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Scott Spence

Take Home Tests

4 min read

This is a private post 🤫

This means it's probably incomplete and not intended for public consumption.

Hey! Thanks for stopping by! Just a word of warning, this post is almost 4 years old, . If there's technical information in here it's more than likely out of date.

I’ve written about this in the past and more recently how I’ve turned what can seem like a massive drain on your resources it into a dev project.

These are my opinions but ones that I know are shared by the rest of the tech community as a whole.

Phantom jobs

Ever see roles advertised with wild swings in pay “£50k-£80k for the right candidate”?

Often employers advertise jobs that don’t exist, hoping to find people who might be useful later on or in a different context.

Hiring in tech is hard

But it doesn’t have to be, there are so many companies that swear by a technical test. The reasoning “how else are we able to determine a candidates skill level?”

This post is mainly in response to some people seeing an increasing amount unreasonable requests for the take home project.

The take home test

Time to fill the position

You give each candidate a test that is specified not to take longer than 3 hours, you have a shortlist of 6 candidates (that’s 18 hours of throw away work)

The expectation (for the employer) is that the candidate has nothing better to do with their time and that this is the one and only focus in their life.

The reality is that the candidate is interviewing with 3-6 other places. Imagine if each prospective employer asked the candidate to do a take home test.

So, this take home test will go to the bottom of the pile whilst they tackle the other assignments.

How long do you think it will take the candidate to get round to your specific test that is going to find you the perfect candidate?

Respect peoples time

Like I said; hiring is hard but there needs to be some effort put in by the employer.

“We advertised for a role at 08:00 on Monday and by 14:00 had 600 CVs to work through!”

Slight exaggeration I’m sure but I see this a lot from employers

Do the groundwork

  1. Make a shortlist.
  2. Validate the candidates credentials. They should have a presence on at least one of GitHub, GitLab and Bitbucket.
  3. Do they have a blog or write on any other platform, Hashnode or Medium.
  4. Reach out to them


Opinions on take home tests, I have them, so do other people!

Excerpts from Tweets 1, 2:

I know hiring is hard from both sides. If you ask a candidate to do a minimum 5-8 hour technical take home assignment then there shouldn’t be a need for a probationary period. Sound fair (for the employer)? Of course not

If you hire someone just by talking to them and reviewing the code they already have made available (Git, example projects) and it doesn’t work out then that’s what a probationary period is for. Sound fair?

It’s all about risk aversion, but a lot of the burden for this is on the candidate.

I wouldn’t mind doing live coding in an interview, there’s obviously pressure in that too and some people can’t do it. With take home tests (more often than not) the company think that you’re only interviewing with them and you’ve got nothing better to do with your spare time.

I live coded for my current role and it went really badly, but the team lead was able to see my thought process and how I worked through things. A take home test doesn’t demonstrate that and looking at the code afterwards the reviewer isn’t going to know that.

This again puts all the pressure on the candidate, leaving it open ended like that means that “it’s up to you how much you want this role” How much time will the reviewer spend looking at it? Will you get feedback? 😂

I’ve witnessed candidates get rejected for using tabs instead of spaces before. It’s bonkers, instead of looking for reasons not to hire, make the right candidate choices FIRST before investing any time.

  • Other peoples tweets 3, 4

There's a reactions leaderboard you can check out too.

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