Job Hunting: Are Technical Tests Worth Your Time? by@cveasey

Job Hunting: Are Technical Tests Worth Your Time?

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Clint Veasey

From stacking tents for the airforce to working as a full stack developer.

Nothing strikes fear into my caffeinated heart as the words “Technical Test”. Mostly because, unlike the more predictable interview, I have no idea what to expect.

Over my career, technical tests have consisted of many things, including:

  • Circling errors in code with a pencil on a sheet of paper
  • Sitting at an IDE already open, and Google, and asked to add validation to a form
  • Asked to write a blogging website from scratch (no frameworks) in 6 hours

These are just the tip of the iceberg, yet already vary wildly in time required and depth.

Keep your code tests to flesh out your portfolio of work

As eluded to above:

  • write a barebones MVC framework
  • write a composer package
  • write a pagination module

Are these worth your time? Despite the tone of the article up to now, I’d say sometimes.

Being asked to spend hours of my day unpaid coding for someone, I would politely postpone the generous offer and put my time into applying for more jobs. You can always circle back, you’re not wasting of their time as they would yours.

Sometimes a technical test, especially a remote one, will involve building a project within an allotted number of hours. They sound like a grind, however, sometimes it can be an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone and flesh out your portfolio on GitHub.

In addition to maybe filling a hole in your portfolio, you’ll have something near to a scope already in the bag for next time.

Rubber Ducking

As a professional, as opposed to an academic post, I find myself working long hours in solitude. Rarely do I have to describe the workings of my code. I often struggle in interviews to express what is in my head, especially to someone who may not themselves be as technical (otherwise why would they want to hire me?).

The classic debugging method can be a good way to prepare for interviews. Talking to your monitor, or your pet, as you code can help you become more articulate and maybe even Google the correct terminology so you can sound a lot more confident and knowledgeable.

What else do you want from an interviewee than someone who sounds like they know what they are on about?

Tough Tests

Some tests are tough. You’ll apply to maintain a brochure site and be asked to recite sorting algorithms from heart, or write code without any resources such as auto-completion or Stack Overflow.

Unless you are applying to Google I wouldn’t take it to heart. The applicant who will breeze that gauntlet might well find themselves bored once in the role.

Closing Thoughts

The real world isn’t about scoring on written exams and excelling under test conditions. There is a myriad of resources for preparing for your upcoming job hunt.

However, in my personal opinion, I believe your time would be much better spent:

  • Building your portfolio
  • Networking and applying for jobs
  • Developing your conversational and oral skills
  • Getting a nice haircut

I hope this article offers some comfort to the stressed. Feel free to get in touch, even if it’s just to talk shop.

Take it easy.

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