How to assess the skills of software developers

on 09 March 2016
Software Developer Testing Tools

The high demand for talented software developers means they often hold more cards than we would like. Top developers can earn over £75k per annum with the average salary being £35k. In the USA recent research suggests that the demand for software developers is still on the increase and expected to grow by a further 22% over the next five years.

Although it is a candidate market with skilled and talented software developers being such hot property, that doesn’t mean that businesses should become complacent with their recruitment process and due diligence when they are looking to employ such tech talent.

There’s a wide range of methods and tools that businesses can use to assess the skills, knowledge, aptitude and fit of would be tech and software development talent to ensure the reality matches the claims made on their CV.

Seeing is believing

One of the most popular methods for allowing aspiring software developers to showcase their proficiency involves candidates performing a variety of tests where they write a short piece of code that takes them a few hours or a day, depending on the level of complexity for the role. These can be issued via an online platform or completed in an office environment if you need to see how a candidate performs in a pressured environment.  

Coding tests are not appropriate for all levels of recruitment. Senior developers should be able to show a previous track record through their employment history.

For entry level candidates with little or no experience it may be more appropriate to offer an internship to allow an aspiring developer to show you what they can do. The code testing approach may put too much pressure on them in an environment they are not yet familiar with.

Blind auditions

A new trend that is becoming increasingly popular in the USA is to screen candidates through blind auditions; this is where a person completes a series of coding tests anonymously so you know about their ability before you meet them. This allows you to highlight the talented people before human factors of physical appearance and personality cloud your judgement.

To ensure this approach is fair it is important to validate the users to ensure there is no cheating involved. People have been known to cheat either by them accessing online resources to find the answers or to allow someone else to take the tests on their behalf. These blind auditions are particularly useful if you’re looking to work with a remote team where personality and cultural fit with the team are perhaps not as important.

Hackathons 

“A hackathon (also known as a hack day, hackfest or codefest) is an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development and hardware development, including graphic designers, interface designers and project managers, collaborate intensively on software projects”  Wikipedia.

Hackathon events are a natural breeding ground for talented software developers. These events are a great way for businesses to not only see the skills of a developer but also to see how they interact and collaborate as part of a team working towards a common goal.

To use hackathons effectively you can either host your own in a physical location or online, this is a great idea if you’re looking for more than one person for your team because you can set the project or task to be worked on and see people respond as individuals and a team to the set challenge which directly replicates what you would need them to do for your business.  


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