Homework Before You Get the Job?

By June 14, 2011 No Comments

Ahh, the Daxko interview process. There many facets, but let’s focus on just one aspect — the homework assignment. Homework, you say? Yes, not only do we want you to research our company, which can be called traditional homework for an interview, but we also want you to show us that you can do the job.

Daxko’s given interview homework for as long as I’ve worked here (which is almost 4 years). At first, it sounds painful; but most of the interviewees I’ve talked to actually enjoy it. Those are the people we want to hire — the ones that don’t mind spending 2-3 hours on a project so they can show us how they walk the walk instead of just talk the talk. The ones that are so passionate about what they do, they consider the homework to be fun.

For example, let’s look at our last .NET engineer opening. During the final interview stage, we had them create an application on their own time and then present it in front of the .NET team. When I first started, I imagined this to be very painful for a techie. However, like I said before, the passionate ones say they enjoy it.

Think we’re crazy for requiring this?  Think again.  Check out this article on “Why The New Guy Can’t Code”. The writer contributes poor hiring decisions to a poor interview process…

“A great coder can easily be 50 times more productive than a mediocre one, while bad ones ultimately have negative productivity. Hiring one is a terrible mistake for any organization; for a startup, it can be a catastrophic company-killer. So how can it happen so often? …Have the interviewee show and tell their code, and explain their design decisions and what they would do differently now. Have them implement a feature or two while you watch, so you can see how they actually work, and how they think while working.”

How does it work? Daxko’s .NET Development Lead Patrick B. walks us through the process…

“I like to craft an exercise specially for the candidate – to demonstrate either a skill they claim to have or one I’d like to see them cultivate. At the very least, the exercise should be original and applicable to everyday work on your development team – no Towers of Hanoi or binary search – and the solution should require application of original thought. We have the candidate discuss the solution with members of the team during their interview. This lets us not only statically assess the solution, but gives them an opportunity to walk us through the rationale behind it. The discussion is often more illuminating than the solution itself, because it quickly becomes obvious how well they really grasp things. This discussion is also much more akin to the conversations the developers will have while working together, unlike traditional interview questions.”

So, how does the candidate feel? Here’s the response from our newest .NET hire, Jace B…

“First off, I like the fact that there is homework. Of the places I spoke with, the two that required a practicum of me were the two most attractive. Not sure exactly why that is. Maybe it’s the knowledge that everyone working there had to pass one. Another part is that it was a way to show off. I like showing off. Perhaps the biggest part, though, is something about the organizational mindset that would drive you to require that… it’s something about that mindset that’s attractive.”

Thanks, Jace – that’s exactly why Daxko gives homework, especially to developers. It also explains why we have a killer team!

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