Hiring Great Engineers and the Role of Interview Tools

How long does it take, on average, to hire a computer engineer?

If you’ve gone through the process, you know the answer. You also know that the days and hours must be put in not only by human resources staff, but by senior engineers.

A commonly cited study concluded that while the average hiring time across all jobs is about 23 days, the average time to hire a software engineer is 35 days—with at least 30 interviews. And that time is increasing steadily.

There are plenty of reasons why hiring a computer engineer is a complex and lengthy process. Here are just a few factors:

  • Engineers are often hired to solve problems that existing staff can’t solve, either for technical reasons or because of limited time. Before hiring, those problems must be defined as precisely as possible in operational terms. And they may indicate the need for engineers with certain skills, at a certain level of experience, which limits the candidate pool.
  • The skills needed are technical and require knowledge of coding to define problems and generate solutions. A technical phone interview can help you get information about the candidate’s education, certifications, and self-characterization of their experience, but it cannot test a candidate’s ability to write code, debug, or solve complex problems. So, recruiters often turn to coding tests.
  • Most companies need methods for screening candidates but don’t have time to give each candidate the “long test”—say, a whiteboard interview. Plus, experienced engineers have options. Work simulations can’t take too long or they’ll drop off. To decide which candidates should take the long test, companies may administer a shorter screening test (another interviewing tool.)
  • Tests are only as good as their ability to identify the skills the company seeks. Each test must be properly assessed—first, the short test, and then the longer tests. And each test result must be compared with the others. Any engineering manager who uses a pairing exercise or take-home test can attest to the shortcomings of AI scoring.
  • A company seeking the best candidates to join a team that will excel in the industry is competing for a relatively limited pool of engineers. The negotiations may be long, and you still might end up with the wrong hire.

These interviewing challenges, including the need to shorten the process and control the cost, have created a robust market for new and better interview tools for employers.

Interview techniques for recruiters

For recruiters seeking software engineers, the interviewing tool may be as simple as a telephone.

Many interviews are still conducted this way with very specific questions, such as, “What was the most difficult problem you solved using Java?”

Or: “What code do you prefer for frontend engineering?”

As a form of initial screening, (say, for remote hiring,) the telephone interview has its place. But there is usually little evidence of a candidate’s coding skills or problem-solving skills as relevant to the position.

Traditionally, the next step is the dreaded whiteboard interview, which requires an in-person meeting between the candidate and senior engineers. Here, coding problems are used to assess a candidate’s ability. Many recruiters warn that whiteboard interviews are a better predictor of how someone handles stress than if they can actually perform as a software engineer. Whiteboards are also hated by candidates.

Recruiters today can greatly enhance the telephone interview process with online video interviewing (via an online interview website) with structured interview questions. You’ll find templates for pre-screening interview questions and thousands of technical interview questions and answers, like this 300+ technical interview question PDF.

The most pressing need, however, remains a tool for administering valid, real-world challenges that provide objective evidence of a candidate’s skills.

Enter: Woven.

Online interview tools

As we consider online interview tools in more detail, keep in mind that the average number of engineering hours required to hire a single candidate is 65.

That’s because the resources available today require the full participation of the interviewer, a test administrator, hours of the candidate’s time, and assessment of the results of each technical interview.

Online interviewing apps using video (like the myInterview video interview platform for example) add another dimension to remote interviews, reducing costs. The interview can be done anytime and anywhere. Video interviewing platforms are even adding features such as candidate assessment, candidate tracking, video panel interviews, and AI recruiting. (See Woven’s tips for remote interviewing by video.)

If you want to select and refine a coding challenge for a given position, and have the results automatically evaluated, hundreds of challenges are available (CoderPad is a leading supplier) in different coding languages. Some of these are administered online, and others are take-home. They are often advertised as “simulating whiteboarding.”

Companies offering online platforms for coding challenges and coding interviews have proliferated (Select Software Reviews compares just its favorites out of dozens.)

At the same time, innovators like Woven have laid claim to new fraud detection tools, in-depth virtual assessments, real-world working environment testing, and real-time problem-solving, to name a few.

Many of these features have been integral to our coding challenge tools almost from the outset.

Coding interview tools

Whether administered online by video or other means, the endless array of coding interview tools available today often requires recruiters to choose from hundreds of possibilities—or custom design a tool—based on the skills sought and the position to be filled.

As mentioned, one leading supplier of coding tools, CoderPad, offers 400+ challenges in many of the common coding languages. For the more than 30 languages it supports, CoderPad offers banks of questions that interviewers may use in coding challenges.

Here are some common questions that CoderPad suggests can be asked by technical recruiters about Java:

  • What is the purpose of the method public static void main in a Java Program?
  • What is the difference between out.println and System.err.println?
  • What is an interface in Java?
  • When would you use an abstract class instead of an interface?
  • What are the differences between a public method and a protected one?
  • What is a static variable?
  • What is an Exception in Java?
  • Is it good practice to catch a RuntimeException?
  • What is the keyword to use in method signature to allow non-catching of an exception in this method?
  • What is the latest version of Java?

CoderPad charges companies a monthly fee for use of the site, although there is a free trial period. For job candidates, Coderpad is always free to use.

Coderbyte lists top alternative coding assessment platforms and compares them with Coderpad for screening, interviews, and take-home projects.

Although more resources are available for creating coding challenges, they can’t guarantee you a top-flight engineer that fits in with your team. A code quiz that tests code-writing and knowledge of a given language, like Java, reveals only a fraction of what a great engineer will bring to the job.

Woven’s platform goes beyond code. Whether you’re looking for a Mid/Senior Full Stack Engineer or an Engineering Manager, our technical assessment challenges candidates to use coding in the context of real-world problem solving. We also cover things like systems architecture, debugging, and technical collaboration.

Screening interview questions

Woven’s interview tools and techniques provide a thorough, objective, and in-depth initial screening of candidates so that your company’s recruiting team knows how the candidate thinks and problem-solves.

Check out this sample screening interview questions and answers and a sample analysis for each role we assess. (Tests can be custom-created for other roles you want to assess, too.)

Our tests are administered online and take between 60 and 90 minutes for a candidate to complete. Afterward, the assessment is evaluated independently by two or more senior engineers, who then produce a report with specific recommendations.

Hooray! A great deal of your engineering and department leadership time is saved. With a full, objective comparison of your candidates’ engineering skills, the in-person interviews can focus on other things, like how well someone’s personality and career goals fit in with your company culture.

Manager tools for hiring

Manager tools for hiring have changed over the years, but many recruiting and hiring routines have not.

Some companies are still using the old phone screen/whiteboard process and bleeding time and money. Others are using coding challenges and ending up with the wrong person for the job.

At Woven, we want to make sure you’re set up for success. Our tools for the hiring manager include an overview of what resources are available today for hiring top-quality talent that make development teams competitive.

For example, our Tech Recruiting Playbook for Remote Startups guides companies new to the process through the best practices for today’s distributed workforce:

  • Templates for job descriptions
  • Templates for offer, rejection, and hiring emails
  • Average salary information by role and seniority level
  • Pros and cons of technical screening methods
  • And more

We’ll help you identify the roles you need to fill and customize the right coding challenge for you. We also mediate the screening process.

As an added bonus, our unbiased candidate feedback means applicants actually want to take our tests.

Ready to take the next step toward finding and hiring hidden gems? Start your free trial with Woven today. We’re happy to show you how you can radically improve your hiring process.