Blind skills challenges help vet true tech talent

Skills-testing platforms place your hiring focus on verified talent -- where it should be

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A new tool in the hiring process is proving to be a win-win for candidates and companies alike. Blind skills challenges, in which candidates’ names and email addresses are hidden, place the focus squarely on talent and accomplishments.

For new grads looking to gain an extra edge in a competitive tech talent marketplace, skills challenges can be a great way to refine technical chops and show potential employers they’ve got what it takes.

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For organizations looking to hire, especially internships and entry-level positions, skills challenges can help vet true talent free of biases, enabling you to fill openings more quickly and confidently.

Investigating an internship

As a senior engineering student at University of California, Santa Cruz, Molly Zhang was doing everything she could to land an internship. She practiced basic coding structures and algorithms. She read Gayle Laakman McDonald’s Cracking the Coding Interview.” She’d landed four separate interviews. But the pressure of interviewing and being put on the spot was working against her, making it hard for her to articulate her skills.

Then, after two months of fruitless searching, screening, and interviews that led nowhere, Zhang signed up with CodeFights, a gamified, skills-based recruiting platform for developers. CodeFights and similar platforms, such as HackerRank, allow developers to practice their skills against blind coding challenges and “bots,” and release their results to selected partners, such as Asana, Dropbox, and other Silicon Valley tech companies, looking to find developer talent to fill internships or full-time roles.

Based on her scores, Zhang landed an internship with Asana; now she’s a graduate student researcher at UC Santa Cruz, and plans to use CodeFights next time she needs to search for a new job.

“If I hadn’t done that, I think I would still be on the hunt for an internship today,” Zhang says. “This process helped me consolidate my knowledge base and strengthened my coding skills, especially when it came to thinking of test cases to test my code. Once I competed with -- and beat -- the ‘bots’ on the site, I could send my résumé to the company's recruiter with this proof of my skill and avoid the stress and pressure of the interview altogether.”

Separate the good from the great

Blind skills challenges are not just a boon for those seeking work. They also help hiring companies filter out the good from the great in an increasingly crowded market where many candidates look similar on paper, says Vivek Ravisankar, CEO and co-founder of coding challenge platform HackerRank.

“If you look at college graduates, especially, a lot of the tech talent is identical when it comes to coursework, classes, independent projects, and the like. It’s getting harder to distinguish who’s good and who’s not just by looking at a résumé; that only gets easier when someone has a work history, which most college grads don’t. Even going to a top CS school doesn’t differentiate you in the same way as these types of platforms do,” he says.

And using blind coding challenges on platforms like HackerRank and CodeFights can give your organization access to global talent pools, rather than just your usual geographic area or recruiting from the “same old” schools, says Ravisankar, adding that challenges have also been tailored to fill roles particular companies need.

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