September 14, 2020

Assessing Over 400 Software Engineering Candidates in 72 Hours, Without Using Resumes

By Wes Winham

In 2014, TechPoint set out on a knowledge-tour of Indianapolis-based tech companies to learn about the challenges they face when looking to grow their business. After meeting with dozens of tech leaders, they heard the same chorus over and over again. They needed a way to recruit top talent from Indiana’s topflight engineering programs.

That’s when TechPoint set out on a bold mission. They wanted to create “the ultimate tech internship” in an effort to draw more students from Indiana’s elite universities. This led to the creation of the “Xtern” program, an internship program specifically designed for high-potential technical students.

The TechPoint team did a remarkable job of attracting talented applicants across varying business-skilled and tech-skilled roles, but began to notice a challenge associated with screening students for software engineering positions. These students all had very similar skillsets, and took very similar classes, but it was really difficult to determine the most qualified candidates on paper.

The solution was using a technical assessment to sort candidates based on skill, but this solution was difficult for their team to scale up for two reasons:

  1. They wanted their technical assessment to be accessible by a wide, diverse pool of candidates, so it couldn’t be too daunting.
  2. They needed to find a systemic way to score a large number of assessments, while providing feedback to each candidate.

So, how do you craft a coding assessment that can attract over 400 engineering applicants, and get the scores turned around in only a few days?

In 2018, TechPoint partnered with Woven to solve this problem, and the result was 75% assessment completion rate, a dramatic increase over the prior year. The secret to improvement wasn’t luck or magic. It was a tried-and-true formula that Woven’s Founders had crafted while screening over 2,000 engineering candidates throughout their careers.

How Woven Built A Better Candidate Experience To Increase Completion Rates

Many job candidates hate software engineering assessments, and we can’t blame them. Most assessments are bad for candidates. The candidate experience is usually pretty cumbersome and opaque. Why should I put several hours into work for your company when I don’t even know if you want to talk to me?

That’s where Woven is different.

TechPoint, in conjunction with Woven, built a candidate experience around three core beliefs that weaved themselves into every candidate touchpoint:

  • Transparency: The hiring process should be transparent for candidates, so they know what to expect at every step.
  • Purpose: Every aspect of the hiring process should have a “why” behind it, and that purpose should be communicated to candidates.
  • Mutual Benefit: The hiring process should be a win-win for both companies and candidates, whether they get the job or not.

With these three core beliefs in mind, the Woven team worked with TechPoint to craft a software engineering assessment that the top-tier college students would actually enjoy taking. It starts with effective communication, ensuring that candidates understood why they were receiving the assessment and what the assessment hoped to accomplish. The first email they received explained both the “how” and the “why” behind the application process, emphasizing the importance of fairness in the process.

From there, candidates received a work simulation, complete with a prep guide. The work simulation only took 2 hours, and was incredibly information-dense, assessing candidates on problem solving, programming, and communication.

The first scenario involved troubleshooting an issue and updating a ticket tracker, a common real-world problem for junior engineers. The next three scenarios both involved modifying existing code to solve a problem or fix a bug. In both scenarios, there was opportunity to take shortcuts via superior problem solving.

These real-world scenarios provided far more information to hiring manager than a standard coding assessment, while also giving candidates a taste of what an actual day in the job might feel like. The results were happier candidates and increased completion rates, leading to more candidates to choose from in the next stage of the interview process.

How Woven and TechPoint Collaborated To Complete Assessment in 72 Hours

Once candidates had completed the assessment, Woven and TechPoint teamed up to turn that mixture of unstructured text and code into a decision. Together, they crafted a detailed, 45-item weighted rubric with a mix of automated tests, content factors, approach factors, and style factors. This level of detail allowed the team to score any candidate near the cut-off line twice, independently, to ensure quality.

Finally, every candidate, regardless of interview status, received detailed feedback on their work and areas where they can improve.

After receiving feedback from hiring managers and candidates alike, the Woven team was thrilled with the results. TechPoint was able to assess more candidates for their Xtern program, while candidates received detailed, actionable feedback. Meanwhile, hiring managers were able to match with candidates based on evidence of aptitude, leading to better decisions.

As one hiring manager told us, “I’ve never had this much candidate data before.”

Are you looking for someone to help you hit your software engineering hiring goals this year?
If so, the team at Woven would love to chat. Schedule a time with our team and learn how we can help you hit your hiring goals and provide candidates with the best interview experience they’ve ever had.