Do you resent wasting your time with coding challenges?
Keep calm and say that you have decided to stop doing them.
Companies have their processes and dealbreakers. Since the hiring process is a two-way street, you are entitled to have your own dealbreakers.
My article has been grilled by ThePrimeAgen on YouTube. And that was a great honor.
But I realized I introduced a confusion by not defining the term. I am not talking about all kinds of challenges that involve coding. I am not talking about algorithmic challenges like ThePrimeAgen thought. I am talking about that kind of coding challenges:
Your Coding Challenge: We are a music player app company, so we challenge you to do a simplified music player app, with a lying time estimate of four hours, and then we will evaluate the quality of your code according to unknown criteria.
There is a completely underrated tool in job hunting. Not it's not an app, and no, it's not ChatGPT. Here is the secret:
🙊 Talk with the recruiter that makes the first phone call 🙉
I know that you feel the urge to skip that part and talk as fast as possible to someone that understands that vim is better than Emacs. (Obviously, the reverse is true).
But skipping that urge is worth its weight in gold.
Because you can use this opportunity to, for example, avoid code challenges. What you do is that you get to know each other and the company, then wait for that moment :
*So that was in summary who we are as a company, and what we are looking for. Do you have any questions?
And indeed, you have questions:
Hello yes, can you describe your recruiting process?
Which steps would I go through if everything works fine?
She will be happy to oblige.
Maybe you will need to ask for more precision
You mention there will be a technical evaluation. How would that go? Is that more like a technical discussion? Or a coding challenge to do at home?
Then you hear either:
No we don't do coding challenges. We have found they waste too much time for our candidates, and there are other ways to evaluate their technical skills.
Then all fine, you have avoided a coding challenge.
Or you hear
Yes indeed, there will be a coding challenge that consists in this and this.
That's the crucial moment where you breathe, you stay polite and calm and you say:
Thank you for clarifying that. Well, I have to be transparent with you, I had bad experiences in the past with coding challenges and I have decided to stop accepting them.
Just like that.
What happens next?
The conversation could become uncomfortable.
Recruiting is a hard job to do well, and just like programming, requires training and practice. Unfortunately, too much people are doing recruitment without having been through enough recruiting training. One dude was mad at me and told me how difficult programmers are, etc.
If that happens, breathe and do your best to stay calm. You have probably dodged a bullet, and you have kept and improved your self-respect. That's what matters most.
It's more likely though that the recruiter says something like "Well, I can understand. Now from our side, we have our processes, so I guess it's a dealbreaker".
That's expected and that's fine. They have their company processes and rules. You have, starting today, your candidate processes and rules, the first rule being that you don't do coding challenges.
By failing early, you have won something important.
You have won time to find other companies that waste less of your time
You have lost one lead where you may have invested 12 or 24 hours in a coding challenge. And I have personally heard about much more, you wouldn't believe it.
During those 12 or 24 hours you can get in touch with way more than one company.
That may feel out of reach if that one company is the only one that replied after you send tons of CVs. Then you have another issue, you need to become better at finding companies. That's a topic for another day, but that starts with actually understanding how hiring works from multiple points of view. Which was the subject of my last article
That scenario doesn't sound too bad for me?
But there is more.
Does it sound too good to be true?
No, not at all, that's just the way it works.
For the best recruiters, your interests and theirs are actually quite well aligned. Because they are, of course, interested in convincing, not only you, but the candidates after you, to work with them. And the best way to do that is to... actually shape a candidate experience people will want to go through.
Nobody is perfect so she might have accepted from their hierarchies that there must be this coding challenge thing. They sweared to her, it will only take up to four hours. Now obviously the guy who tried it was the guy who designed the coding challenge so he knew exactly what to do and did indeed complete it in less than 4 hours.
If you tell her that in your experience and in the experience of your friends, that kind of coding challenge takes anything between 8 and 55 hours to actually do, she will listen carefully.
She will talk about it internally.
Alas It's likely that her hiring manager will not listen because many of those, alas, don't respect recruitment.
Something that developers who struggle to get a job don't realise is that the reverse is also true, companies struggle to hire developers. Not top companies like Forem. But really, at the average company, developer positions stay vacant for many months.
If the hiring manager, one month after you spoke out, realise that the position is still not being filled, and ask what can be done about it? The good recruiter will bring the candidate pain point to the table once again. Maybe another developer was brave enough to do the same thing as you and explain to her politely why he doesn't like and doesn't do coding challengers anymore. He would have given other arguments and she will use that ammunition to shape things up.
Because, really, it's in everyone's best interest.
🙏🏻Thanks for reading
Please send my article to a friend that needs it, or to that smart recruiter who is ready to listen to your concerns.