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Beyond Just Code: Identifying Star Programmers through Online Coding Tests

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When it comes to software developers, the usual perception is that of a determined individual cranking out reams of code on a daily basis. In reality, however, such brute-force ability isn’t of much use. In fact, so little is the relevance of just “being able to code” in the real world, that the term “code monkey” has now become common to describe such people.

Here’s a snippet from a discussion (at, the largest developer community online) on who can be termed a code monkey: “To me, at least,” writes a user, “the distinction is that a code monkey merely produces code without really thinking about it, whereas a ‘proper’ programmer is a professional. They [the latter] use engineering techniques to produce higher-quality code, and have an awareness of the system as a whole, do better planning and more thorough design.”

Simplistic but blazing fast ability to produce code vs. a slower but engineering-based approach to software – no seasoned software engineer will have to think twice about what to choose.

How not to Hire a Programmer

The worst approach, then, to hire a programmer would be to do one of the following:

  • Trust a person on his/her resume and achievements on display
  • Hire a programmer purely on the basis of recommendation
  • Be impressed enough by the resume so as to be content with just an interview
  • Letting a paper-based test carry weight in making the decision.

That’s simply because the traditional methods have no provision for testing a programmer on what matters the most: code that is reliable, easy to understand, extensible, as well as efficient.

Leverage Online Coding Tests

Online coding tests are a much better bet when it comes to spotting programming talent. The reason is that these tests combine the best of both worlds: the interactivity and power offered by technology, and the accuracy of a well structured test.

Here’s how:

  • Usability:

     Perhaps the greatest pitfall for most programmers, even some experienced ones, is the lack of proper test cases in their code. Coders are so focused on solving the given problem that robustness gets neglected. Online coding tests allow you to separate careful programmers from the rushed ones, ensuring that software developed will be error-free and usable.
  • Speed:

     While there is no debating that quality improves as more time is given to develop software, development speed is one of the biggest business considerations. It’s important to know how much time a programmer spent on solving a particular class of problems, so that he/she can be classified appropriately. Online coding tests are the perfect fit for this, as these can accurately measure time taken for various phases of problem-solving.
  • Maintainability:

     Code that is easy to understand is easy to maintain. This means that while development, software complexity should be as low as possible. Online coding tests can easily measure how complex a piece of code is, giving vital insight into programmer aptitude.

In many ways, online coding tests fare better than even live projects. That’s because live projects tend to be too protean and multifaceted to test particular skills.

Topics: Online Coding/Programming Test

Originally published December 04 2019,updated May 27 2020

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