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Do you ask for "offline" test project when applying for job?

rodiongork profile image Rodion Gorkovenko ・2 min read

General process of getting hired includes interview with, probably, some time dedicated to assessing technical skills of pretender. It usually starts with talks about past projects (if any) and / or bulk of technical questions.

Sometimes (rarely enough) I'm proposed to try do some "offline test project" - like write such and such server, collecting such and such incoming data, displaying them so and so etc.

What is your experience and your opinion? How much time have you happened to spend on test projects? Were any projects really interesting for you?

For me usually such project may take from 4 to 20 hours and could be done in a few days or couple of weeks. One of the toughest was in Haskell (just because of the language) and perhaps another very long ago, when I first tried to apply for Java developer job.

I know some people frown upon this approach, regarding this as "unpaid job" which no one should be willing to do.

On contrary, I myself am usually eager to get such project. So I often ask for it (though they are still rare). Surely it will take some time - but there are advantages (in my opinion):

  • it usually gives better understanding about what technologies people use on their project and what task they solve
  • for me "success rate" after submitting such projects is very high, about 80% (compared to about 25% after normal interviews).

As for "unpaid job", being experienced myself, I know that for interviewer usually it is easier to do stuff him(her)self rather than explain to other and then fix other's clumsy errors etc. So it is rather "free exercise", never "free job". Just an opportunity to learn.

Discussion (2)

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greghausheer profile image
Greg Hausheer

This is great, thank you for sharing.

One thought from an employer's perspective: I once heard (wish I could remember where I learned this) of a company paying a small fee to each developer in the interview process to do this kind of take-home / offline work. Something around ~$100 or $200 as a small fee. This way, the interviewer didn't feel bad about the take-home assignment if it ended up taking the candidate more than a reasonable amount of time (few hours) and the candidate felt like they were respected for their time. Win win from both perspectives.

samwatts98 profile image
Sam Watts

While I’ve personally not heard of this kind of interview process, I think it sounds like a fantastic way to be able to express your technical skills and your own writing style/ flavour.

While part of the idea in programming tasks in front of an interviewer is to observe your personal problem solving skills and thinking process, sometimes it can leave you feeling on the spot and under the pressure when conjuring ideas in front of the person deciding if you’re getting the job!

Perhaps a best of both is to accompany your take-home offline project with a report of how you came to your conclusions and why you made certain design choices!