Interview Coding Tests - I Don't Do Riddles

Interview Coding Tests.

I have been applying to a few Remote Software Engineer positions that I see on StackOverflow Jobs, WeWorkRemotely.com and SkipTheRide.com. Some of the positions seem interesting so I apply just to see if I will pass their first-level of screening. Apparently, these remote positions are spammed with resumes so the companies will respond and have you take a coding test to weed people out. I get it, they are swamped and cannot interview 1000 people for one remote position. Here is my thoughts on this interview process.

As mentioned, I get it. The companies want to use the code puzzle as a filter to see who is really serious about the position. My concern is that a code puzzle is no real indication of how good a software engineer is at their trade. In today's world, you are mainly modeling data and using RESTful services passing JSON contracts to/from the GUI to the server side. I guarantee you, the skillset to do coding puzzles in not required in the day-to-day engineering world. The academics are sometimes good with this stuff, but these are the engineers that never know how to complete a task and deliver a project. This is based on my many years of experience.

The truth be told, these jobs that get listed on the tech trade sites are already filled via networking. They post the positions for legal reasons and to collect resumes for the future. The positions are over detailed and no one engineer can ever possibly have all the technical skillset to satisfy the billet. The core software skills I have noted below are what is needed.

So, for me. I suck at these coding puzzles. The most recent one was from iFit. They sent an auto email response instructing me to take two coding puzzles in under 30 minutes on my own time.


Hey James,

Thank you for applying to be part of our iFit Team! As part of our interview process, we first do quick code check. About this test:

You will solve 2 coding questions, which are fun puzzles to solve
Code in the language of your choice
These are logic questions and do not depend on any framework
There is a time limit of 30 minutes
You can complete these questions at any time, but preferably in the next couple days
To take this first interview phase at anytime, go to: http://hr.gs/ifit-mobile-interview
After you complete this test, we will analyze the results and determine whether we will do a team interview via a group video chat.

Best of luck!

Emily Baldwin
The iFit Team


 

So I go to the HackerRank site and read the following:

HackerRank. "Solving code challenges is a great way to keep your skills sharp for interviews."

Again, I get it. They think they are doing good. But I ask you, keep what skills sharp? useless interview coding puzzle skills that you never use in your day-to-day tasks. Anyway, I wanted to see how dumb I was, so I started in with the first coding quiz. I choose Javascript since it is Javascript and you can get in trouble if you do not know what you are doing. I like to take my time and think out the problem as I code. So, the next thing I know my 30 minute time was up. Holy crap. I should not have taken a pee break. I did not even get a chance to finish to see if my solution was getting close. Nor did I get to try the second one. I do like to learn and would have loved it if HackerSkank would have allowed me to finish. Anyway, these things are stupid and this is the second set of quizzes I have taken. Why? Just because. I have learned that if you are a quality software dude and are confident in your skills, I strongly urge you to not take these interview coding tests. Why, well do you really want to work for a company that uses these in their interview process? I also came across the following article:

https://theoutline.com/post/1166/programmers-are-confessing-their-coding-sins-to-protest-a-broken-job-interview-process

https://twitter.com/dhh/status/834146806594433025

David Heinemeier Hansson, a well-known programmer and the creator of the popular Ruby on Rails coding framework, started it when he tweeted, “Hello, my name is David. I would fail to write bubble sort on a whiteboard. I look code up on the internet all the time. I don’t do riddles.”
— David Heinemeier Hansson, a well-known programmer and the creator of the popular Ruby on Rails coding framework

The article mentions that the serious industry tech leaders are like laughing at these interview quizzes and hoping more people ignore them. I blame Microsoft for starting this process. They needed to do this mainly since most of their engineer come from overseas and do not speak English, Hence why they can pay them $40k a year versus the $150k they should be making.

The real skills that I look for in a quality Software Engineer are the following:

A Polyglot or Generalist - Someone that can use the right tool for the job at hand. Not just spout off the latest tech stack buzz words.

Someone that has the ability to learn and knows where to look for solutions. Understanding the core concepts of software engineering are key. Using this understanding to learn and apply the appropriate tech stack to meet the requirements is crucial to the success of the project.

Easy going personality. No divas or no-it-alls. People that know they may not be the smartest person in the room and know when to listen and learn. As well as, politely help those that sincerely have questions or need your help working through a software issue.

A self starter.

There you have it. If you read a persons resume and their cover letter and hopefully know someone at your firm that knows them. Bingo, give them a call and ask them questions related to my bullet points above. You can most time detect someone that knows their stuff and one that can add value to your team and get the job done.

For me. I am compiling a database of all the companies that I encounter that use these coding puzzles in their interview process. I guarantee you that these are companies a quality software engineer would not want to work with. Sure, you may last a year, but you will be looking to get out since this is an indication of a culture that is not sustainable.

Companies that use coding quizzes and puzzles as an interview tactic:
(feel free to contribute to the list)

  • Analyticsfire.com

  • iFit.com