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The Definitive Technical Screening Guide:
All You Need To Know


Introduction to Technical Screening

The developer hiring process is usually time-consuming for both hiring managers and candidates. It is therefore important to have a streamlined, intensive online technical screening process that helps both sides realize if they’re a perfect match.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the need for software developers will increase by 21% in 2028. The rate of technology adoption has almost tripled since the pandemic, and every company now is a ‘tech’ company. With this, developer hiring has scaled up and so has the need for technical skills screening software. 

The developer hiring process is usually time-consuming for both hiring managers and candidates. It is therefore important to have a streamlined, intensive online technical screening process that helps both sides realize if they’re a perfect match.

So, what exactly is technical screening?

The technical screening interview is usually the first step in the developer hiring process. In most cases, it is conducted over the phone. A recruiter reaches out to a potential candidate to understand if they fit the requirements for the open position. These recruiters may not necessarily be developers themselves, but they have enough domain knowledge to see if the candidate is competent for a job.

Recruiters usually ask the candidates a number of questions related to their career graph, future goals, educational qualifications or certifications, and notable achievements. The information gathered in this screening process usually determines if the candidate is being moved to the next round i.e. the technical assessments.

Why do you need technical screening for interviews?

Resumes have traditionally been used as the primary marker of a candidate’s proficiency. However, since the pandemic brought remote hiring into focus, recruiters have realized that hiring for skills is a better way to create future-ready tech teams.

Technical screening helps recruiters identify candidates who have the right skills for an open role. Conversing with candidates, understanding their career trajectory and the kind of projects they have handled, usually gives a recruiter a fair overview of their capabilities. Based on this, they can choose to send the candidate a take-home assessment and further assess their skill-fit.


How to create a good screening test?

Post the first phone call, a recruiter might want to send a technical assessment to the candidate. An assessment like this simulates real-life coding problems that the developer would work on were they to take the job.

What is a technical screening test for interviews?

The technical screening test or assessment is a process companies use to evaluate a candidate’s technical ability for a given role. A technical screening assessment may include multiple-choice questions, simulators, and/or live discussions which can help determine the core skills of an applicant. The technical screening test is usually designed to objectively evaluate and assess the candidate’s coding ability, understanding of core technical concepts and frameworks, problem-solving abilities, etc.

P.S. We wrote a step-by-step guide to create coding assessment tests which you might find useful. Read here.

What are the best practices for creating a technical screening test for interviews?

In order to create a good technical screening test, it is vital that recruiters and engineering managers work closely and formulate a questionnaire that assesses both core and adjacent skills.

Below we outline the steps to creating a relevant take-home assessment for screening candidates:

Align on skills required for the role

Almost every job description for a technical role carries with it a long list of skills. A job description like this only serves to make developers think they are not good enough for the role and become hesitant to apply. Having too many skills on the ‘must-have list makes it harder for recruiters to assess candidates.

Instead, it is advisable to classify the required skills into a list of ‘Must-Haves’ and ‘Adjacent Skills’. As the name suggests, the must-have skills are the ones that cannot be compromised upon. These would form the focus of your take-home assessment as well.

The adjacent skill is a list of capabilities that do not directly affect a developer’s candidature. These skills can be picked up on the job, and a good developer could achieve proficiency in these skills with little training.

Choose the right tool

Once you know exactly what to screen for, find an assessment tool that lets you create and evaluate take-home coding tests without any manual errors. The tool you use must have the following features:

  • Ability to create tests at scale
  • Ability to create time-bound tests with foolproof proctoring features
  • An AI-powered evaluation and benchmarking for submissions

HackerEarth Assessments makes it easier for recruiters to create tests in the following ways:

  • You can choose test questions from our library of 13,000+ questions. These questions are curated according to roles. So, let’s say you were hiring a JAVA developer, then you can choose questions that are relevant for the role and add them to your test.
  • You can upload the JD file on our platforms and HackerEarth Assessments will suggest questions for your screening test after parsing through the uploaded job requirements.
  • You can manually enter your own custom questions. This is useful for niche roles where a recruiter might want to test a very specific skill or problem-solving ability.

Ensure you have the right mix of questions

The technical screening assessment should have the right mix of aptitude questions, multiple-choice questions, and open-ended coding questions that can help narrow down the talent pool.

  • Aptitude questions will give you a general overview of the candidate’s strengths, while the 
  • MCQs can be used to assess their understanding of low-level coding problems. 
  • Open-ended coding questions can be used to assess code quality. For instance, you can share a code stub in the technical screening test and ask the developer to add their code to the stub. You can also ask them to do code reviews which is useful in understanding if they can point out flaws in written code and fix them.


What are the benefits of using a screening test?

Talent hunting in the post-pandemic world has not been easy on tech recruiters. The technical screening and coding tests can help recruiters better evaluate candidates and make informed choices when it comes to making offers.

Here are some benefits of using coding tests for technical screening:

Improves time-to-hire

Using tools to create online coding tests frees up valuable time for recruiters and hiring managers. They don’t have to manually comb through a developer’s code repository on GitHub for instance. A tool like HackerEarth Assessments can easily help them create tests, mail them out to shortlisted candidates, and then evaluate it and show benchmarked scores without eating into their time. Some of our customers have been able to improve their time-to-hire by 50%.

Removes bias from hiring

The tech world has always been known as a boy’s club. However, with the pandemic-induced remote hiring, companies are beginning to open up to the idea of building truly diverse teams. The gains of the past few years should not be let go of easily, and hence it is important that the tech hiring process be as bias-free as one can make it.

HackerEarth Assessments has a feature by which the Personal Identifiable Information (PII) candidate – like their name, age, gender, etc. – can be camouflaged. So, when a recruiter or hiring manager looks at a candidate’s coding test, their decision will be centered only around the test performance and not be influenced by any personal details.

Supports data-driven hiring decisions

Hiring decisions can sometimes be influenced by our unconscious biases. HackerEarth Assessments gives you an unbiased, AI-driven tool that ensures that all your hiring decisions are backed by unbiased data, and strongly rooted in skills. Here are some important metrics that you can consider while assessing a candidate’s skill:

  • Score:
    What the candidate scored on the test
  • Duration used:
    This tells you how much time did the candidate use in the time given. This will help you assess the efficiency of the candidate.
  • Number of times tabs switched:
    This metric tells you how many times the candidate moved from 1 browser tab to another. This helps you assess the candidate’s dependency on the internet.
  • Plagiarism metrics:
    This metric helps you assess if the candidate has been honest with giving the test.
  • Benchmark:
    This measures the performance of the candidate against all the other candidates.

Improves candidate experience

Gone are the days when developers were called into the company offices and asked to write code on a whiteboard. In the remote world, developers prefer to be screened via a tool that mimics their day-to-day coding environment. According to the recent HackerEarth Developer Survey, 40% of developers say that they would like the technical screening interviews to be conducted via dedicated platforms that are equipped with video and IDEs (Integrated Developer Environment).

By hiring developers who have the right skill fit, you are providing the right environment for the developer to grow and learn. Research shows that many devs leave their new jobs in the first six months because they did not find the work relevant to their skill set or to their career plans. By screening and assessing well before you hire, you can solve this problem to a great degree.


How to evaluate an online coding assessment test?

Since the primary thought behind using online screening assessments is to have an objective and hassle-free hiring process, it is important that the evaluation be done in a fool-proof manner as well.

Before you pick an assessment tool, make sure that it has the right features for evaluating tests. Some of the factors you should look out for are:

  • Strong proctoring features to detect plagiarism
  • Metrics used for evaluation such as code efficiency, cyclomatic complexity, number of code run errors, etc.
  • The scoring model used to compare and rank multiple candidates

Let’s look at these in detail.

What is plagiarism in an online screening test?

An unspoken expectation from a candidate taking an online assessment test is that they will submit authentic answers, without relying on any external help. The tests should, ultimately, reflect the candidate’s coding ability accurately and truthfully.

There are many ways in which plagiarism can occur during an online test:

  • They can have someone else take the test in their place
  • They can try to copy-paste code from the web instead of writing their own
  • They can open a new tab and try to look for answers online
  • They can have someone read out the answers to them from somewhere in the room

What is remote proctoring?

Remote proctoring measures are used to detect any suspicious activity during an online technical assessment. These are features built into the online screening test that is sent out to the candidates. Remote proctoring enables candidates to take an assessment from a location convenient to them while maintaining the exam’s integrity.

 The proctoring software usually uses the webcam on the candidate’s system to identify and monitor them throughout the duration of the test. The video recorded during a remote proctored test can be used to flag any suspicious activity or behavior.

What are the remote proctoring functionalities offered by HackerEarth Assessments?

HackerEarth Assessments has a robust remote proctoring feature that can

  • Detect when candidates move away from the test tab and open a new tab on their computer, or
  • Disable copy-paste existing code into the test environment. Prevent impersonation using candidate snapshots
  • Limit tab switching to establish a controlled test environment
  • Restrict IP addresses based on location

These measures can help guarantee that the answers submitted by the candidate are original.

HackerEarth Assessments can help recruiters:

  • Choose candidates that submit original answers and filter out candidates that use copy-paste to answer the test
  • Detect the candidate’s location through their IP and avoid duplication and impersonation
  • Check candidate’s activity throughout the test duration via regular snapshots

Read more about our proctoring features here.

What is the scoring model that HackerEarth uses for evaluating screening assessments?

We know that code quality is a good indicator of a developer’s expertise, but it is not the only factor that should influence your hiring decisions. Hence, the scoring model we use to evaluate online coding tests is multi-layered and provides numerous insights for a detailed analysis of the candidate’s skills. 

With HackerEarth Assessments recruiters can view a candidate’s total score, rank, and number of questions attempted. Also, they can receive recommendations to shortlist or archive candidates based on their performance directly from the interface.

There are other features of the detailed candidate report which can help recruiters:

Identify top performers in a single glance:

If you are assessing multiple candidates for a role, then you can send the same assessment to everyone. The Assessment tool will evaluate and measure their performance on a percentile graph, allowing you to see which developer outperformed the others.

Understand the coder’s coding process:

Experienced developers can write flawless code in a single go, while freshers may need more time to answer the same problem. The ‘Codeplayer’ feature records every keystroke, allowing hiring managers to understand how a developer solves a problem, the methods they use to write code, and judge their coding ability.

Make decisions based on question-based analytics and insights:

If you are using questions from the HackerEarth library for your assessments, you will find a health score attached to them. This health score takes into account the difficulty level of each question, number of attempts in the past and other factors. This allows you to set an assessment which has questions across difficulty levels, and then use the data to make an informed choice about a candidate’s performance.


What challenges do developers face in coding assessments?

HackerEarth has an online developer community that is 6.5+ million members strong. We have heard from many of them that the online coding tests they are sent are not always up to the mark.

From our conversations with these developers, we have identified the following problems in the way technical screening tests are conducted:

  • The tests are generic and are not relevant to the role at hand 
  • The tests take too long to complete. It is not fair to ask a developer with a full-time job to commit endless hours for a test 
  • The tests are not evaluated accurately and there are chances of manual errors Coders are asked to take tests without IDE or an online environment that is familiar to them

How can HackerEarth help you solve these challenges?

HackerEarth Assessments is used by over 2000 companies globally. Our intuitive platform is made to streamline the hiring process. We help recruiters create online screening tests from anywhere in a matter of minutes. HackerEarth has one of the largest databases of questions to choose from when it comes to designing coding skills assessments. The platform also supports international languages making it easier for recruiters to hire across geographies. 

The detailed performance reports further allow recruitment teams to break down and analyze micro-details, such as the time in which the assessment was completed, replaying the keystrokes used while coding, and so much more. 

Organizations that use HackerEarth as a coding assessment platform observe a marked rise in the quality of candidates ready for hire. We have seen the interview-to-hire ratio drastically improve in the companies that have decided to use a dedicated hiring tool like HackerEarth Assessments. For instance, Zalora, a fashion e-commerce brand based in South East Asia, has been able to shorten its recruitment cycle by 50% by using HackerEarth Assessments. 

Additionally, HackerEarth secures the privacy of candidates by masking personally identifiable information in video interviews. Going by these features, it is easy to see why HackerEarth is one of the most highly-rated and trusted coding assessment platforms on the market today. Get in touch with us to learn more.

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