Wednesday, July 17, 2024

What You Need To Know About Automated Take-Home Assignment


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Getting closer to finding a new job, the dread of endless interview processes that are ill-designed is beginning to set in. Take-home assignments might be one of the most perniciously broken aspects of tech interviewing, and they are usually obvious culprits.

Take-Home Assignments

As part of the tech interview process, candidates are given take-home assignments with instructions and a time frame to complete them. I will explain more about that later, but it probably sounds like free labor to you! As an alternative to whiteboard interviews and automated code tests, take-home assignments have become increasingly popular in tech companies.

Take-home assignments have some qualities that make them less dehumanizing than other methods of assessing technical skills. It allows candidates to demonstrate their skills on their own time and with their own tools. The tests they use provide more accurate signals because they place candidates in conditions similar to what they will encounter every day, so they focus less on memorizing algorithms and data structures, and more on their real-life skills. Candidates can benefit from take-home assignments when they are designed properly.

Research on interview processes has shown that work sample tests tend to have high predictive power, which means candidates who pass the test are likely to perform well in the interview. The take-home assignments allow us to simulate a real work environment as closely as possible, while also providing opportunity to assess more important “soft” skills, such as communication and collaboration, which might be hard to evaluate with a time-bound setting or a whiteboard.

Despite how good take-home assignments are, they still have glaring shortcomings, especially when compared to the alternatives. If you’d like to know more, you can check out the website

Taking Home Assignments Have A Number Of Shortcomings

Our discussion won’t dwell on the usual problems, such as candidates who spend a lot more time completing tasks than others, and making comparisons harder or even outright fraud. Rather than taking home assignments, let’s analyze the more subtle limitations.

The upfront costs are high for candidates, as they might have to work for free for 3-5 hours to complete an exercise that is pretty arbitrary. I have implemented weather applications, roman number converters, and web apps for favorite TV shows in the past. I invested considerable time in some tasks even though they were not directly related to the position I was applying for. Despite my interviews with several companies, none of them offered compensation for the work. There is a significant part of the candidate population that does not continue with the process because of the high upfront cost of the take-home exercises.

What is The Next Step?

Okay, this is all well and good, but where do we go from here?

As we’ve already seen, some alternatives to assessing technical skills lead to worse candidate experiences and less accurate job predictions. A whiteboard and an automated code test are out of the question. Code under pressure doesn’t correlate much with actual performance on the job, so time-boxed technical challenges can also distort a candidate’s actual skill set. There are also methods that use open source code as part of the screening process, but they both have their own limitations due to the fact that most people do not have time to write code (basically doing more work with their free time). It is not possible for everyone to work on side projects that can be used as examples during interviews.


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