Test job candidates before hiring

When hiring developers in one of my former jobs I soon discovered that many people expressed many really competences and claimed that they were experts in all theses areas.

The candidates CV does not tell us how good their competences are in different areas only that they have some kind of experience in this area of expertise. Sometimes I discovered that what was on the CV not even was a area of expertise! It was just a word put on the CV but there were no knowledge regarding the subject at the candidate! What to do?

Well seeing many CV I have learned not to trust that piece of paper. What I do trust is face-to-face communication and a CV is a good agenda for such a talk. Now this doesn’t really tell me how highly skilled this candidate is, it only tells me that they have some kind of experiences with it and can remember it.

I like to give the candidate a test. The purpose with this test is to initiate discussion about the candidates skills which will show the candidates varied skills. It is also important to test the candidate in a situation that is similar to the every day situation that we expect him/her to be a part of i the future. Therefore constructing the test be simulating a every day situation is the best test for that.

Testing a developer
I have tested developers by giving them a use case or a user story and asked them to developer a little application before hand the 2nd interview. Using this application to have a discussion about the developers skills, competences, believes and way of working we have never failed to employ a developer – I have never afterwards seeing the developers test application and decided to hire thought that we had got the wrong person :-)

I must have seen 100+ test application by now and I’m still amazed about the diversity of the solutions made for this test assignment even that it is a fairly simple use case to make. We did make the use case a little bad or wrong and hopefully the developer by either asking us via mail or phone or just by setting some assumption for the application he or she finds the these bad spots and changes the scope for the better. And then we have a good talk about why they have done that? how it should be in a real situation?

It is always interesting to know why, who and why not regarding technology and framework chooses.

Testing a Product Owner
When testing a product owner it is some other competences we are looking for. The test provided for this job position is more difficult because this job is much more diverse. Looking for competences like being a good facilitator, taking responsibility, understanding the business, the product vision, making and keep a  backlog up to date, being communicative and so fort.

I’ve constructed a test which in details can be read in the Google doc (not uploaded yet), but the essen is to simulate a daily day situation of a product owner. So a requirement workshop is set up. Participating 4 different roles/people in the “game” being supportive,  neutral  and some being the stakeholder that always ask questions. For this workshop the Candidate gets 2 hours of preparation.

This test I have done less than 10 times but the conclusion is that after some minor changes we got the concept right. I have seen some very good performances and some bad performances. I must say that these test are complementary to the job interview and without I would have hired in blindness.

Here again skills like facilitation, knowing your problem domain, creativity and basic skills within product management are at focus, but as you probably know the Product Owner is a kind of a Superman/Superwoman and must have a load of competences and if not then knowing how to compensate for this for instance by delegation.

Test of Usability Interaction Designer (UI)
Using the same test script as for the developers but letting the UI know that we don’t think that this requirements has the right flow and we would like them to visualize this requirement for getting into a discussion regarding the flow and possible design.

We would like the UI to either come up with some sketches, mocks, wire frame or interactive mocks.
First they must do a presentation of the problem domain to tell if they got the fundamental understanding of the problem / needs and then presenting their solution(s) to the problem. As we go along we will challenge every decision asking why and how the candidate could alternatively go about this problem or how to get verification to their solution. How will they include others in the company in making create session with decisions makers and others. How will the UI control these meetings with powerful people that have strong opinions. Going into more details with the sketches we will talk about how the design is responding to common theories and

So – Why not give test job candidates before hiring?
Before hiring anybody to your department make a suitable test for them, let them do the test and them evaluate together or as you go along with the candidate. Provide honest feedback to the candidate that are not employed so that they learn something for the experience.

If your tests are constructed with closed answers – that the answer is given in advance and there is no interpretation of it – like a multiple choice. Then you are only testing the here and now knowledge of the candidate and in a difficult situation as an interview is stressful for a candidate. Is that what you like to know? I have seen many developers test like this like knowledge of the .net framework, “intelligence” test, How good are you to rational decision making tests? These are in my opinion not a very good representative of the candidate – but I know that some companies loves them…. it divides the sheep from the ram!

You should really look into what kind of competences you want your employees to hav before testing them. I appreciate that employees are able to think for them self, engage in team work, being critical and asking questions and having a general knowledge of many things and then at some point being the specialist of one or more areas of expertise. These people are also named as T – Shape. That is why I constructed the tests mentioned above.

I have added 4 examples of the test I’ve used before shared by my google dreve  Here you’ll see the use case for the developers, the power point presentation for Product Owner and the query for the UX including a example of how the epic and what the high level user story could look like.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>