I came across a job listing pointing to a basic coding challenge.
Now, many people believe coding challenges shouldn't be part of the job application process. I'm sympathetic to employers who believe these challenges can provide valuable insight, so I tried to keep an open mind while reading the company's challenge page.
But then the company says this (emphasis mine):
Choose whatever types you feel appropriate, the purpose of the exercise is to see some of your code and discuss with you the solution you came up with and the choices you made. Your resume will not be looked at without code that passes this test. Submit your code along with your resume to jobs@___.com. We'll contact you if we find your code good enough to consider hiring you; if you don't hear from us, you didn't pass the code review, most people don't.
I hate that.
First, some people apply to dozens of jobs during a job hunt. Refusing to even look at a resume without the applicant passing a challenge is a standard that doesn't scale. Furthermore, it insults the applicant by implying their time is incredibly cheap (not to mention that it's discriminatory against those segments of the population that already disproportionately suffer a deficiency in time and energy - yes, I think this employer's attitude is probably racist and sexist).
Second, the conclusion of that paragraph is blatantly insulting. To an experienced dev, it says "we have so little regard for your expertise, we won't even bother to let you know if/why we didn't like your response to the challenge." To an inexperienced dev, it says "Being a developer is an exclusive, almost prohibitively difficult thing, so much so that we reject most attempts to solve our challenge." To a young developer, the reinforcement of the toxic stereotype of "programmer as elite" can deal a heavy blow to self-confidence.
During my senior year of college, I applied to roughly seventy-five positions, including one at Cipher Tech Solutions. Soon after applying on Stack Overflow, I received a call from their recruiter. I remember the building I stepped out of to take the call. I remember where I nervously paced in circles while talking. I remember because as a sleep-deprived student and worry-fraught job seeker who was simultaneously concerned about CS finals and the daunting task of securing my future livelihood, the recruiter made me feel important. She made me feel like a valued professional, a colleague. She described the coding challenge that is a part of their interview process, and assured me that she knew I was busy - that I could take my time and submit the work whenever I was ready.
I breathed a sigh of relief, finished studying for and taking my finals, and then did what was eventually praised as an excellent job completing the coding challenge. Though I ultimately did not end up at Cipher Tech, I have recommended them to multiple friends and will be forever grateful for their respectful and uplifting attitude.
Crutchfield, where I now work, did not use a coding challenge. But I remember my first contact with the company being with the web development team leader. He was easy-going and spoke to me as one would talk with a peer. When I described my problem-solving process as "Google things, break things, repeat," he laughed and assured me that this was roughly his approach as well. I felt validated as a largely self-taught developer.
I work at Crutchfield now, in large part due to that conversation, and I love it.
Please, if you are a young coder, never ever ever ever let something like this horrific job application process discourage you. I assure you that you can be as effective a coder as anyone who writes for this site or who works for the companies you associate with great engineering. I'm personally open to Tweets, emails, etc. for advice on how to achieve your career dreams, as I know are many others on dev.to.
I deeply hope that this company corrects their application process. The fact that they've ever portrayed such an elitist and flippant attitude towards colleagues is dismaying. I fear that this kind of approach to hiring is disappointingly common.
If you're involved in hiring at your company, please follow the model of Cipher Tech and Crutchfield and the many, many other excellent employers I interacted with during my job hunt. Default to respect. Hire with compassion. Encourage the coders who will soon be your peers.
Update: the company modified their page to soften the language, so I've removed references from this article to the specific company. I'm delighted they've made the decision to update their challenge page. They may receive more applications from unqualified job seekers. But hopefully they will also receive more applications from genuine, qualified candidates and do less emotional damage in the process.