Take Home Coding Challenge Examples for New Engineering Managers
Everyone knows that the best way to get a feel for someone’s abilities is to see them in action.
When it comes to hiring software engineers, take-home coding challenges offer a way to “test drive” candidates before an official interview. Companies can see how someone responds to an unfamiliar problem, and applicants get an idea of what technologies might be used at their prospective place of work.
But coding challenges have their downsides.
Some engineers see code quizzes as an additional hoop to jump through. Others perceive them as a wasteful effort for all involved. And even those who enjoy a take-home challenge can feel overwhelmed by the amount of time it takes to complete the assessment.
What’s a manager to do?
Below we’ll look at some take-home coding challenge examples that make the hiring process more appealing and the results more useful. Heck, you might even find a few ideas to integrate into your current roles.
Take-home assignment meaning
Let’s quickly recap what a take-home coding project is and what it’s evaluating.
Take-home tests are just what they sound like — assignments that are sent to the candidate’s home. Companies can use online platforms like Woven, Coderbyte, or CoderPad to test in less formal conditions than a whiteboard interview. The idea is for engineers to produce higher-quality work; with more time and space for thought, candidates have room to explore interesting problems or innovative solutions.
A data engineer take-home test will vary from that of a machine learning engineer. But the main goal is to get a sense of how someone thinks and works.
Candidates are usually being observed for several things:
- Their ability to produce quality code
- Their comfort level exploring new technologies
- Their communication style with a distributed team of developers
- Their creativity and problem-solving skills without the help of an interviewer
In short, take-home coding challenges are a way for applicants to demonstrate their skills without worrying about other engineers watching their every move. And managers can see how each candidate approaches and solves problems without bias from the interview process.
That said, not all coding challenges are created equal, so it’s important to know what to look for — and what to avoid.
Take-home assignment examples
BigTech companies like Google, Amazon, and Apple are infamous for their interview process. From whiteboarding to group discussions to one-on-one technical interviews, developers across the world know that it’s tough to get in.
And while some might see it as a rite of passage, many engineers are put off by the process. Rightfully so — there are FAANG take-homes that are 72 hours long, and some (like the Twitter take home challenge) require an NDA signature.
Here’s what a candidate had to say about the Tesla take-home test:
Wow. In today’s candidate-driven market, it’s clear that these types of tests don’t inspire a whole lot of confidence. Engineers are looking for opportunities at companies where they can grow and feel comfortable, not overwhelmed.
So how does a manager balance the desire to test someone’s skills with what engineers will enjoy working on?
Take-home coding tests that stand out from the rest
One of the main reasons engineers are put off by take-home coding tests is that they can be incredibly difficult to complete.
Candidates may feel like the assignment parameters weren’t clearly defined, or they might think it’s unfair because there is too much ground to cover. What do you expect when companies tack on hours and hours of work?
That’s not an assessment—it’s torture.
To cut down on time and stress, The New York Times created a take-home assignment that asked mobile developer candidates to “build one of these apps in your spare time.” This gave engineers a chance to explore the NYT’s open-source tools and documentation.
The test had custom follow-up questions and could be solved in about 3 hours — which isn’t too unreasonable for a senior engineer (or even an ambitious beginner).
Another great example comes from Lyft. Rather than creating a take-home assignment that required candidates to build an app, Lyft asked them to explain how their favorite rideshare company would design an app if they were building it from scratch.
This meant that engineers could still showcase their ability to think strategically and technically without writing a single line of code. And because Lyft made sure to ask for lots of details and thorough explanations, there was no ambiguity about what they were looking for in each candidate.
Other companies that are doing the take-home test right:
- InVision asks developers to build an animated GIF to explain their design thinking and process
- Engineers applying to Spotify may submit portfolios, mockups, websites, or code samples as a reflection of themselves and their work
- Stitch Fix candidates can choose to write about their favorite technology or explain a complex design decision they made in the past
- A short, 2 hour coding challenge is part of the AirBnb technical interview process
So what happens when companies are thoughtful about the challenges they create? Candidates are more likely to take the tests, which means managers can find the right talent faster.
We’ve covered the dos and don’ts of take-home coding tests. Now it’s time to find a tool that does the heavy lifting for you.
Woven is the best coding assessment platform for companies hiring experienced engineers. Our asynchronous tests are time-boxed and give developers a chance to perform with real engineering work. Plus, we do what no other technical assessment does: send personalized feedback to every candidate.
Turns out limited time commitment and promised feedback gets you a 95% completion rate for senior engineers.
If you’re still looking for ways to attract top engineering talent, try giving Woven a shot. Start your free trial today.