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Technical interview advice from the experts

Oh, the dreaded technical interview! While incredibly helpful for identifying potential technical hires, it’s time-consuming and monotonous for job seekers and hiring managers alike. The golden question is, which type of exam is right for you? Here are your options!

Technical interview advice from the experts

The backbone of a well-executed technical interview

Oh, the dreaded technical interview! While incredibly helpful for identifying potential technical hires, it’s time-consuming and monotonous for job seekers and hiring managers alike.

The golden question is, which type of exam is right for you?

It all comes down to four different options. It’s up to you to pinpoint which is appropriate to match your hiring needs.

As we always say, your hiring considerations should permeate much deeper than technical skills — it’s essential to consider all things like cultural fit, aptitude, growth potential, and so on. That being said, technical assessments are often still necessary, and not correctly vetting them could lead to an unsuccessful hire.

It’s exhaustive and expensive to hire developers. You must ensure you’re being intentional and thinking through the entirety of your process — inclusive of your technical interview.

With all of this in mind, here’s a deep dive into your four options:

1. The take-home tech assessment

The process is simple. You give developers a take-home assignment or technical problem and give them a certain amount of time to return it to you.


  • This takes the pressure off of already-nervous developers. This process allows them to work in their traditional fashion and utilize all their typical tools. This will be the most accurate depiction of what their work will look like.


  • Candidates drop out of the process because most of these assignments are very long. People in full-time roles often don’t have time and will put them off.
  • This type of assessment does leave the door open for dishonest work or cheating.

2. Live coding exercise

This exercise is similar to a take-home assessment, but the developer will be asked to solve a problem while the hiring team watches and asks questions along the way.


  • You can see in real-time the developer’s thought process and see how they think on their feet and make decisions.
  • Unlike the take-home assessment, these typically can be done quicker. You can have a more streamlined interview process by since these are completed live.


  • This exercise is an extremely nerve-racking process and can lead to an inaccurate representation of the developer’s true abilities in a normal work environment.

3. Architectural and technical discussion

This option is where a team member and the candidate have a discussion-based assessment of a particular technical problem.


  • This is a less-intimidating version of the live coding exercise. This test takes on more of a conversational mold and allows the two to work together in a collaborative environment.
  • Allows you to show a light on the candidate’s problem-solving abilities and they can walk you through their exact thought process.
  • You get a real-world view of how your candidate could work with your team members. This dialogue helps inform you on how they could work with your team.


  • Again, this could be intimidating for some people and could lead to less-than-ideal work. This setup could also make it harder to assess results since it doesn’t follow a strict framework.
  • You could get less of a handle on their actual coding skills.

4. No technical test

A technical test is optional! If you feel the candidate is a great fit and you feel strongly about their technical abilities, you don’t need to conduct an assessment. A lot of technical people in your talent pool are likely to come from referrals. If you trust the point of contact, you oftentimes can simply count on their word.


  • Developers don’t like taking technical tests — they’re time-consuming, often monotonous, and stressful. If the candidate is navigating a few offers, this could be a great way to sell your company to them.


  • This likely goes without saying, but this is a risky choice. If you elect not to see first-hand the candidate’s technical abilities, you are running the risk of them not being able to perform to your expectations.
  • If you're hiring from your network, you're likely going to have a less diverse talent pool.
  • This could lead to an unfair hiring process. You must remain consistent with everyone if you elect to not give a tech test.

All four options are likely to give you an accurate read on your candidate’s technical abilities. It’s up to you to decide on your hiring goals and choose the path that best complements them.

Remember, this is just one step in the process and shouldn’t be your sole hiring consideration. Coding assessments are a relatively large time commitment, and it’s your responsibility to ensure that you communicate with each individual about your process and expectations.

I encourage you to reflect one more time on the candidate's experience. The interview process is a two-way street. You must be actively selling your candidates on your company. Ensure that you time the tech assessment well and only give it to the candidates that you are sure you want to move to the next step of the process. Interviewing is a delicate process; inappropriately timing or poorly conducting the test could lead to stellar candidates dropping out.

So, you’ve decided you want to move forward with a coding test. But, how do you design one that achieves your hiring goals without scaring people off?

Many candidates critique that coding tests are a way to get free work without paying people — ensure you combat this misconception by following these three steps:

1. Decide how you plan on assessing the test.

Different team members will likely be looking at the coding tests. Ensure you have set criteria on which you plan to evaluate the exams. This will lead to a fair test that sets candidates up for success.

2. Over-communicate with your candidates.

Again, asking candidates to take a coding exam is a large ask. Ensure you are keeping them informed and engaged before and after the assessment. Like you would expect a candidate to send a follow-up thank you after an interview, you should send them a message after the exam to clarify the next steps and answer any questions. Whether you are moving forward with them or not, they expect and deserve in-depth feedback.

3. Be conscious of time.

Keep your coding exam between 2 and 4 hours. This time will allow for an accurate representation of their skills without asking for too much. Your top candidates are likely interviewing elsewhere, and having your exam last over 4 hours will deter them from further exploring your opportunity.

Follow those few steps, and you’ll have an intentional technical interview process that will inspire candidates, engage applicants, and ultimately get you the best person for the job.

As always, the Climate People team is here to help if you need assistance attracting and hiring top technical talent!

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