The Skeptical Methodologist

Software, Rants and Management

Jakob Heuser is a no hire

Jakob Heuser is refusing to do the code challenge, and because of that, he’s a no hire.

We use code challenges at my job because measuring technical ability is notoriously difficult, and an at-home code challenge is by far the best way to measure it.

The take-home aspect gives candidates the time and breathing room they need to think through the problem, a rough downside of in-person code challenges. Additionally, the extra time means the challenge’s difficulty can be ramped up. Seeing whether or not you can code Fizz Buzz isn’t going to be as good of a judge of ability as actually taking a small feature from requirements to testing.

Most of the people who’ve refused our code challenge have been candidates that we were already on the fence about technically. I’ve always taken a refusal to do a code challenge as a sign that the candidate was uncomfortable with its difficulty, and a self selection out.

Additionally, many others who aren’t necessarily looking but will avoid jobs that have code challenges as ‘beneath them’ are typically people who haven’t been able to develop for years and are afraid of being found out. Thus, in addition to the challenge helping us judge technical ability, it also helps us screen out developers so arrogant as to believe that position on our team is their birthright and shouldn’t be verified by any objective tools.

While Jakob worries a code challenge might cause strong candidates to walk away to other companies who don’t offer them, that has rarely been the case here. We have had only one candidate walk away who we believed was strong but didn’t complete the challenge. In this case, better selling of the company up front usually can keep most developers interested enough in the company to complete the challenge.

What about other approaches like Github repos? Jakob seems to argue that code challenges require too much time from candidates, time they’d rather spend on their hobbies or families, but then claims candidates should be graded on their open source contributions? Who has time to contribute to open source but can’t find a few hours to work through a code challenge?

Finally, what about candidates who game the system, especially for larger companies, and get an immaculate downloaded version of the challenge? Plagiarism is incredibly easy to detect these days – try googling a few lines from the candidate’s solution and see if stack overflow comes up. Moreover, try a live code review and see how well the candidate can describe their solution – but you really should have been doing that anyway.

To sum up, code challenges are probably the best tool we have in finding and hiring great technical talent, but if you aren’t that technically talented – or think having to produce actual proof of your skills is beneath you – by all means, go apply at LinkedIn.


December 7, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment