Technical tests

I find technical tests as part of the recruitment process daunting, intimidating and avoid them at all costs, limiting my career options as a contracting web developer.

Often when I am looking for a contract, its after a period of downtime or illness so I don’t feel up to the stress of a test. Are there any sound arguments against taking a technical test which don’t say ‘‘i’m a loony’ or ‘I can’t actually code’. I feel 10 years’ experience should be enough proof. I suffer from anxiety and am getting treatment but this issue comes up time and time again. I can code and am a competent developer but hate tests and perform poorly in them.

Anyone got any thoughts on this?

As someone who used to do interviews to find new revs to add to our team, the one thing I would say is the bar is way lower than you are imagining it. If an interviewer cares about an exact, “correct” answer, they are either a non-technical screener or a moron. In either case, you’re better for having avoided the place. In our case and what I assume is the average, we were really interested in thought process conversations. I don’t care if you know the answer or can even figure it out. I just want to see if you can reason on your feet.

And anyone who asks, “Why are manholes round”-type questions is just a sadist and screw them.

I have a similar issue. I suffer from depression and anxiety. And, I recently spent nearly six months unemployed. Looking for work was daunting. And, I failed every single traditional coding challenge I tried. I panicked each and every time. It got to the point that I declined to take these challenges, forgoing several opportunities.

What worked better for me were pair programming interviews. They were still daunting. But, in most cases the interviewers were more interested in my soft skills than my hard skills. So, as long as I stayed communicative - even when I didn’t know the technical answer - I did well. Of course, YMMV.

I have a similar experience , but the other way around. Recently I’d been interviewing for a company , passed the telephone interview, did the (at home) code tests which they were impressed by and then came in for a pair programming interview.

Not so good.

I guess I was unprepared. It probably didn’t help that I’m already abivalent about pair programming due to a bad experience at my last employer.

And I’m not sure if it was pair programming , as I felt the other guy was sitting in judgement rather than actively influencing my thinking. After the fact, I thought about how I could have done some things differently, coding wise, which I think maybe he could have picked up on.

Anyhow, something I need to work on for next time.

I’ve been unemployed almost 9 months now. Have been to some 10-15 in person interviews. 20-25 phone calls. Declined 2 offers for coming in too low.

Doesn’t matter how many interviews I do, each and every one is a stressful experience. I used to have poor social skills so meeting new people was hard, but that’s not the issue anymore. Now it’s that I’m being forced into a room with people I don’t know, they put me under the microscope and inspect me from all angles, before I even know if this company is worth my time working there.

And some of these companies go a step further and ask questions to actively make you question your self-worth, or to try and make you slip up. The truth is that, in the end, the only thing matters is – how did you feel? I’ve had some interviews where I felt a lot more relaxed, the conversation flowed smoothly, and I was being respected as a person. And other interviews where it was pure hell, and if I had confidence and ability to think-quickly, I would have stormed out in disgust after the first few minutes.

All I’m saying is – focus on feeling good, first and foremost. Bring a coffee or water with you if it will help you relax and take it easy. Remind yourself that the outcome doesn’t matter, because you didn’t have a job when you walked in either. Remind yourself that these are people, and they are on the same page as you, they don’t know who you are – like you don’t know who they are.

Be honest about your shortcomings. Tell them you find interviews stressful and you need to unwind after 30 minutes. Tell them you prefer coming back another time to do the technical test (or perhaps they can let you take it from home). Let them know ahead of time, if they ask you theory questions, you probably won’t be able to understand some of the words; you can put together an application, can write the code, but talking theory is not your strongest point.

But really, all they want to see is that you have the thought-process that knows how to approach different programming problems. They’re very forgiving, especially if you’re one of the strongest candidates (in terms of your past experience, if you can show them a list of projects you’ve put together, and perhaps show them some references from past employers/clients on your linkedin profile). Sell them on your ability to think-through a problem.

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