To test or not to test has been a huge debate in IT circles for years. The truth is there are pros and cons to testing your IT candidates before making the offer—or walking away. This blog will look at the concept of testing from both sides to see what’s right for you.
Why Should You Give Your Candidate an IT Test Before Hiring?
Benefits of IT Testing
Candidate tests have been around for decades. There are all kinds of skills assessments and cognitive ability tests out there used in all kinds of jobs from sales to IT. Testing is always an imperfect process and most employers understand this. So, of course, there are pros and cons to testing to consider.
Some of the reasons IT testing is probably a good idea is that you simply don’t know if the person can perform a highly technical skilled position unless you test them on it. Every developer says they’re great at their job but how will you know until you see the code they’ve written? Sure, a GitHub shows aptitude and creativity but it’s hard to objectively measure someone against a standard unless the test is the same for everyone.
Testing is an objective way to apply a metric to the sometimes-subjective hiring process. A well-designed IT test applies a benchmark to the candidate’s performance that is consistent and objective. That’s why testing is a go-to for many companies seeking more consistent hiring results.
Tests can save you interview time, too. Say you’re hiring a SQL developer. What’s the most important thing? How they write SQL code. You’re not going to hire a really nice developer who can’t code their way out of a paper bag. You’re going to hire a really nice developer who can write smart lines of code—and testing can ensure this happens.
Drawbacks of IT Testing
Testing in a vacuum doesn’t give you a whole picture of the candidate. If you test but fail to interview you won’t know what kind of a communicator the programmer is. If you test but don’t interview, how can you know how the developer will fit in with your culture? Testing misses the soft skills that are increasingly important for teams to function properly. Testing also doesn’t give you a sense of how willing the candidate is to learn new things—something crucial for developers.
Another drawback to IT testing is that, in this market, asking an IT professional with two decades of experience to take a test is almost an insult. Or, you may lose even a mid-level developer to a company that doesn’t test; it’s simply easier and quicker to avoid the testing process altogether not because the programmer can’t do it but because they don’t want to.
Too, be careful about the kinds of tests you use. Ask anyone in IT about testing and they’ll probably roll their eyes. We’ve seen IT tests that force candidates up to a whiteboard to solve an algorithmic problem. The idea to test the candidate on their ability to think on the fly. But even the most seasoned developer has to Google answers. That’s how we work. There’s no way to keep all of the rules and code and algorithms in our heads. What do you think developers are: A computer?
Placing a programmer or other IT professional into a testing scenario where they are forced outside their normal work environment or don’t have access to some of the tools (like Google) that they normally use is downright cruel.
But Should You Test All IT Candidates?
Well, why not? If you’re hiring a project manager you can give them a story problem to solve that helps you understand how they would prioritize all of the pieces of a complex project. You could give a UX/UI designer another type of problem and have them prototype their way to solving it. Testing has a place in IT interviews as long as you take advantage of the right tools to help you hire well.
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