In the tech industry, as with most industries, employers need to know whether you are a good fit skill-wise. With technical skills assessments, the most important question is do you have the goods. This can cause angst for job seekers who want to “wow” their potential employers.
A technology skills assessment requires that potential hires stuff quite a bit of knowledge into their cerebrum. All employers are looking for that “rock star” talent. But, as we all know, it is not that simple.
Different employers are looking for different skill sets even when its for a similar position. Let us assume you are a .Net Software Developer. Are you a Full Stack developer? Does your skill set more on the front end or back end? These are some of the high-level questions you may be asked. Other questions would be about your specific development experience.
These types of questions should give your potential employer enough to determine if your background is enough to go forward with your candidacy. Ultimately, you will need to demonstrate that you, in fact, have the skills they require.
The tech screen is where many tech job seekers either sink or swim in the interview process. Possessing the soft skills, which all employers desire, pale in comparison to a potential hire walking in and solving cold fusion on a whiteboard. There are three main formats for taking a tech screen.
Online skills assessment
Many companies will use an online skills assessment website to determine if you have the technical know-how to perform the required duties. Many of these have popped up in the last 10 years. These can consist of multiple-choice logic questions, analyzing code snippets, and performing small coding exercises. In my opinion, these are an efficient way to determine programmatical problem-solving ability and general knowledge of programming languages, OOP principles, operating systems, etc.
However, they are not a good substitute for understanding a potential hire’s thought process or ability to reason through more complex problems.
The key is to properly prepare for these types of tests. Make sure you know the format and content of the online exam. Is it timed? Is it a coding exercise or multiple-choice, etc. In order to prepare you should take advantage of the free resources on YouTube which has a wide variety of relevant topics. TutorialsPoint is a great, free, online resource, among many others.
Phone/Webcam skills assessment
The most popular way to determine someone’s skillset is the phone/webcam tech screen. Many companies use this to be able to ask open-ended questions and get a feel for one’s ability to articulate an answer. It generally lasts from 30 minutes to an hour.
You may be asked to define fundamental programming terms all the way up to walking the interviewer through the software design approach.
Sometimes the hiring company may request an interview via Skype, Teams, Zoom, or some other interactive software. Certainly, during the COVID-19 pandemic, this approach has greatly increased. So, you will need a webcam if you do not have one.
In-Person skills assessment
The in-person tech screen is certainly is the most comprehensive and the most feared. These could take 1 to 2 hours and you can be asked detailed technical questions. Tests can be oral, written, or both. Sometimes you will be in front of a group of interviewers performing a whiteboard session and providing in-depth solutions.
Of course there is no syntax highlighting on a whiteboard so be prepared.
The good news is that even if you do not know the answer to a problem you can show your thought process. This is the biggest advantage of the in-person tech screen. Trust me, good interviewers are not trying to embarrass you. They are only trying to accurately assess your skills.
Another method for screening employees is the employer asking their candidates to complete a code challenge or project. The idea is to have you complete and return it within a specific time and go over the results at a later date either in person or over the phone.
The benefit of doing it this way is that the employer usually presents you with a real-world problem pertinent to their business model.
All interviews can be stressful but they don’t have to be. If you feel you are prepared then you should have the confidence to succeed in any of these types of interviews.