In your quest to land your next opportunity with a hot tech start up, or find your dream job with one of the industry’s tech giants, you may be surprised to find out that on top of your interview(s), you may soon be required to take a technical aptitude test. An increasing number of tech companies are using these hiring tests to ensure that they are getting the best combination of technical talent and personality fit for the position, so don’t get caught unprepared.
In response to the technical hiring tests, our IT recruitment specialists have seen that an increasing number of candidates are discouraged by this formal testing method, and instead, in some cases are opting to pursue employers that don’t use the aptitude testing to make hiring decisions. However, Lisa Samson, Director of ES Technology, a division of The Execu|Search Group, advises her candidates that with the proper preparation and understanding of how your performance will be evaluated, you can better position yourself and showcase your technical talents.
Therefore, if you’re an IT professional that falls into this discouraged group, continue reading to find out what employers are actually looking for and why it’s typically a good idea to take the technical test(s) even if it might not seem worth it.
How will you be evaluated?
In the past, companies tested a candidate’s basic knowledge (i.e., English, basic math, problem solving, etc.) to judge if they could perform their job properly. In today’s technologically-driven age, tech companies are testing candidates on exactly what they could be doing in their respective role to ensure their business operations continue to run smoothly. While companies are looking to test your specific skill set, candidates should be aware that these hiring tests are often open-ended—without a right or wrong answer.
Instead of deeming an answer right or wrong, “Employers are more focused on how well you handle yourself under stressful situations, which could include your critical thinking and decision making skills,” says Lisa. For example, instead of giving candidates an arbitrary coding/algorithm problem to solve, some employers may pose a problem that they are currently experiencing within their team/organization and have prospective candidates either attempt to fix it or propose a solution.
While this may seem disadvantageous, keep in mind that employers are focused on a number of areas in your coding/problem solving process. In order to evaluate your performance, some of the areas companies may focus on include:
- How clean, readable, and maintainable is your code?
- When you find bugs, did you fix them effectively or did you just make random changes until you got it right?
- What other solutions did you come up with along the way? How did you get from one to the other?
- How did you communicate during the process?
What should you prepare for?
Companies are creating their own proprietary technical aptitude tests to rate your skill set. If you want to distinguish yourself during your testing, be ready to learn a new subject and rely on your entire technical background to create solutions that can address all angles of the problem. In addition to displaying your technical skills, be sure to communicate effectively with your interviewer. “The point of the testing is not always to see if you will solve the problem(s) correctly, but rather how well you are able to perform with little direction/resources and your ability to explain your thought process in reaching certain decisions,” says Lisa.
Take the test—what’s the worst that can happen?
As a programmer or engineer in search of your next big break in the tech industry, we encourage you to refrain from withdrawing from an interview process solely because of the technical hiring test. “Although it may be an inconvenience, taking the technical hiring test(s) might ultimately give you a clearer picture of where your technical skill set ranks as an IT professional,” says Lisa. In addition, taking the test may give you the opportunity to learn what your technical strengths and weaknesses are, which will allow you to fully evaluate your skill set and make improvements where necessary.
In the end, we encourage all candidates to take the technical tests seriously regardless of your professional level, as the result could certainly have a positive impact on your career.