May 4, 2023

The secret to a good technical interview process

If you’re an engineering manager or recruiter, you’ve likely experienced firsthand the shortcomings of a traditional technical interview. We’re talking algorithmic tests that ask candidates to work through array manipulation or match string patterns in artificial environments, where candidates cannot even look up syntax, compile their code, or accurately represent how they would work on the job—the very job they are being interviewed for.

Engineering managers, recruiters, and even candidates are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with traditional technical interviews and the broken interview process. As a result, many companies are seeking alternatives to update their interview processes with tools like Byteboard that enable companies to more accurately and confidently evaluate their technical candidates through interviews that simulate real work.

We'll share the impact of a poorly-designed interview process on candidates and teams and a checklist to help you assess if your process is meeting the bar.

The ones that got away

Here’s a heavy dose of truth serum: software engineering as a field has evolved but the way we interview for those skills has not. In a recent report of the State of Engineering Management in 2023, engineering leaders reported that maintaining high-performing teams was the number one challenge this year. Building high-performing teams starts with hiring the right people. And choosing the right hire comes with a lot of responsibility. Missing out on a candidate that would have made a great addition to your team, simply because your company’s technical interview involves theoretical algorithm questions and Leetcode tests, is crushing, to say the least. There is strong talent out there, but it takes a well-designed interview process to find, engage, evaluate, and ultimately close on those candidates.

There’s limits to your traditional technical interviews

Coding challenges and other traditional technical interview methods often overlook or undervalue essential skills that are critical for a candidate to succeed in their role. For example, coding challenges may only test a candidate's ability to write code, but fail to test their ability to collaborate with a team or their communication skills. Having knowledge of algorithms and data structures is undoubtedly important for engineers, but it's only valuable when put to use in their everyday work. Problem-solving skills are important for engineers to have and traditional technical interviews often fail to test for real-work problem solving.

Traditional technical interviews often require months of dedicated study as well, which may not be feasible for many candidates, and can benefit those with the privilege of time, resources, and insider knowledge on how to prepare. This can impact underrepresented groups in particular, creating inequity in the process. Plus, interviewers may unconsciously or consciously favor candidates who have similar backgrounds or experiences as themselves, leading to a lack of diversity in the hiring process. In fact, some companies have reported losing as much as 89% of their URM candidates in their first round coding screen 💔.

What simulating real work in interviews can help you uncover

Assessments that include tasks like reading through design documents and adding comments, implementing new features in existing codebases, and making decisions in ambiguous situations where there is no one right answer are the best way to truly measure how a candidate will perform on the job because they simulate tasks engineers do on-the-job. These types of interviews test a candidate's ability to identify and solve real-world problems, work collaboratively with a team, and communicate their thought processes and solutions effectively. 

Before you start to assess if your candidate’s pass your bar, make sure your interviewing process passes the bar of being a well-thought out and effective process.

How does your interview process do across the following?

  • Your interview process looks for a full picture of a candidate's skills, not just familiarity with advanced data structures and algorithms.
  • You ask candidates to perform tasks that simulate potential engineering challenges they may face on the job. Don’t have candidates do actual work you are shipping to production until they are actually employees and getting paid for the work.
  • Provides a full picture of a candidate's skills, not just familiarity with advanced data structures and algorithms.
  • Asks candidates to perform tasks that simulate potential engineering challenges they may face on the job.
  • Provides a a structured and rigorous rubric system that is de-identified to eliminate unconscious bias, providing a fair assessment experience. 
  • Designed to recognize the diversity of talent and assess candidates from multiple angles, acknowledging that there are different ways for a candidate to be a strong fit for a role.
  • Each interview in your process is intentionally designed to extract unique signals. So you’re not doing multiple rounds of coding interviews, but instead using each interview to build on additional signals.

You’re (not) on your own, kid

How does your interview process do on the checklist? If you didn’t hit all checkboxes, you’re not on your own. 

We have seen and even personally experienced the ineffectiveness, inequity, and inefficiency of the traditional technical interview process. Technical interviews need to simulate real work in order to accurately assess if a candidate can do the job. By building an equitable interview process that intentional to the skills you would see on the job, you not only increase the quality of hire, but also shorten your time-to-hire, increase candidate acceptance rates, and save time.

Our focus at Byteboard has been to provide provides interviews that simulate real work, designed and reviewed by real engineers that measure more than 20 domain-related skills, enabling recruiters and hiring managers to make faster, smarter, and more equitable hiring decisions. When compared to in-person interviews and automated screeners, Byteboard meets all the requirements outlined above — in addition to being a scalable solution for high-volume hiring. We've helped companies like Figma, Webflow, and Lyft use Byteboard to hire across all levels and key technical roles and have the highest candidate satisfaction ratings for their interview process.

Experience it for yourself by requesting a demo today.