you from making hiring mistakes and help you hire the best software engineers.

In five simple steps, we’ll talk about how you can set up and use pre-assessment tests in your hiring process.

#1 Choose an assessment test provider

There are a quite a few tech pre-assessment tests that you can include in the hiring process.

For maximum advantage pick a pre-assessment test integration that your applicant tracking system (ATS) already has. For instance, Freshteam is integrated with HackerRank, HackerEarth, and Codility.

  • You can set up the tests as a part of your hiring process, streamlining the whole process.
  • The test scores are added to candidate’s profile with all the other information giving you a complete picture at any given time.
  • Putting the scores into an ATS also makes it available for the panel members and hiring managers.
  • You don’t have to log in and out of multiple assessment test providers to send the tests or follow up on them, you can simply send them from your ATS.

#2 Design or choose your coding challenges

Once you have chosen a test provider, the next step would be to design the actual challenges. Most test providers have a library of challenges from which you can choose, or an option to design your own.

To choose or design your challenge, you first need an understanding of what you really want from your candidates. And then, you can design the challenge to test if your candidate has got whatever it is that you want.

HackerRank has an incredible five-step guide to creating powerful coding challenges. If I had to highlight the 4000-words guide in a few bullet points then this would be it:

  • Gain clarity on what you exactly expect from your candidates. Spend 80% of your time understanding what you want and 20% crafting challenges to bring them out in your candidates.
  • Designing the actual challenge can be separated into three different aspects – testing their fundamentals, technical knowledge and approach to problem-solving. The guide suggests that you achieve the first two using coding challenges (multiple choice questions and code completion challenges) and the latter in an interview.
  • It’s a good practice to solve your challenges and have the right answers before you send your tests out. Make sure your tests are not too easy. Include at least one test that only 20% of your candidates can complete.
  • Try to write problem statements that are specific to the context of your company. Experiments have shown that candidates displayed a 10% higher completion rate with company-specific problem statements over generic ones.
  • Assess your candidates using multiple logical hurdles and not just the final scores.
  • When you have in-person interviews with the candidates after their tech assessments, mirror the coding challenges they were previously given in style, knowledge, content etc,. The consistency is believed to positively affect the candidate’s performance.
  • Interesting tip: An analysis of dozens of code challenges showed a consistent low in completion rates when the word ‘test’ was used. Try ‘Challenge’ instead.

#3 Be considerate of the number of tests and the length of each test

Longer the test, lesser the completion rates. Half hour to 40 minutes is a widely accepted duration for testing a candidate. It would be courteous to stick to as few tests as possible. Candidates in pursuit of jobs are possibly giving interviews at multiple places and might not afford to give a lot of time and effort.

#4 Establish cutoffs by testing your own employees

You can test some of your employees and use that as a reference to arrive at a min and max cut off for the test.

#5 Choosing a stage in the hiring flow

The stage in which you include the test will affect your recruiting costs and the efficiency of your recruiting process.

Every test costs you. So, it would be wise to do as much initial screening as possible for all the deal breakers and pass on to the tests only when it comes down to testing their tech skills. The tests can go in after your initial screening and before your interviews.

In some cases, campus recruiters give out tech talent assessment tests as the first round of screening. It comes handy when you have to screen through numerous candidates.

If you already use an ATS, you can then configure the test as a stage in your hiring process.

A test is not always welcome

Though tech assessment tests are great for mass recruitments they might not always be welcome by mid-level or senior engineers.

There are things you could do to motivate them to take the tests :

1.Do not send them a test over a cold email. Send them a warm email addressing why they made it through the initial screening and why they should take the test. Even the most teeny-tiny bit of empathy goes a long way.

2.Show them a progress bar and keep your process transparent. Tell them how many stages your hiring process involves and where they currently are and what they should expect next. This gives them a sense of progress.

3.Tell them upfront about how much time the tests will take. Give them ample time to take the test without rushing them.

4.Send them reminders. Again, not the stale, cold kind. Throw in a GIF, a quote or something that gets them excited.

5.When there is a delay, ask them if there is a problem or if there is any help you can extend. Pre-assessment tests can be mechanical. The way you send them, follow up on them and help with them will give candidates an assessment experience that’s warm and human.

Remember that the tests screen only for the minimum required tech skills

For example, let’s assume that your min and max cut of scores are 50% and 90%. Which means, candidates with scores less than 50% won’t progress through your hiring process. That’s good but you must remember that a candidate who scores a 75% might not always be better than someone who scores a 65% on the job because an engineering role requires other skills as well.

Use assessment tests to filter out candidates that don’t meet your minimum requirements but don’t make decisions based entirely on them. You cannot make ‘hire’ or ‘don’t hire’ decisions based on the scores alone. After all, they can only assess your candidates tech-skills and cannot weigh the other skills that might be required on the job like their feedback-skills, conflict resolution skills, persuasion skills, decision-making skills or even skills as simple as communication. You will need other ways of hiring like structured interviews or tests to achieve them for you!