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Technical-Screening

Talent Assessment | 8 Min Read

Is Technical Screening the Secret Quality Hiring Weapon?

Introduction

Are you struggling to recruit top tech talent? You’re not alone. As per Indeed Survey, almost 9 out of 10 HR professionals (86%) find it challenging to hire technical talent, with over a third (36%) finding it “very challenging.” Ever wondered why hiring technical candidates is easier said than done? Apart from having aggressive hiring goals, it is the inability to quantify a candidate’s on-the-job potential.

On average, a typical corporate job attracts 250 resumes. Add to that, a combination of talent shortage and intense competition, as organizations often swiftly poach the best talent.

Time is of the essence here. Hence, to quickly sift the best from a vast pool, hiring managers tend to skim through cover letters. They review resumes by matching the closest applicant-job-description to the needed qualification, connect with a selected few for the interview (via video or phone), pepper it with some instincts, and hire ‘someone.’ The probable result is hiring a generic or wrong candidate.

You've spent considerable effort finding a suitable candidate, but the result hurts the company's long-term success because:

  • HR professionals haven’t assessed the candidate's performance in the real world.
  • They haven't calibrated the skills and knowledge written on the resume.
  • There was no comprehensive and in-depth assessment of the candidate's potential.
  • The hiring decision did not have any data-backed insight on which to capitalize.
  • And often, by taking time in shortlisting ideal candidates, HRs have impaired their hiring efficiency.

Bottomline resumes only tell you so much. The inability to holistically and instantaneously assess a candidate’s skills has always prevented business from hiring the most talented candidates.

Hence, to minimize these difficulties, bolster quality decision-making and speed up the time-to-hire, pre-interview inefficiencies must be eliminated. HRs must zero in on the right candidate before commencing the interview process. They’ll need to know whether the applicant can fulfill the essential criteria and job requirements, by charting a concise filtration process at the initial stage. A meaningful talent evaluation from the beginning ensures that ensuing steps work toward more successful hiring. Subsequently, hiring managers optimize their hiring by garnering detailed insights to ensure there are no additional biases in the process. This can help companies save considerable time and financial resources and also promote integrity. 

How does one do that?

By undertaking technical screening to select the best candidates and ensure new hires are seamless fits.

What is Technical Screening?

Technical screening is a significant process of simultaneously testing and evaluating thousands of technical candidates’ skills and experience against pre-decided parameters. Using a combination of knowledge and application-based techniques such as MCQs and simulators, a hiring manager filters out quality technical talent even before the interview. It is a filtration between receiving an application and hiring a candidate. 

Let’s take an example: Hiring managers are seeking back-end Java developers at scale. They also want them to possess basic SQL knowledge of writing REST APIs. This is a specific requirement, but the candidate pool is vast. Hence, hiring managers need to create a filter to assess every candidate’s skills across their requirements and scout the potentials. They enable technical screening and micro-analyze the candidates by focussing on:

  • A candidate’s coding and general aptitude 
  • A candidate’s understanding of core technical concepts such as Java Concepts, REST APIs, Frameworks, problem-solving, etc. on a diverse set of technologies
  • A candidate’s coding proficiency in general programming languages such as real-world Java programming

Technical screening verifies each candidate’s fundamental and advanced skills, ensuring that the employers don’t have to manage time-consuming interviews with applicants, who are neither qualified nor suited for a particular position. You’ll be amazed at the remarkable number of candidates technical screening weeds out. 

The technical screening process helps HR understand a programmer’s capability to learn and comprehend. This not only provides insights into the extent of knowledge candidates can apply and analyze, but the baseline understanding of where the candidate’s technical abilities are gives the company a much needed competitive advantage. 

Also, valuable, evidence-based analytics on candidate potential and performance deter hiring managers from shortlisting based on bias. Hence, the company is left with only the best candidate pool for the interview process, accelerating the hiring process holistically and fairly. 

Here’s what tech screening deduces. It includes, and is not restricted to: 

Here's what tech screening deduces

What Forms the Crux of Technical Screening? 

For effective screening, businesses must first have a competency framework, followed by a scientific screening method using assessments and tools.

Competency Framework

Competency-based screening enables businesses to align their goals and visions and create a culture of success. An outline of expectations regarding a candidate's performance and behavior makes it easy to checkboxes during the recruitment process. All parties involved lay out a well-defined competency framework based on which a transparent screening process is executed. Adopting the competency framework impacts the recruitment process’s overall success rate and the key metrics that define it, namely, time-to-hire, offer acceptance rate, and rehiring rate. Interviewers and assessors carefully design questions and activities to assess a specific set of skills and traits.

Technical Assessments in Screening

Resumes can be untrue, and interviews can be manipulated, but technical assessment tests prove that the potential tech candidates can perform the job for which they are being hired. It also gives candidates a closer look at the work they will be performing daily. Screening assessments are also a great way to reduce human bias in the hiring process by basing the decision to hire solely on the candidate's knowledge and skill set.

How To Screen Technical Candidates?

Technical screening helps identify candidates worth further consideration. After all, the more clarity you have in the initial selection, the better are your chances of interviewing and hiring worthy fits. 

Here are five simple steps to enable technical screening- 

  • The first filter to shortlist the candidates is through Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)Create a list of technical questions in an MCQ format. These questions are not merely simple go-to questions. The key to framing these technical questions is covering a topic or skill extensively. The focus is on deducing essential knowledge, concepts, applications, learning, analyses for a diverse set of technologies but directly related to the role. It also questions a candidate’s higher and future levels of thinking. MCQs are among the most useful question types to gauge the candidate’s technical core from every dimension. They offer a quick and precise evaluation over a tremendous scope of the content. 
  • Based on the MCQ results, eliminate unsuitable candidates who don’t have the required core skills, coding skills or aptitude, amongst others. Candidates that meet your essential coding criteria proceed to the second round. 
  • The second filter that assesses shortlisted candidates are coding simulators. Coding simulators offer a real sense of candidates’ ability as it asks them to mirror real-world challenges. Candidates are either asked to create code from scratch, work on test cases, fix a bug, or create an algorithm. While writing the code, hiring managers observe their problem-solving skills, how adequately they perform the desired tasks, coding proficiency in general programming languages, and much more. Once the candidates complete coding, they are auto-graded in no time, based on several parameters: code quality, efficiency, correctness, and scalability. This provides direct and detailed insight into their coding aptitude and on-the-job potential.  
  • Further, filter the candidates for a technical screening interview based on detailed automated reports that thoroughly evaluate their technical ability. 
  • Make an evidence-based decision and improve your hiring quality. 

Using the combination of MCQ+ Simulators in technical screening makes for an accurate recipe for successful hiring. It is a transparent, fair, time-saving package that validates the capability of the candidate. Subsequently, technical screening as a process also ensures that no top talent is alienated.

Who Uses Technical Screening?

Whether it is a small mid-sized company or a Fortune 500, any organization can use technical screening to test job-relevant skills and sharpen their hiring strategies. Be it to assess a millennial with basic programming skills or to check a mid or senior developer’s sophisticated expertise; technical screening helps winning top talent for any level or role in no time. 

Here is an example of two scenarios, where technical screening comes handy-

Campus Hiring at Scale-

The campus hiring season has begun. Companies are looking to hire in bulk. But with a significant number of candidates having similar qualifications, how does one shortlist the all-rounder? The answer lies in technical screening. Technical screening assesses and filters engineers based on technical or domain skills, cognitive skills, behavioral and personality traits, effective communication, core skills, and suitability, before selecting for the interview. They are then graded on predefined parameters without manual intervention. Rather than believing the candidate’s favorable impression and exaggerated abilities, technical screening tests their actual knowledge and proficiency. This helps in making informed hiring decisions and building the best team.

Off-Campus Hiring-

In top employment markets, the best candidates are off the market within ten days. Hence, hiring managers uplevel their lateral hiring strategy by assessing technical, behavioral, and cognitive skills via technical screening. The swiftness, mindfulness, and accuracy of technical screening ensure companies can hire highly qualified mid and senior coders in no time. Subsequently, it also prevents any organization from making shortsighted hiring decisions and ensures that its lateral hiring aligns with its strategic hiring goals.

Why Should Companies Opt for Technical Screening

There is a considerable difference between what a candidate knows and what a candidate can do. It is vital to create parity between both. Not only does technical screening enable that, but it also increases the quality of candidates you invite to the interview. This makes the otherwise time-consuming and tedious hiring process, engaging, dynamic, and swift. 

Here’s how technical screening has a positive impact on hiring:

Improves the Quality of Hiring:

A right technical fit is hard to find for a myriad of reasons. Well, not anymore. Technical screening is a reasonably short process that starts early in your hiring process. That is why, its accurate overview of performance and potential based analysis helps assess what candidates know – not who they are. Foreseeably, this enables finding suitable candidates faster, thereby improving the quality of hire.

Reduces Bias:

When hiring managers, with limited development knowledge, assess candidates, they prefer to select candidates based on favorable interaction, shared interests, assumptions, or peer approval. This prevents organizations from identifying and hiring the best candidate for the job. Technical screening hence shortlists and evaluates candidates fairly and without any unconscious prejudice.

Promotes Evidence-Based Hiring:

Technical screening ensures that your hiring decision is based on the right data, science, and technology. As we mentioned earlier, candidates are observed and graded on various factors. These collective observations backed by real evidence are most effective at predicting success. They strongly validate the hiring manager’s decision and eliminate selection on assumptions or intuition.

Saves Resources:

Screening, interviewing, and decision making are all vital yet typically long and arduous processes. Add to that the resources wasted on wrong candidates. Hence, technical screening as a recruitment tactic reduces the strain on various resources by speeding up the filtering and hiring process. With two quick and efficient screening rounds, tech screening evaluates candidates at scale and eliminates unfit candidates. You are eventually left with the best from which to choose.

Helps in Retention:

Top talent will always have a host of opportunities at their disposal. Many times HRs don’t recognize this or take it too lightly, leading to high turnover. But technical screening’s additional benefit gives you access to a candidate’s comprehensive profile. With detailed scores and insights, hiring managers hire not only the best but also those worth retaining, thereby increasing the retention rate.

How Mercer | Mettl Ensures Quality Hiring

Mercer | Mettl has a fast-growing roster of online screening tools that enable a comprehensive hiring process. Our technical screening services harness the crowd’s wisdom and select eligible and qualified candidates for the interview round. A combination of application-based questions, and simulation-based tests, screen and evaluate candidates quickly and fairly. At the same time, data and valuable insights back your decision so that you only hire the best.

Here’s how Mercer | Mettl’s technical screening services help organizations and hiring managers improve accuracy and hiring quality:  

Depth & Breadth of Topic Coverage- 

We offer an unprecedented range of programming languages and frameworks, available for all significant coding job roles. The diversity of our coverage of every existing and new-age language, framework, technology, topics, and skills requirements, is equally unmatched. A rich repository of 100,000+ technical questions for 300+ skills and the landscape of our offerings gives an accurate picture of a candidate’s competency and all-round fit at every level. You can choose from a set of readily-available standardized tests or customize them as per your need in no time. 

Mercer | Mettl I/O

Mercer | Mettl I/O is the first-of-its-kind, all-in-one coding assessment platform. This highly sophisticated and customizable tool assesses programming ability by providing a comprehensive coding environment for all major programming roles (Front-end, back-end, database, full-stack, data science, DevOps, QA engineers, etc.) supporting all major languages and technologies. You name it; we have it.  Mercer | Mettl I/O is well-suited for simplifying and improving lateral hiring processes at a large and small scale. In-built with real-time, insightful reports, this efficient screening tool auto-evaluates codes and provides best-in-class integrated development environments (IDE) that measure an experienced candidate’s real ability. 

Codelysis for Campus Hiring

Mercer | Mettl’s coding platform is embedded with a list of simulators that evaluate a fresher’s essential coding skills in various languages. Simulators give recruiters the liberty to test real coding skills in over 20 programming languages with a supremely user-friendly interface. Codelysis enables assessing and hiring the best freshers at scale. 

Simulator assessment is incorporated with a few much needed state-of-the-art features such as: 

  • Plagiarism checker- It detects partially similar coders as well as copied codes from the Internet. It ensures better decision-making. 
  • Intellisense It is an auto-complete feature that automatically recommends language-specific context-driven suggestions at specific syntax points. It can be activated if required.   
  • If you’re looking to know the candidates’ thought process and how they executed the entire program, a full video of code recorded at each keystroke is available using Code Playback. This feature shows the video of the code’s evolution at each compilation. Hence, another way to evaluate on-the-spot proficiency and coders’ ability to code in the desired language.

Conclusion:

To be an excellent developer, an applicant must possess specific skills, knowledge, and aptitude. HR needs to know whether the candidates possess the requisite expertise before employing them. Otherwise, significant resources would be squandered, besides causing avoidable chaos if the testing is done later during the job interview. Subsequently, decisions cannot be made on static content anymore. It mars the outlook toward technical hiring and even undermines the process’s integrity. 

Organizations and their hiring managers must re-examine their hiring process and leverage the benefits of technical screening. Technical screening adds value by bringing multiple filters to the hiring process. It improves how companies identify and hire developers, also helping retain them. Once integrated into the system, this process will optimize hiring practices and change your perception toward technical hiring.

Originally published August 19 2020, Updated August 19 2020

Shirisha Jain

Written by

Shirisha has been helping countless brands gain traction with her content. Her deep understanding of the education sector and sound knowledge of technical skills have helped her structure the most creative solutions for key stakeholders. Shirisha has also ghosted pieces for several industry honcho’s successfully published both online and offline. When she's not keeping up with the world, you're sure to find her catching up on bollywood stories or gramming for fun.

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