Software Developers Need to Prepare for Rigorous Recruiting Process

It's a software developer's job market, but IT hiring managers still act like it's an employer's market where they can put candidates through the paces.

Last week I spoke with Adriana Ganos, a senior consultant with staffing firm Winter Wyman's New England-area software engineering permanent division. She places software developers in full-time, permanent positions with her clients. 

Ganos and I talked about the market for software development jobs in the Boston area and about the job interview questions that dog developers. She said that software developers, particularly with Java for Linux, Ruby on Rails, Python, PHP and Perl expertise, are a hot commodity in her neck of the woods.   

At the same time that Ganos's clients are jockeying to hire programmers, they're putting candidates for these jobs through the paces. Specifically, they're giving candidates lengthy programming problems to solve. 

Programming problems and algorithmic exercises have long been part of the job interview process for software developers. "It's a way for clients to figure out what they're getting and their best way to test drive potential employees," says Ganos. 

That's all fine and dandy. After all, it's part of a hiring manager's due diligence. But this practice poses problems when employers ask candidates to complete exercises that require four or more hours of work. According to Ganos's experience with her clients, that's increasingly becoming the case.   

One problem in requiring candidates to devote a chunk of time to what is essentially an academic exercise is that employers risk alienating the top talent they're trying to recruit. The other obstacle this practice introduces is that it effectively limits an employer's pool of candidates. Ganos notes that software developers who are currently employed don't have time to solve a four-hour programming problem.    

It's odd (to say the least) that in a "developers job market" like Boston, more employers are making candidates jump through these hoops. 

Ganos says she often has to explain to her more demanding clients that they can't expect passive job seekers to spend "eight hours on a job opportunity they know nothing about." 

She adds that these programming problems and exercises take place at various stages in the recruiting process, depending on the employer. Usually, hiring managers ask candidates to do them after the candidate has passed an initial phone screen, she says. 

Software developers: Are you experiencing this trend? Are you finding more employers asking you to work on elaborate programming problems during the recruitment process? 

IT hiring managers: When it comes to recruiting developers, how do you strike a balance between keeping top talent interested in your organization and getting a good sense of the "human capital" you're recruiting?

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