Why Fullstack Labs Doesn't Require Take-Home Coding Challenges When Hiring Software Developers
Common practice for software companies is to have applicants complete take-home coding challenges. In the past, FullStack Labs used to require take-home coding challenges because it gave us a way to test the skills of applicants without having to invest a lot of company time.
Over the years, though, we started to notice that take-home challenges didn't work as well as we thought. In fact, we found that they often made it harder to hire the most talented programmers, who generally didn’t have the time or the desire to complete the coding challenge.
Since so many companies still use take-home challenges, we want to address the issue, explain why FullStack Labs stopped using them, and describe the alternative process that we now use to find the best developers for our company.
The vast majority of applicants that apply to FullStack Labs are developers who already have jobs. They're looking to FullStack Labs to find new opportunities that their current employers aren't providing them.
A coding challenge can take anywhere from several hours to several days for applicants to complete. Investing this much time into a coding challenge while holding down a full time job is challenging. Because of this, many applicants start coding challenges and never complete them, as they run out of free time, or otherwise aren’t able to complete them in the requested time frame.
To make matters worse, developers often interview with several companies at the same time, each of whom require their own coding challenge. Taken together, these coding challenges easily turn into a full time job for developers who already have full time jobs.
I hadn't thought about how intrusive take-home coding challenges are until I interviewed a senior software developer with 20 years of experience who was currently working on three coding challenges from other companies he’d applied to.
I later learned that one of the companies that had assigned him a coding challenge, filled the open position without telling him. He wasted hours of his personal time finishing a coding challenge for a job that had already been filled.
Not surprisingly, many developers have stopped accepting take-home coding challenges. I don't blame them. As an industry, we need to respect professional developer’s time more than we do.
Even though FullStack Labs decided to stop issuing take-home challenges, we still needed a way to test the skills of our applicants. So we've created the following three step interview process that allows us to properly assess a candidate's technical and professional abilities, while also respecting their time.
Interview #1 - 60 to 75 minute preliminary interview
Interview #2 - 90 minute technical interview
Interview #3 - Final Interview - 30 minutes
With this new approach, we are able to assess an applicant's skills and qualifications within a total combined time investment of about three hours. We feel that three hours is a reasonable amount of time to ask candidates to invest in our hiring process. This streamlined approach not only saves time, but also allows us to hire candidates more quickly, which lowers the chances of us losing them to another company.
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