Too many candidates, often the best ones, will withdraw from a hiring process requiring to take a tech test offline


Today I bumped into an interesting thread on StackExchange about tech tests scaring off candidates.

Here the issue that bobo2000, at his first gigs as an interviewer, experienced with candidates asked to complete a tech tests:

It is the first time that I am doing HR, and we are looking for a developer. The selection process is three rounds: technical phone interview, programming task (0.5 – 1 hr challenge), and then finally an interview with upper management and me.

The problem that I am having is that when I give some candidates (mostly fresh grads with 1 or 2 technical internships already under their belt) the programming task, they not only do not complete it in the given time frame (a week), but I don’t hear from them again unless I follow up.


For the most part a lot of candidates are put off by the programming tests, which is very frustrating since I need to go through A LOT of candidates to find one that is willing to do it.

Devs are now openly saying a tech test will put them off

Being a developer myself I have direct experience of how painful these tests can be. Still I was honestly surprised to read such straightforward answers from other Devs basically saying “that’s absolutely normal, you shouldn’t expect any less”

Speaking from my own experience as an entry-level dev, the demand is so high that I can skip any interview process with a online programming test and easily end up with a good offer (note: not technical interview with programming questions, which you should do, I’m referring to a 2-4h test done during my own time after which I may or may not ever hear back) Suffice to say demand for actually experienced people is probably even higher. Why jump through your hoops when they get recruiter emails every week, if not every day? – Cat’r’pillar


I avoid interviews with programming tasks, unless the job is above average. I see no need in losing a few hours to a company I’m interviewing for, considering that I can get plenty of interviews without tests. – GustavoMP

Recruiters report the same experience

Recollecting from the first moment of surprise, I then realized I already got signs of this trend while I was talking to recruiters a few months ago to discuss new positions for me.

It was not unusual in fact to be part of a conversation like the following:

Recruiter: so are you interested in meeting the company?

Me: yes, of course. Everything sounds promising!

Recruiter: their hiring process requires you take a test at home. It will take a couple of hours

Me: ok.. I think I can do that

Recruiter: oh great. I’m relieved to hear that. That means we can proceed!

Me: relieved? Why so?!?!? I told you I really like what I’ve heard so far

Recruiter: you see… half of the candidates I talk to decide not to proceed as soon as they are told they’ll have to complete an offline tech test 


By enforcing an offline tech test you are losing the opportunity to talk with 50% of your potential candidates

Word on the street is that apparently 50% of the candidates will withdraw from their interviewing process as soon as they will discover there’s a technical test to be taken at home. I’m not even saying “a project requiring you to write code for several hours”. I mean ANY kind of technical test.

One would like to think this reaction to be typical among lazy developers but unfortunately based on some personal investigation I’ve run I can say that usually the opposite is true.

Reasons behind this are multiple. Some examples are:

  • best in class developers are usually overwhelmed by so many offers that they have to save their energies for the battles they really want to fight
  • Sad to say but true, more often than not very strong candidates are spoiled, especially nowadays and even more if they live in cities considered big tech hubs
  • companies screwed up too often in the past, asking for a commitment not followed by a proper feedback on the assignment submitted

Let’s assume that our assumptions are true and that half of the candidates won’t proceed with an interview process involving a tech test and that most of the people deciding to quit will be the strongest candidates. If that holds true, the net result is an increased effort required to find good candidates among all the ones interviewed.

If the idea behind the introduction of the tech test was to reduce the amount of time required to identify the best fit, well, we had better reconsider our strategy because we may be wasting more time (and opportunities) than the time we are saving.

What I mean is that if you have 100 potential candidates talking to you, 50 of which are good and 50 are bad, the chances to pick a good candidate are 50%. We said that when asked to do a test 50 candidates will withdraw. Let’s say that of these 50 candidates, 40 are good and 10 are bad. You are now then left with 40 bad and 10 good candidates. Chances to pick a good one dropped now to 20%.

If the best candidates are the first ones to withdraw, then probably the average quality of good candidates left is lower than it could be. But that’s something harder to estimate.

What do you think will be the cost of reviewing a bunch of test submissions with a poor average quality?

How much do you care about the lost opportunity to meet best players?


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