Regardless of your field, a bad job interview is not an accurate measure of your best skills and years of experience. However, this is painfully true for far too many software engineers. The method used for technical interviews continuously fails to assess the true skills and experience of software developers. According to research, many software engineers feel that the technical interview process is deeply flawed. In this article, we’ll explore the logic behind coding interviews and the reasons why they place many software developers, especially senior engineers, at a disadvantage.
What Is A Technical Interview?
Technical interviews are the standard method for evaluating a candidate in the software industry. Companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Facebook all employ this method to assess their applicants.
During a technical interview, a candidate is typically asked to solve a problem that requires them to write code or algorithms using a whiteboard. Afterward, the candidate is expected to explain every line to the engineer or manager interviewing them.
The purpose of this interview is to evaluate the coding, problem-solving, and analytical skills of the applicant in an objective manner. If their solution works, the company usually offers them the job.
Why Do Software Companies And Hiring Managers Use Technical Interviews?
While many software engineers dislike coding interviews, software companies and hiring managers favor them for several reasons. Technical interviews allow companies to create a standardized interview process.
They can create a list of technical problems from which hiring managers can simply select one each time they have to test an applicant. “Technical interviews save the hiring manager time from creating a new problem or question for each hiring cycle,” explains Brittany Woodard, a business blogger at Draft Beyond. “For companies, this also means interviewers don’t need to have the extensive technical training to conduct interviews.”
Moreover, coding interviews can be assessed objectively. Since multiple candidates for the same role are asked to solve the same problem sets with code, they can all be evaluated using the same scoring criteria.
5 Reasons Why Senior Engineers And Other Software Developers Hate Coding Interviews
Although coding interviews are intended to serve as an objective evaluation of a software engineer’s skill set and experience, they are often a source of dread. Here are a few reasons why many developers despise this common interview method in the software industry.
Tests Performance Anxiety Rather Than Coding Competency
Instead of showcasing a candidate’s problem-solving skills and coding ability, a technical interview is more likely to reveal whether or not that developer has performance anxiety.
A study from Microsoft and North Carolina State University found that coding interviews are not an accurate measure of a software engineer’s skills and experience.
The study conducted technical interviews on graduate and undergraduate computer science students. Half of the students were subjected to a conventional technical interview with an interviewer in the room, while the other half were allowed to solve the problem alone in a private room. The researchers found that those who were interviewed conventionally performed only half as well as students who solved the problem in a private interview.
This means companies are ruling out highly qualified and capable software engineers who have performance anxiety through conventional coding interviews.
Since coding interviews vary from company to company, a single interview requires a ridiculous time commitment from software developers to fully prepare. Candidates must spend copious amounts of time memorizing algorithms and practicing problems that have nothing to do with the actual job position.
Leaves Room For Bias
The Microsoft and NC State study also found that all of the women subjected to the conventional technical interview failed, while every single woman who was given the private interview passed the test. While not all interviewers are prone to bias, some might choose an easier problem for candidates they favor over others.
“Technical interviews leave developers at the mercy of whoever is interviewing them that day,” according to Raul Herman, a technical writer at Research papers UK and Writinity. “If the interviewer is biased towards a candidate who shares the same alma mater or interests, this creates an unfair barrier for other highly skilled candidates.”
Places Senior Engineers At A Disadvantage
While several groups might have the misfortune of facing a prejudiced interviewer, the time constraint and typical problems asked during a technical interview places senior software developers at a huge disadvantage. These highly skilled and experienced developers are often asked questions that would be more suitable for a recent graduate. Furthermore, many senior engineers lack the time to meticulously review technical interviews due to the demands of their current positions.
Evaluating a software developer’s years of experience and coding competency with a conventional technical interview is a flawed concept. This interview method unfairly disqualifies many skilled developers and places senior engineers at a severe disadvantage. As long as conventional coding interviews remain the industry standard, software companies will continue to miss out on perfectly capable and highly experienced developers.