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Your Candidate Assessment Guide: How to Evaluate Technical Skills

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Unless your organization has a hiring manager with extensive IT knowledge, you’ll find yourself asking this question when filling a tech position: what’s the best way in which to assess a candidate’s unique skills? How can you determine which applicant has the strongest technical expertise or which candidate has the right blend of experience and education? The simple answer is by performing a technical assessment.

Depending on your situation and requirements, consider using a mixture of pre-screening, automated screening assessments, manual code reviews, and technical interviews. Keep in mind, however, that it’s most beneficial to your organization to use technical assessments after you’ve identified your specific needs. Let’s take a look at some of the things you should know before diving right into screening your candidates’ technical skills.

Determine Your Project Scope and Duration

Before a technical assessment can take place, your team will need to identify the project’s scope and duration. Are you looking to hire one developer this year, or several developers this month? Does your organization seek candidates for permanent full-time roles, such as creating and maintaining critical technical infrastructure? Conversely, are you searching for temporary, part-time, or contract roles to add functionality (for example) to an existing web or mobile application? Your project may require hiring multiple developers in Front-end, Back-end, and DevOps roles.

Define Your Project Domain

Your next step will be to identify likely technologies needed to implement the solution. For example, if your goal is to design, build, deploy and maintain a scalable and fault-tolerant cloud service, you may need an AWS Certified Solutions Architect. For Drupal applications hosted on Acquia, you’ll want a candidate with Acquia certification. Your project may require expertise with C++ or C#, JavaScript or Java, PHP or Python, Ruby, or Rust.

Once you’ve outlined your project goals, scope, duration, and domain, it’s time to assemble your team. There are many methods for assessing a given candidate’s technical skills. We’ll explore one possible workflow below in order to give you a better idea of the process.

1. Pre-Screening Candidate with Technical Assessment

To identify promising candidates, you’ll want to have them undergo a pre-screening test. Assessment tests may include open-ended or multiple choice questions related to the specific tech stack for which you’re screening. For instance, if you’re hiring back-end PHP developers using the Laravel framework, it’s unnecessary to quiz them on C# and .NET skills. Assessment tests may also include an algorithm challenge wherein candidates are asked to implement a solution — on the spot. This step is useful as a filtering mechanism to narrow the field from a large candidate pool to a manageable number of qualified applicants.

2. Manual Code Review

Once your candidates have passed pre-screening, the next step is to ask them for a code sample for review. However, depending on the particulars of the situation, this step could come before the automated assessment, or even replace it. In all cases, the candidate’s code sample should be reviewed by someone with enough expertise to identify whether it follows standards and best practices. More importantly, a good code sample should demonstrate the candidate’s ability to get the job done. If the project requires a Back-end engineer to implement a RESTful API, don’t accept code samples that demonstrate Front-end skills unless they also include an API integration.

3. Technical Interview with Candidate

To choose between candidates who pass the pre-screening and code review, face-to-face interviews (in person or remote) are necessary. Technical interviews provide the benefit of assessing a candidate’s soft skills. Some critical soft skills and traits to look for during the technical interview include:

  • Their communication skills
  • Their collaboration skills
  • Their ability to think strategically
  • Whether the candidate portrays an optimistic, patient, flexible, and professional personality

Each organization has their own spectrum of requirements for soft skills, so it’s up to your company to decide whether your candidates satisfy the requirements.

Final Thoughts

If these sound time-consuming to you, you’re right. A thorough technical assessment of your candidates can make or break your projects. Whether you’re just starting your screening process or looking to scale, you could benefit from Screening as a Service. By outsourcing your technical screening to the professionals, your company can be confident that it’s hiring the best talent for the job.