Old-fashioned Remote Test Tasks for IT Specialists must be Replaced

Because these tests are a waste of time

Jane Kozhevnikova
ILLUMINATION
6 min readJul 9, 2020

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Photo by wu yi on Unsplash

By remote test task I mean a test which a company sends to you after considering your cover letter and resume.

For example, for developers, a test can be writing a script, a program, a website, an application and so on. You perform this work at home and send a solution when it is finished. The main idea of a test or pre-employment test is to check a candidate’s skills in a specific area and their ability to perform a task during a limited time.

I spent a substantial amount of time doing tests, talking to companies and below I share some of my observations, actual situations and an answer to a question “What is another way of testing a candidate’s skills?

Test != Skills. What is Wrong with Tests

Some could say “If you want to find a job, you need to do a test otherwise how do people assess your skills for a position?”.

I do not mind tests that actually check my skills. I mind tests which you need to perform remotely without any discussion and then get a rejection.

So you do a test, spend your time on it, and send it. What’s next? You either will be invited to the next step or rejected without any information why. Actually, every candidate wants to know why you send them a usual rejection without any feedback about the test.

A rejection without feedback tells me that tests from all candidates were slid across a monitor and compared with each other. Which is the best?

Most tests check not your actual skills but your interest in a company because you spent time on this. And if your work is so good (what means good to them is a very intriguing question), they might think you are very motivated to work for them. As you see, sometimes your performed test does not relate to skills at all.

Some companies hire people according to only performed tests. It is very clear when they say “We will send you an invitation to the next interview if your test will satisfy our engineers etc”. Because, it takes a long time to identify your skills, ability to work and many more parameters which are really significant as well as experience. And actually, it takes more than one call with an HR manager and others. It is time, and time is money. Checking test is so easy. No efforts required.

There is no correct or incorrect performed test. A company uses this test to see whether the candidate’s style matches their style or not. This is the most common way of checking tests.

They forget that skills are what you can improve and/or achieve. We are not born with the ability to code high load applications.

Test Before the First Interview. This is not Funny

The most interesting story is when they send you a test before the first interview.

You just read a vacancy, company’s blog, search in Google, and apply to their position. Sometimes a job description is poorly written and your future responsibilities are very far from the specified. That’s why you need to have a call with them before spending your time on some unknown test.

I guess, performing a test before an interview is like a guarantee that you are a real professional and you are who you say you are and you have skills that they really need. Otherwise, they will not spend time on conversations with you.

Whatever it is, this way of communication you should avoid.

You do not know much about the vacancy and the company, but you already have been rejected. This is absolutely ridiculous.

I got into a situation where a manager who considered my resume, without any doubts, sent me his test and added that he sent this test only to the “best” candidates. Okay. I should have believed in this fairytale that he copied, pasted, and sent a short text (all these actions take less than 10 seconds) only to the special candidates, not all, of course. According to our conversation, this guy seemed drunk.

Another uncommon situation is when a company reviews your portfolio, and sends you a message about how they liked your code/text and they are glad to ask you to perform their test. You have 24 hours on the test and the assignment in already attachments. Let the games begin. No one asked you if you have time for this work or not. However, you already have the obligation to perform this test. This is absolutely insane.

Time == Money

I do not understand why companies do not pay money for your time. Actually, they get your work for free. This is absolutely ludicrous. Time must be paid. No one asked these companies to send a test to everyone who applied to their position. They could pick several strong candidates, pay their time, receive their work, and talk to them.

Candidates, who receive a test, struggle to perform it as best as they can. They spend time, energy, and make huge efforts. Sometimes for nothing. Unfortunately, they have a 50% chance to get a rejection.

Portfolio == Actual Skills

Even though you have a portfolio, a company asks you to perform a test. From this perspective, it seems that their test is the most valuable thing which can show everything that you know, you can do etc. And your portfolio is just worth nothing.

Every time I receive a test in my email I ask myself if it really is not enough to figure out what I can do according to my portfolio, higher education, and GitHub. Why can’t you just talk to me and ask everything you want instead of sending this test to me?

Once, I got a negative review about my portfolio (I had not even asked their opinion about my work) from an IT company. Just to somehow show that they are totally right, they send me comments that their style of writing is not equal to mine and that’s why my writing is poor. I do not know how to respond to this.

Anyway, a portfolio can show how the skills of one have been changing during a period of time. In some detailed research, you can even see how a person thought during a text, code etc.

A portfolio is a perfect, underestimated way to check knowledge because people usually feel rewarding of what they do for their blog or website. They get comments, claps etc. That’s why they are trying to do their best.

Test != Responsibilities

For example, you need to code a back-end service in Go that receives an image from a web-page and saves this image on your local computer. This is your test. You have 1 week.

Don’t you think that after being hired for this position, 8 hours of your day you will just spend on writing a back-end that just receives images and saves them in your local computer?

Answer: of course, not.

Another Way of Testing. Yes, it exists

I have seen that some companies do not practice old-fashioned tests.

I asked some of them why they can’t just send a test in email. They told me that they are more interested in the way of thinking of a candidate, than the actual result.

So, instead of a test, they have an online conversation with you, give you a small task and ask you to share your screen to see what you are doing and how you’re thinking.

So, they can see:

  • your thoughts,
  • how you communicate,
  • how you use your environment, applications,
  • how you can deal with problems and unknown information,
  • how you search for information.

This method is a way better than sending a test. But I practised this way of testing only once, which tells me that for most IT companies a remote one-week long test is still a priority. Instead, they could have a discussion with a candidate and learn a lot about this person just in a conversation.

To sum up, old-fashioned remote tests are misused and do not show a full picture of someone’s abilities.

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