The Most Effective Technical Assessment for Job Interviews
Interviewing engineers for your software development team has become increasingly technical—in part, because the field itself has become more complex, specialized, and, above all, competitive.
Recruiting and interviewing candidates may begin with HR and include some standard employment testing (like aptitude tests). The technical interview for software engineers, however, is viewed as the decisive screening, with technical meaning:
1) Ability to use one or more coding languages in core skills such as debugging or systems architecture
2) In-depth knowledge and experience in a special role (for example, full stack engineer or engineering manager)
The technical assessment for job interviews checks to see if the engineering candidate has what it takes on day one. It assesses their performance in areas and tasks relevant to working at your company, so they can start contributing right away.
What is a technical assessment?
A technical assessment can help screen engineering candidates for all roles at all levels of seniority.
The tools commonly used are coding quizzes, whiteboard interviews, and the take-home test. Unfortunately, none of these methods is appropriate for all levels of seniority (from fresher to senior engineer) and none is without its problems.
When interviewing freshers or junior-level candidates, the coding quiz is the standard. The successful candidate will know how to write in one or more of the common coding languages (like Java or C+) and understand the core concepts and basic processes of computer science.
A coding quiz can reveal a candidate’s familiarity with these skills and areas of knowledge essential to on-the-job learning. But asking an experienced engineer to take a code quiz is like asking a professional golfer to play putt-putt.
Code quizzes are inappropriate for senior engineering candidates, whose basic engineering competence is assumed. Increasingly, senior engineers have declined to take coding quizzes.
Whiteboard interviews can give you a better idea of a senior candidate’s performance as long as your engineering managers are available to pose the challenges, ask follow-up questions as the candidate performs, and evaluate the results.
Given the number of candidates typically interviewed for a senior position, whiteboarding uses up a lot of engineering time. There’s also considerable criticism about the whiteboard interview dividing a candidate’s attention between the reactions of senior engineers around the table and the work required. An individual candidate’s personality can tip the scales in this setting.
A take-home test for engineering candidates allows you to choose the technical questions relevant to your company and the role. This test, however, is viewed as a preliminary filter to find candidates with the right skills before proceeding to the next round of technical interviews.
Often, take-home tests are administered after an initial screening round and before the first technical interview. They also require a lot of the candidate’s time; some companies have found that less competitive candidates with fewer offers are more likely to agree to take them.
Unlike an in-person interview, take-home tests don’t always include behavioral software engineer technical interview questions or questions that are experience-specific. The following are considered in-depth technical questions on techniques and technologies relevant to software testing:
- What is the validation process in software testing?
- Can you describe dynamic testing?
- What is a top-down approach?
- Describe the bottom-up approach.
- Outline the difference between system testing and integration testing.
- Outline the best practices for crafting a test case.
A better way to assess candidates
Woven has developed, tested, and continuously refined a process that addresses the shortcomings of these technical assessments.
On our platform, candidates must use code to define, analyze, and suggest solutions to the kind of real-life software engineering challenges that arise on the job. Our tests reflect the reality that for senior software engineers, these challenges differ according to role (for example: SRE/DevOp Engineer, Mid/Senior Frontend Engineer, Engineering Manager).
We assess engineering capabilities for nine principal roles on your software development team; and the same format can be applied to other roles for which your company might be recruiting.
How to prepare your technical interview questions
Interviewers who will be involved in screening candidates can prepare by selecting the most strategic interview questions.
Frequently asked are open-ended questions that require an understanding of the engineering profession, analysis of experiences in engineering, and technical communication:
- What was your first engineering design?
- What is your favorite CAD design software and why?
- What is the most important skill for an engineer?
- Tell me about a recent engineering problem you solved.
- Tell me about an engineering problem you succeeded in solving by thinking outside the box.
You can also use our Technical Interview Questions and Answers PDF to prep. Explore 50 technical computer interview questions derived from our extensive testing and assessment of candidates, taking into account:
- The role to be filled
- The level of seniority of the candidate being interviewed
- The need to assess a candidate’s competence in core software development skills (debugging, systems thinking, technical communication, backend programming, and frontend programming)
We also have plenty of tips for nailing the technical interviewing process. Among useful professional practices for the technical interviewer:
- Provide candidates with resources in advance to help them prepare.
- Become knowledgeable about the candidate before the interview.
- Demonstrate your company culture throughout the interview.
- Try to prepare a list of one-of-a-kind questions specific to the job and company.
- Leave plenty of time for candidate questions.
Technical interview questions computer science
You already know that your selection of technical interview questions should be based upon the specific role you’re trying to fill.
So, let’s say your development team works mostly in Java. Your technical interview questions might look something like this:
Technical interview questions for freshers
- What is Java?
- What are the features of Java?
- How does Java enable high performance?
Junior software engineer interview questions
- What’s the difference between HashMap and HashTable?
- What’s the difference between HashSet and TreeSet?
- What’s the difference between Abstract class and Interface?
Senior software engineer interview questions
- Can == be used on enum?
- Compare the sleep() and wait() methods in Java.
- Does Spring Bean provide thread safety?
Questions about coding (and a coding quiz) can reveal if freshers have a baseline of computer science knowledge to start contributing immediately and begin on-the-job learning.
By contrast, questions that call upon experience and initiative in systems thinking can reveal the senior candidate’s potential as a problem solver.
While Woven’s challenges go beyond code, we’d like to highlight the importance of testing for a specific skill level. We build our online coding challenges using role-based job scenarios. Next, two senior engineers in our network craft an assessment that addresses the candidate’s coding skill in defining problems and selecting solutions.
Your company can then move the candidate along to open-ended strategic interview questions that are company- and job-specific.
Technical interview questions to ask employer
Senior engineering candidates bring in-depth knowledge and a lot of experience to your company. For that reason, your hiring team must take an interest in the kinds of questions they will be asked by experienced engineers.
There are lists of such questions online about a typical day on the job, the culture of the development team, how performance will be measured, opportunities for professional development, and so on.
Examples of questions about the job:
- What does a typical day look like?
- What are the most immediate projects that need to be addressed?
- Can you show me examples of projects I’d be working on?
Examples of questions about the company:
- Where do you see this company in the next few years?
- What can you tell me about your new products or plans for growth?
- What are your current company goals and how does this team work to support hitting those goals?
Unique interview questions to the interviewer:
- How long have you been with the company?
- Has your role changed since you’ve been here?
- What did you do before this?
Final interview questions to ask employer:
- Is there anything that concerns you about my background being a fit for this position?
- Is there anything else I can provide you with that would be helpful?
- Can I answer any final questions for you?
Technical interview tips
Today’s competition for acquiring top engineering talent is tough.
Companies extend the recruiting and interviewing process, increase the hiring budget and eat up the time of their senior engineers, hoping to find hidden gems—engineers who can lead their product development into the future.
Identifying such talent is the goal of Woven’s assessment process. Here are four of our top technical interview tips that ensure your technical assessment systematically and effectively uncovers top engineering talent:
- Test performance on real-life technical challenges that can identify skills that might not be obvious on a candidate’s resume.
- Use sophisticated coding challenges so your company can get a technical assessment of far more candidates, and do it more economically than is possible with in-person technical assessment.
- The human element in the interpretation of results makes it possible to spot impressive skills that might not always produce the “right answer.”
- Objective testing eliminates possible bias from the technical assessment process, so candidates that deliver a superb technical performance won’t be passed over because of personal or situational factors.
With Woven, engineering leaders can find the talent they need without sacrificing the valuable time of their senior engineers.
It’s easy to learn more about how our coding challenges provide the objective technical assessment you need without code quizzes, whiteboarding sessions, or take-home tests followed by successive technical interviews.
Sign up for a free trial of our technical evaluation platform today!