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How can we test a developer's skills?

Tom Watts
Hi everyone.

Long time listener, first time caller.

I was hoping that someone on this group could offer some advice...

We're in the business of building and running online communities for research and innovation, which we deliver to brands and agencys. Part of our proposition is the delivery of our bespoke social network tool.

To date, we have been working with an external agency, who have done a good job at building our product to specification. However, as business ramps up, we are looking to refine the product and introduce new features and services. As such, it has become necessary to recruit a developer, who is versed in the use open source tools (LAMP).

We've looked around and have a good final list of candidates, who we feel could be a good 'fit' to our existing team.

The one area that we have yet to test for is the ability to actually code - including their approach to coding. Not having these skills internally, it is difficult for us to achieve this. As such we were hoping to find some form of test that we could give them.

In my mind, I thinking of a simple 1-2 hour exercise, whereby the candidates could make a simple web application/service/feature, which would demonstrate their skills. We have a friendly developer who could then look through what they have made and give us an idea of their abilities.

Is there such a test that people know of? If not, perhaps there is a different approach that someone has used successfully?

Either way, I would very much appreciate any ideas people may have.

Thanks in advance

Tom
--
Tom Watts
Director

w: dubstudios.com
t: +44 (0) 20 8123 3452
m: +44 (0) 7791 163 866
skype: tomwatts22

dub I Communities for Insight & Innovation

Youmeus Ltd t/a Dub Studios is registered in England and Wales, Registration No: 6167745 and registered at The Pines, Boars Head, Crowborough, East Sussex. TN6 3HD




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RE: How can we test a developer's skills?

Patrick McCarthy
Hi Tom,
 
Is the language just PHP or are you using others?
 
Regards,
Patrick McCarthy
UK2.NET


From: [hidden email] [mailto:[hidden email]] On Behalf Of Tom Watts
Sent: 27 April 2009 11:55
To: [hidden email]
Subject: [entrepreneur-1056] How can we test a developer's skills?

Hi everyone.

Long time listener, first time caller.

I was hoping that someone on this group could offer some advice...

We're in the business of building and running online communities for research and innovation, which we deliver to brands and agencys. Part of our proposition is the delivery of our bespoke social network tool.

To date, we have been working with an external agency, who have done a good job at building our product to specification. However, as business ramps up, we are looking to refine the product and introduce new features and services. As such, it has become necessary to recruit a developer, who is versed in the use open source tools (LAMP).

We've looked around and have a good final list of candidates, who we feel could be a good 'fit' to our existing team.

The one area that we have yet to test for is the ability to actually code - including their approach to coding. Not having these skills internally, it is difficult for us to achieve this. As such we were hoping to find some form of test that we could give them.

In my mind, I thinking of a simple 1-2 hour exercise, whereby the candidates could make a simple web application/service/feature, which would demonstrate their skills. We have a friendly developer who could then look through what they have made and give us an idea of their abilities.

Is there such a test that people know of? If not, perhaps there is a different approach that someone has used successfully?

Either way, I would very much appreciate any ideas people may have.

Thanks in advance

Tom
--
Tom Watts
Director

w: dubstudios.com
t: +44 (0) 20 8123 3452
m: +44 (0) 7791 163 866
skype: tomwatts22

dub I Communities for Insight & Innovation

Youmeus Ltd t/a Dub Studios is registered in England and Wales, Registration No: 6167745 and registered at The Pines, Boars Head, Crowborough, East Sussex. TN6 3HD




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Re: How can we test a developer's skills?

James Crowley
In reply to this post by Tom Watts
Hi Tom,

I would really strongly recommend you finding an experienced technical person you can trust to come in and help you interview them. Recruitment can be a challenging enough process even with a strong technical team in place.

Differentiating a mediocre technical candidate from a great one will not come from whehter they can create a simple web application (they should *all* be able to do that) but how they approach the problem. And for that, you'd need someone with a technical eye to evaluate it.

My 2 cents.

James

2009/4/27 Tom Watts <[hidden email]>
Hi everyone.

Long time listener, first time caller.

I was hoping that someone on this group could offer some advice...

We're in the business of building and running online communities for research and innovation, which we deliver to brands and agencys. Part of our proposition is the delivery of our bespoke social network tool.

To date, we have been working with an external agency, who have done a good job at building our product to specification. However, as business ramps up, we are looking to refine the product and introduce new features and services. As such, it has become necessary to recruit a developer, who is versed in the use open source tools (LAMP).

We've looked around and have a good final list of candidates, who we feel could be a good 'fit' to our existing team.

The one area that we have yet to test for is the ability to actually code - including their approach to coding. Not having these skills internally, it is difficult for us to achieve this. As such we were hoping to find some form of test that we could give them.

In my mind, I thinking of a simple 1-2 hour exercise, whereby the candidates could make a simple web application/service/feature, which would demonstrate their skills. We have a friendly developer who could then look through what they have made and give us an idea of their abilities.

Is there such a test that people know of? If not, perhaps there is a different approach that someone has used successfully?

Either way, I would very much appreciate any ideas people may have.

Thanks in advance

Tom
--
Tom Watts
Director

w: dubstudios.com
t: +44 (0) 20 8123 3452
m: +44 (0) 7791 163 866
skype: tomwatts22

dub I Communities for Insight & Innovation

Youmeus Ltd t/a Dub Studios is registered in England and Wales, Registration No: 6167745 and registered at The Pines, Boars Head, Crowborough, East Sussex. TN6 3HD




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Managing Director
Developer Fusion - Connecting developers worldwide

Developer Fusion Ltd | 58 Sandringham Close | Enfield, EN1 3JH
mob: 07986 624128 web: http://www.developerfusion.com/




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Re: How can we test a developer's skills?

James Crowley
In reply to this post by Tom Watts
Sorry - having just re-read your message, I realise you already have a friendly developer. That is very valuable! Please ignore my previous message.... ;-)

2009/4/27 James Crowley <[hidden email]>
Hi Tom,

I would really strongly recommend you finding an experienced technical person you can trust to come in and help you interview them. Recruitment can be a challenging enough process even with a strong technical team in place.

Differentiating a mediocre technical candidate from a great one will not come from whehter they can create a simple web application (they should *all* be able to do that) but how they approach the problem. And for that, you'd need someone with a technical eye to evaluate it.

My 2 cents.

James

2009/4/27 Tom Watts <[hidden email]>
Hi everyone.

Long time listener, first time caller.

I was hoping that someone on this group could offer some advice...

We're in the business of building and running online communities for research and innovation, which we deliver to brands and agencys. Part of our proposition is the delivery of our bespoke social network tool.

To date, we have been working with an external agency, who have done a good job at building our product to specification. However, as business ramps up, we are looking to refine the product and introduce new features and services. As such, it has become necessary to recruit a developer, who is versed in the use open source tools (LAMP).

We've looked around and have a good final list of candidates, who we feel could be a good 'fit' to our existing team.

The one area that we have yet to test for is the ability to actually code - including their approach to coding. Not having these skills internally, it is difficult for us to achieve this. As such we were hoping to find some form of test that we could give them.

In my mind, I thinking of a simple 1-2 hour exercise, whereby the candidates could make a simple web application/service/feature, which would demonstrate their skills. We have a friendly developer who could then look through what they have made and give us an idea of their abilities.

Is there such a test that people know of? If not, perhaps there is a different approach that someone has used successfully?

Either way, I would very much appreciate any ideas people may have.

Thanks in advance

Tom
--
Tom Watts
Director

w: dubstudios.com
t: +44 (0) 20 8123 3452
m: +44 (0) 7791 163 866
skype: tomwatts22

dub I Communities for Insight & Innovation

Youmeus Ltd t/a Dub Studios is registered in England and Wales, Registration No: 6167745 and registered at The Pines, Boars Head, Crowborough, East Sussex. TN6 3HD




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Managing Director
Developer Fusion - Connecting developers worldwide

Developer Fusion Ltd | 58 Sandringham Close | Enfield, EN1 3JH
mob: 07986 624128 web: http://www.developerfusion.com/




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Developer Fusion - Connecting developers worldwide

Developer Fusion Ltd | 58 Sandringham Close | Enfield, EN1 3JH
mob: 07986 624128 web: http://www.developerfusion.com/




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Re: How can we test a developer's skills?

Simon Whiteside
In reply to this post by Tom Watts
Hi Tom,

another approach is to give them a test for their knowledge of some more arcane areas, and then ask your friendly developer to look over their CV and engage in an email discussion.

I've done this several times to help find suitable developers. If you're an experienced person, you can generally get a good "feel" from these interactions.

Tom Watts wrote:
Hi everyone.

Long time listener, first time caller.

I was hoping that someone on this group could offer some advice...

We're in the business of building and running online communities for research and innovation, which we deliver to brands and agencys. Part of our proposition is the delivery of our bespoke social network tool.

To date, we have been working with an external agency, who have done a good job at building our product to specification. However, as business ramps up, we are looking to refine the product and introduce new features and services. As such, it has become necessary to recruit a developer, who is versed in the use open source tools (LAMP).

We've looked around and have a good final list of candidates, who we feel could be a good 'fit' to our existing team.

The one area that we have yet to test for is the ability to actually code - including their approach to coding. Not having these skills internally, it is difficult for us to achieve this. As such we were hoping to find some form of test that we could give them.

In my mind, I thinking of a simple 1-2 hour exercise, whereby the candidates could make a simple web application/service/feature, which would demonstrate their skills. We have a friendly developer who could then look through what they have made and give us an idea of their abilities.

Is there such a test that people know of? If not, perhaps there is a different approach that someone has used successfully?

Either way, I would very much appreciate any ideas people may have.

Thanks in advance

Tom
--
Tom Watts
Director

w: dubstudios.com
t: +44 (0) 20 8123 3452
m: +44 (0) 7791 163 866
skype: tomwatts22

dub I Communities for Insight & Innovation

Youmeus Ltd t/a Dub Studios is registered in England and Wales, Registration No: 6167745 and registered at The Pines, Boars Head, Crowborough, East Sussex. TN6 3HD




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Regards,

Simon
-- 
Simon Whiteside                  
Simkin Solutions Limited

Clients Include: Politics Home, WENN, FileFX, 
Favy, Mather Communications, Sibelius

2a Royal Chase, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN4 8AY
Registered in England and Wales. Company Number: 4045429 
http://www.simkin.co.uk
Skype: <a class="moz-txt-link-freetext" href="callto://swhiteside">callto://swhiteside
Second Life: Simon Hagoromo




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Re: How can we test a developer's skills?

Tom Watts
In reply to this post by Tom Watts
We're using...

Redhat
MySQL
Apahe
PHP
Javascript


Flash (though very lightly)
Wowza (again, not a main focus)

--
Tom Watts
Director

w: dubstudios.com
t: +44 (0) 20 8123 3452
m: +44 (0) 7791 163 866
skype: tomwatts22

dub I Communities for Insight & Innovation

Youmeus Ltd t/a Dub Studios is registered in England and Wales, Registration No: 6167745 and registered at The Pines, Boars Head, Crowborough, East Sussex. TN6 3HD


2009/4/27 Patrick McCarthy <[hidden email]>
Hi Tom,
 
Is the language just PHP or are you using others?
 
Regards,
Patrick McCarthy


From: [hidden email] [mailto:[hidden email]] On Behalf Of Tom Watts
Sent: 27 April 2009 11:55
To: [hidden email]
Subject: [entrepreneur-1056] How can we test a developer's skills?

Hi everyone.

Long time listener, first time caller.

I was hoping that someone on this group could offer some advice...

We're in the business of building and running online communities for research and innovation, which we deliver to brands and agencys. Part of our proposition is the delivery of our bespoke social network tool.

To date, we have been working with an external agency, who have done a good job at building our product to specification. However, as business ramps up, we are looking to refine the product and introduce new features and services. As such, it has become necessary to recruit a developer, who is versed in the use open source tools (LAMP).

We've looked around and have a good final list of candidates, who we feel could be a good 'fit' to our existing team.

The one area that we have yet to test for is the ability to actually code - including their approach to coding. Not having these skills internally, it is difficult for us to achieve this. As such we were hoping to find some form of test that we could give them.

In my mind, I thinking of a simple 1-2 hour exercise, whereby the candidates could make a simple web application/service/feature, which would demonstrate their skills. We have a friendly developer who could then look through what they have made and give us an idea of their abilities.

Is there such a test that people know of? If not, perhaps there is a different approach that someone has used successfully?

Either way, I would very much appreciate any ideas people may have.

Thanks in advance

Tom
--
Tom Watts
Director

w: dubstudios.com
t: +44 (0) 20 8123 3452
m: +44 (0) 7791 163 866
skype: tomwatts22

dub I Communities for Insight & Innovation

Youmeus Ltd t/a Dub Studios is registered in England and Wales, Registration No: 6167745 and registered at The Pines, Boars Head, Crowborough, East Sussex. TN6 3HD




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Re: How can we test a developer's skills?

Antony Penn
In reply to this post by Tom Watts
Hi Tom,
I've been a developer for 21 year and currently have a team of 5 developers whom I tested and recruited myself. You have a few problems to deal with:

Their coding ability and general problem solving skills can be tested via a company called brainbench. They do on-line tests that cost about £40 each time. I was made to sit the php5 one and it took me about 2.5 hours. It was a very good overall test and I can forward you a copy of my results it you'd like to see what to expect.

I give my candidates an 80-question test, including English comprehension, maths ability, logic solving ability, a variety of LAMP questions and some programming problems. Some of the problems are in LAMP and involve spotting details/problems, others are in a 'psuedo language' that is made up and they are given the rules to. You might be able to find examples of such tests online.

I generally test for intelligence and understanding of programming concepts rather than a specific 'shopping list' of skills, as different languages and tools can always be learned. In your case you also need someone with very good analytical skills, who can talk with you on a non-technical level and translate your business requirements into a working (and, hugely important, easily maintainable) system.

The other problem is the code that has been developed for you to date. If it has been badly written, then unless your new recruit is allowed to re-build it from scratch, any good technique he has may not be able to be applied. You should get the system you have had developed 'examined' by a couple of people to see if they think it is up to scratch. Similarly i'd find another 1 or 2 'friendly' developers to help gauge your potential recruits. Developers (especially less worldly wise ones) have a habit of 'slagging off' code written by others.

As a very general rule, a developer that has worked in many different types of companies and different projects (and also with larger development teams) is more likely to have honed a good development methodology compared to one with less work experience.

regards,
Antony

2009/4/27 Tom Watts <[hidden email]>
Hi everyone.

Long time listener, first time caller.

I was hoping that someone on this group could offer some advice...

We're in the business of building and running online communities for research and innovation, which we deliver to brands and agencys. Part of our proposition is the delivery of our bespoke social network tool.

To date, we have been working with an external agency, who have done a good job at building our product to specification. However, as business ramps up, we are looking to refine the product and introduce new features and services. As such, it has become necessary to recruit a developer, who is versed in the use open source tools (LAMP).

We've looked around and have a good final list of candidates, who we feel could be a good 'fit' to our existing team.

The one area that we have yet to test for is the ability to actually code - including their approach to coding. Not having these skills internally, it is difficult for us to achieve this. As such we were hoping to find some form of test that we could give them.

In my mind, I thinking of a simple 1-2 hour exercise, whereby the candidates could make a simple web application/service/feature, which would demonstrate their skills. We have a friendly developer who could then look through what they have made and give us an idea of their abilities.

Is there such a test that people know of? If not, perhaps there is a different approach that someone has used successfully?

Either way, I would very much appreciate any ideas people may have.

Thanks in advance

Tom
--
Tom Watts
Director

w: dubstudios.com
t: +44 (0) 20 8123 3452
m: +44 (0) 7791 163 866
skype: tomwatts22

dub I Communities for Insight & Innovation

Youmeus Ltd t/a Dub Studios is registered in England and Wales, Registration No: 6167745 and registered at The Pines, Boars Head, Crowborough, East Sussex. TN6 3HD




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Re: How can we test a developer's skills?

Simon Whiteside
In reply to this post by Tom Watts
I suggest you ask your friendly developer to write down 5 difficult questions for each of those technical areas, along with the answers.

Then set this test to your candidates. If it looks like they've scored more than 80%, it's worth starting an email dialogue.

Narrow down via email to 4 or 5, and then do interviews via Skype. That should narrow you down to 2 or 3 which you could meet up with in person.

Tom Watts wrote:
We're using...

Redhat
MySQL
Apahe
PHP
Javascript


Flash (though very lightly)
Wowza (again, not a main focus)

--
Tom Watts
Director

w: dubstudios.com
t: +44 (0) 20 8123 3452
m: +44 (0) 7791 163 866
skype: tomwatts22

dub I Communities for Insight & Innovation

Youmeus Ltd t/a Dub Studios is registered in England and Wales, Registration No: 6167745 and registered at The Pines, Boars Head, Crowborough, East Sussex. TN6 3HD


2009/4/27 Patrick McCarthy <[hidden email]>
Hi Tom,
 
Is the language just PHP or are you using others?
 
Regards,
Patrick McCarthy


From: [hidden email] [mailto:[hidden email]] On Behalf Of Tom Watts
Sent: 27 April 2009 11:55
To: [hidden email]
Subject: [entrepreneur-1056] How can we test a developer's skills?

Hi everyone.

Long time listener, first time caller.

I was hoping that someone on this group could offer some advice...

We're in the business of building and running online communities for research and innovation, which we deliver to brands and agencys. Part of our proposition is the delivery of our bespoke social network tool.

To date, we have been working with an external agency, who have done a good job at building our product to specification. However, as business ramps up, we are looking to refine the product and introduce new features and services. As such, it has become necessary to recruit a developer, who is versed in the use open source tools (LAMP).

We've looked around and have a good final list of candidates, who we feel could be a good 'fit' to our existing team.

The one area that we have yet to test for is the ability to actually code - including their approach to coding. Not having these skills internally, it is difficult for us to achieve this. As such we were hoping to find some form of test that we could give them.

In my mind, I thinking of a simple 1-2 hour exercise, whereby the candidates could make a simple web application/service/feature, which would demonstrate their skills. We have a friendly developer who could then look through what they have made and give us an idea of their abilities.

Is there such a test that people know of? If not, perhaps there is a different approach that someone has used successfully?

Either way, I would very much appreciate any ideas people may have.

Thanks in advance

Tom
--
Tom Watts
Director

w: dubstudios.com
t: +44 (0) 20 8123 3452
m: +44 (0) 7791 163 866
skype: tomwatts22

dub I Communities for Insight & Innovation

Youmeus Ltd t/a Dub Studios is registered in England and Wales, Registration No: 6167745 and registered at The Pines, Boars Head, Crowborough, East Sussex. TN6 3HD




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Regards,

Simon
-- 
Simon Whiteside                  
Simkin Solutions Limited

Clients Include: Politics Home, WENN, FileFX, 
Favy, Mather Communications, Sibelius

2a Royal Chase, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN4 8AY
Registered in England and Wales. Company Number: 4045429 
http://www.simkin.co.uk
Skype: <a class="moz-txt-link-freetext" href="callto://swhiteside">callto://swhiteside
Second Life: Simon Hagoromo




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Re: How can we test a developer's skills?

Rodrigo Cauduro
In reply to this post by Tom Watts
Hi Tom,
I've just joined the group (Hi everyone!). I just recently spoke with a recruitment firm who have these types of tests for candidates - http://aquent.co.uk/ We have not used them yet, but they looked to be on the right track with the testing side of things. They even had a booklet with the types of test they do for each type of skillset. 

Of course, the best advice would be to find a highly skilled/experienced developer to evaluate your candidate, but that depends on how much time you have.

Good luck with the search!

Quick intro about me
I manage the London office of w3haus.com, a creative digital agency with offices in Brazil as well as here. Personally, I have created a few small personal projects online, but nothing major and am interested in the whole startup side of things. 

Cheers!
Rodrigo.

On Mon, Apr 27, 2009 at 11:55 AM, Tom Watts <[hidden email]> wrote:
Hi everyone.

Long time listener, first time caller.

I was hoping that someone on this group could offer some advice...

We're in the business of building and running online communities for research and innovation, which we deliver to brands and agencys. Part of our proposition is the delivery of our bespoke social network tool.

To date, we have been working with an external agency, who have done a good job at building our product to specification. However, as business ramps up, we are looking to refine the product and introduce new features and services. As such, it has become necessary to recruit a developer, who is versed in the use open source tools (LAMP).

We've looked around and have a good final list of candidates, who we feel could be a good 'fit' to our existing team.

The one area that we have yet to test for is the ability to actually code - including their approach to coding. Not having these skills internally, it is difficult for us to achieve this. As such we were hoping to find some form of test that we could give them.

In my mind, I thinking of a simple 1-2 hour exercise, whereby the candidates could make a simple web application/service/feature, which would demonstrate their skills. We have a friendly developer who could then look through what they have made and give us an idea of their abilities.

Is there such a test that people know of? If not, perhaps there is a different approach that someone has used successfully?

Either way, I would very much appreciate any ideas people may have.

Thanks in advance

Tom
--
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Director

w: dubstudios.com
t: +44 (0) 20 8123 3452
m: +44 (0) 7791 163 866
skype: tomwatts22

dub I Communities for Insight & Innovation

Youmeus Ltd t/a Dub Studios is registered in England and Wales, Registration No: 6167745 and registered at The Pines, Boars Head, Crowborough, East Sussex. TN6 3HD




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Re: How can we test a developer's skills?

FTired
Administrator
In reply to this post by Tom Watts
Hi

Its actually not that hard, aside from there fitting into your overall company culture, which is something you can deduce yourself. What I always do (if I can meet the person face to face) is to give them a pen and a piece of paper, and then get them to write me 3 programs

1. A simple one which asks them to open, red, write etc from/to a file
2. Something which asks them to pull info or insert into a database
3. Something a little more advanced which asks them to carry out a calculation, i.e count the number of primes between 1-1000 etc etc

The key is the pen and paper, you will be surprised how many coders cannot do it with pen and paper, since they like to code, run it, see if it works, then try again and again. If a coder can do it on paper, they will be on a diff level to most you will meet.

Also note, that you do not want to make the questions too difficult, since what you need coding will usually come down to working with a DB, inserting, deleting etc etc.

Also check out

http://www.techinterviews.com/perl-interview-questions-and-answers

they have segments for each language, and OS,
This is MS interview questions, they deal with OS, algos etc

http://halcyon.usc.edu/~kiran/msqs.html

Here are a few from google, MS , amazon etc

http://placementsindia.blogspot.com/

Also note, when stuck between two coders, who are equally as good, get them to
a) Write a paragraph of text explaining what they did last summer on holiday
b) Create a 3 slide ppt, showing what they do at work

Why? because whenever you are stuck between two people, the one who can write things down, and present them clearly and coherently and concisely wins

Iqbal Gandham
L: www.iqbalgandham.com/in/iqbalgandham
W: www.iqbalgandham.com
T: @iqbalgandham
S: feelin_tired



From: Tom Watts <[hidden email]>
To: [hidden email]
Sent: Monday, 27 April, 2009 11:55:03
Subject: [entrepreneur-1056] How can we test a developer's skills?

Hi everyone.

Long time listener, first time caller.

I was hoping that someone on this group could offer some advice...

We're in the business of building and running online communities for research and innovation, which we deliver to brands and agencys. Part of our proposition is the delivery of our bespoke social network tool.

To date, we have been working with an external agency, who have done a good job at building our product to specification. However, as business ramps up, we are looking to refine the product and introduce new features and services. As such, it has become necessary to recruit a developer, who is versed in the use open source tools (LAMP).

We've looked around and have a good final list of candidates, who we feel could be a good 'fit' to our existing team.

The one area that we have yet to test for is the ability to actually code - including their approach to coding. Not having these skills internally, it is difficult for us to achieve this. As such we were hoping to find some form of test that we could give them.

In my mind, I thinking of a simple 1-2 hour exercise, whereby the candidates could make a simple web application/service/feature, which would demonstrate their skills. We have a friendly developer who could then look through what they have made and give us an idea of their abilities.

Is there such a test that people know of? If not, perhaps there is a different approach that someone has used successfully?

Either way, I would very much appreciate any ideas people may have.

Thanks in advance

Tom
--
Tom Watts
Director

w: dubstudios.com
t: +44 (0) 20 8123 3452
m: +44 (0) 7791 163 866
skype: tomwatts22

dub I Communities for Insight & Innovation

Youmeus Ltd t/a Dub Studios is registered in England and Wales, Registration No: 6167745 and registered at The Pines, Boars Head, Crowborough, East Sussex. TN6 3HD




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Re: How can we test a developer's skills?

James-19
In reply to this post by Tom Watts
On Mon, Apr 27, 2009 at 07:26:14AM -0400, Antony Penn wrote:

> I've been a developer for 21 year and currently have a team of 5 developers
> whom I tested and recruited myself. You have a few problems to deal with:

There's a series of articles by Joel Spolsky on attractive, finding,
interviewing, hiring and retaining top quality technical
candidates. If you're non-technical, you won't be able to do all of it
yourself, but I'd argue it's worth reading all of them
anyway. Annoyingly, there doesn't appear to be a master index of them,
but a good place to start seems to be
<http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/SortingResumes.html>, which
links out to more of his thoughts.

Note that Joel is sometimes wrong, and often contentious. So read and
think rather than just read; but I'm sure you'll do that with
everything around a company you're passionate about anyway.

J

--
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  talktorex.co.uk - xapian.org - uncertaintydivision.org



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Re: How can we test a developer's skills?

Chris Powell-2
In reply to this post by Tom Watts
Tom

In my years of running development teams (both internal and outsourced),
I find useful technical attributes, besides coding ability, are that the
candidate has enthusiasm and flexibility.  I have come across perfectly
competent developers who have become cynical about the development
business who soured the atmosphere (and the team).  Enthusiastic guys
often like to explain precisely why, for example, PHP v5.3 is better
than v5.2.8 - and how it might solve a problem or two for you.  Your
candidate should also be able to operate outside a narrow technical
box.  I once came across a developer who could think like a compiler but
was unable to work from a design.  Every small point had to be specified
completely.  He didn't last long...

As has been alluded to elsewhere on the thread, when taking over
outsourced developed code, a code audit is a useful process.  This
needn't take long and can point to areas of weakness (if any) that may
need to be tackled.  Simply relying on the functionality to be correct
does not guarantee decent code or database schemas etc.  It does require
a technically competent person, one who has been at the coal face and
who can spot architectural problems and so on.


Regards
Chris Powell
mindyourstreet.com




Tom Watts wrote:

> Hi everyone.
>
> Long time listener, first time caller.
>
> I was hoping that someone on this group could offer some advice...
>
> We're in the business of building and running online communities for
> research and innovation, which we deliver to brands and agencys. Part
> of our proposition is the delivery of our bespoke social network tool.
>
> To date, we have been working with an external agency, who have done a
> good job at building our product to specification. However, as
> business ramps up, we are looking to refine the product and introduce
> new features and services. As such, it has become necessary to recruit
> a developer, who is versed in the use open source tools (LAMP).
>
> We've looked around and have a good final list of candidates, who we
> feel could be a good 'fit' to our existing team.
>
> The one area that we have yet to test for is the ability to actually
> code - including their approach to coding. Not having these skills
> internally, it is difficult for us to achieve this. As such we were
> hoping to find some form of test that we could give them.
>
> In my mind, I thinking of a simple 1-2 hour exercise, whereby the
> candidates could make a simple web application/service/feature, which
> would demonstrate their skills. We have a friendly developer who could
> then look through what they have made and give us an idea of their
> abilities.
>
> Is there such a test that people know of? If not, perhaps there is a
> different approach that someone has used successfully?
>
> Either way, I would very much appreciate any ideas people may have.
>
> Thanks in advance
>
> Tom
> --
> Tom Watts
> Director
>
> w: dubstudios.com <http://dubstudios.com>
> t: +44 (0) 20 8123 3452
> m: +44 (0) 7791 163 866
> skype: tomwatts22
>
> dub I Communities for Insight & Innovation
>
> Youmeus Ltd t/a Dub Studios is registered in England and Wales,
> Registration No: 6167745 and registered at The Pines, Boars Head,
> Crowborough, East Sussex. TN6 3HD
>
>
>
>
> --
> Please Note: If you hit "*REPLY*", your message will be sent to
> *everyone* on this mailing list ([hidden email]
> <mailto:[hidden email]>)
> This message was sent by Tom Watts ([hidden email]) from London
> OpenCoffee Meetup <http://www.meetup.com/opencoffee/>.
> To learn more about Tom Watts, visit his/her member profile
> <http://www.meetup.com/opencoffee/members/5531350/>
> To unsubscribe or to update your mailing list settings, click here
> <http://www.meetup.com/account/comm/>
>
> Meetup Support: [hidden email]
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Re: How can we test a developer's skills?

Tim Hawkins
In reply to this post by Tom Watts
when interviewing engineers and developers i tend to use the following rules of thumb. 


1. pose questions that show wether somebody is knowledgeable or deductive, knowledgeable people often appear to be very good, but are often not adaptable. you want deductive programmers. 

2. Im more interested not in what people know, but in how they fill in the gaps in their knowledge. a good engineer knows how to use resources, books, internet, open source etc to find a problem solution that they may not know. 

3. Look for generalists, people who write code that solves classes of problems, not specific problems. 

4. look for people who show enthusiasm for the application, if they dont get turned on by your application then its just working for money, and they are unlikely to go the extra mile. 

5. dont be too driven by qualifications, most of the really good people i have worked with have been self taught, and motivated to keep current, see 4 above. 

6. look for people who will ask for help when they need it, there is nothing worse than an engineer that grapples with a problem for days when a simple question would clear it up. 

7. ask them to describe the most elegant thing they have seen, and tell you why it was elegant. 

For the reasons above, im not really keen on mechanical testing of skills, you need to just chat to the candidate and get a feel for their approach to things. 


On 27 Apr 2009, at 13:00, iqbalgandham wrote:

Hi

Its actually not that hard, aside from there fitting into your overall company culture, which is something you can deduce yourself. What I always do (if I can meet the person face to face) is to give them a pen and a piece of paper, and then get them to write me 3 programs

1. A simple one which asks them to open, red, write etc from/to a file
2. Something which asks them to pull info or insert into a database
3. Something a little more advanced which asks them to carry out a calculation, i.e count the number of primes between 1-1000 etc etc

The key is the pen and paper, you will be surprised how many coders cannot do it with pen and paper, since they like to code, run it, see if it works, then try again and again. If a coder can do it on paper, they will be on a diff level to most you will meet.

Also note, that you do not want to make the questions too difficult, since what you need coding will usually come down to working with a DB, inserting, deleting etc etc.

Also check out

http://www.techinterviews.com/perl-interview-questions-and-answers

they have segments for each language, and OS,
This is MS interview questions, they deal with OS, algos etc

http://halcyon.usc.edu/~kiran/msqs.html

Here are a few from google, MS , amazon etc

http://placementsindia.blogspot.com/

Also note, when stuck between two coders, who are equally as good, get them to
a) Write a paragraph of text explaining what they did last summer on holiday
b) Create a 3 slide ppt, showing what they do at work

Why? because whenever you are stuck between two people, the one who can write things down, and present them clearly and coherently and concisely wins

Iqbal Gandham
L: www.iqbalgandham.com/in/iqbalgandham
W: www.iqbalgandham.com
T: @iqbalgandham
S: feelin_tired



From: Tom Watts <[hidden email]>
To: [hidden email]
Sent: Monday, 27 April, 2009 11:55:03
Subject: [entrepreneur-1056] How can we test a developer's skills?

Hi everyone.

Long time listener, first time caller.

I was hoping that someone on this group could offer some advice...

We're in the business of building and running online communities for research and innovation, which we deliver to brands and agencys. Part of our proposition is the delivery of our bespoke social network tool.

To date, we have been working with an external agency, who have done a good job at building our product to specification. However, as business ramps up, we are looking to refine the product and introduce new features and services. As such, it has become necessary to recruit a developer, who is versed in the use open source tools (LAMP).

We've looked around and have a good final list of candidates, who we feel could be a good 'fit' to our existing team.

The one area that we have yet to test for is the ability to actually code - including their approach to coding. Not having these skills internally, it is difficult for us to achieve this. As such we were hoping to find some form of test that we could give them.

In my mind, I thinking of a simple 1-2 hour exercise, whereby the candidates could make a simple web application/service/feature, which would demonstrate their skills. We have a friendly developer who could then look through what they have made and give us an idea of their abilities.

Is there such a test that people know of? If not, perhaps there is a different approach that someone has used successfully?

Either way, I would very much appreciate any ideas people may have.

Thanks in advance

Tom
--
Tom Watts
Director

w: dubstudios.com
t: +44 (0) 20 8123 3452
m: +44 (0) 7791 163 866
skype: tomwatts22

dub I Communities for Insight & Innovation

Youmeus Ltd t/a Dub Studios is registered in England and Wales, Registration No: 6167745 and registered at The Pines, Boars Head, Crowborough, East Sussex. TN6 3HD




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Re: How can we test a developer's skills?

Mohammed Seedat
In reply to this post by Tom Watts
Hi all I've been watching this thread and I thought I'd give my experience from the other side:

I recently had 2 interviews of which 1 I got the job and the other I am sure I didn't (I wasn't told because I'd already accepted this one).

For the job I didn't get (I assume): A new web startup company complete with Guitar Hero in their small office. Interviewed by 3 guys - founder, tech guy and another. I was asked questions relating  to the job in terms of business and marketing and then given a short paper test by the tech guy. It was very simple but for some reason I froze and couldn't write a very very simple program nor identify the output from an even simpler programming without looking incompetent. I answered his SQL questions but it seemed like he was testing my memory ability rather than by general SQL knowledge (it's easy to forget the general order of syntax when you're not working in front of a text editor or a GUI!). For some reason this interview made me feel rather stupid and not very good at what I do.

For the job I did get: Again a new web startup company complete with funky flooring. I had 2 interviews. First with 2 ladies who were not technical. This was a complete barrel of laughs and I felt comfortable with them and they with me. The second interview was an hour long "discussion" with a developer who was assigned the task of establishing my identity. In both this technical interview and my failed technical interview the interviewer was in their late 20's with similar backgrounds and speaking styles. However I as a developer felt much more comfortable with this chap and his "discussion" approach. We covered many technical concepts and likes/dislikes. I didn't have to prove I could write code because my past projects already established my competency. The interview culminated in a discussion about spell check implementations and speed issues so it wasn't as lightweight as you might imagine.

I've experienced many different interviewing styles over the years from being interviewed by a camcorder and an anonymous man to more friendly "chat" type interviews. The differences are stark and ultimately I believe the kind of people that usually get through the net are the one's that reflect the behaviour and attitudes of that particular interviewer on that day. It all seems a bit pot luck for both the interviewer and interviewee!


From: Tim Hawkins <[hidden email]>
To: [hidden email]
Sent: Monday, 27 April, 2009 13:18:07
Subject: Re: [entrepreneur-1056] How can we test a developer's skills?

when interviewing engineers and developers i tend to use the following rules of thumb. 


1. pose questions that show wether somebody is knowledgeable or deductive, knowledgeable people often appear to be very good, but are often not adaptable. you want deductive programmers. 

2. Im more interested not in what people know, but in how they fill in the gaps in their knowledge. a good engineer knows how to use resources, books, internet, open source etc to find a problem solution that they may not know. 

3. Look for generalists, people who write code that solves classes of problems, not specific problems. 

4. look for people who show enthusiasm for the application, if they dont get turned on by your application then its just working for money, and they are unlikely to go the extra mile. 

5. dont be too driven by qualifications, most of the really good people i have worked with have been self taught, and motivated to keep current, see 4 above. 

6. look for people who will ask for help when they need it, there is nothing worse than an engineer that grapples with a problem for days when a simple question would clear it up. 

7. ask them to describe the most elegant thing they have seen, and tell you why it was elegant. 

For the reasons above, im not really keen on mechanical testing of skills, you need to just chat to the candidate and get a feel for their approach to things. 


On 27 Apr 2009, at 13:00, iqbalgandham wrote:

Hi

Its actually not that hard, aside from there fitting into your overall company culture, which is something you can deduce yourself. What I always do (if I can meet the person face to face) is to give them a pen and a piece of paper, and then get them to write me 3 programs

1. A simple one which asks them to open, red, write etc from/to a file
2. Something which asks them to pull info or insert into a database
3. Something a little more advanced which asks them to carry out a calculation, i.e count the number of primes between 1-1000 etc etc

The key is the pen and paper, you will be surprised how many coders cannot do it with pen and paper, since they like to code, run it, see if it works, then try again and again. If a coder can do it on paper, they will be on a diff level to most you will meet.

Also note, that you do not want to make the questions too difficult, since what you need coding will usually come down to working with a DB, inserting, deleting etc etc.

Also check out

http://www.techinterviews.com/perl-interview-questions-and-answers

they have segments for each language, and OS,
This is MS interview questions, they deal with OS, algos etc

http://halcyon.usc.edu/~kiran/msqs.html

Here are a few from google, MS , amazon etc

http://placementsindia.blogspot.com/

Also note, when stuck between two coders, who are equally as good, get them to
a) Write a paragraph of text explaining what they did last summer on holiday
b) Create a 3 slide ppt, showing what they do at work

Why? because whenever you are stuck between two people, the one who can write things down, and present them clearly and coherently and concisely wins

Iqbal Gandham
L: www.iqbalgandham.com/in/iqbalgandham
W: www.iqbalgandham.com
T: @iqbalgandham
S: feelin_tired



From: Tom Watts <[hidden email]>
To: [hidden email]
Sent: Monday, 27 April, 2009 11:55:03
Subject: [entrepreneur-1056] How can we test a developer's skills?

Hi everyone.

Long time listener, first time caller.

I was hoping that someone on this group could offer some advice...

We're in the business of building and running online communities for research and innovation, which we deliver to brands and agencys. Part of our proposition is the delivery of our bespoke social network tool.

To date, we have been working with an external agency, who have done a good job at building our product to specification. However, as business ramps up, we are looking to refine the product and introduce new features and services. As such, it has become necessary to recruit a developer, who is versed in the use open source tools (LAMP).

We've looked around and have a good final list of candidates, who we feel could be a good 'fit' to our existing team.

The one area that we have yet to test for is the ability to actually code - including their approach to coding. Not having these skills internally, it is difficult for us to achieve this. As such we were hoping to find some form of test that we could give them.

In my mind, I thinking of a simple 1-2 hour exercise, whereby the candidates could make a simple web application/service/feature, which would demonstrate their skills. We have a friendly developer who could then look through what they have made and give us an idea of their abilities.

Is there such a test that people know of? If not, perhaps there is a different approach that someone has used successfully?

Either way, I would very much appreciate any ideas people may have.

Thanks in advance

Tom
--
Tom Watts
Director

w: dubstudios.com
t: +44 (0) 20 8123 3452
m: +44 (0) 7791 163 866
skype: tomwatts22

dub I Communities for Insight & Innovation

Youmeus Ltd t/a Dub Studios is registered in England and Wales, Registration No: 6167745 and registered at The Pines, Boars Head, Crowborough, East Sussex. TN6 3HD




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Re: How can we test a developer's skills?

Dan-22-3
In reply to this post by Tom Watts
Interesting experience Mohammed.

I've also found syntactical questions on paper are not very useful. After all, when is a developer going to write an entire program outside of an IDE? Syntax documentation is a few clicks away, but an excellent developer likely works with a basket of languages underpinned by competant problem-solving skills.

A paper test of pseudocode plus general problem-solving abilities is revealing. If a developer struggles with abstract problems then the quality of their practical coding ability is called into question.

Some famous examples from the past here: http://money.cnn.com/2007/08/29/technology/brain_teasers.biz2/index.htm.

Dan

2009/4/27 Mohammed Seedat <[hidden email]>
Hi all I've been watching this thread and I thought I'd give my experience from the other side:

I recently had 2 interviews of which 1 I got the job and the other I am sure I didn't (I wasn't told because I'd already accepted this one).

For the job I didn't get (I assume): A new web startup company complete with Guitar Hero in their small office. Interviewed by 3 guys - founder, tech guy and another. I was asked questions relating  to the job in terms of business and marketing and then given a short paper test by the tech guy. It was very simple but for some reason I froze and couldn't write a very very simple program nor identify the output from an even simpler programming without looking incompetent. I answered his SQL questions but it seemed like he was testing my memory ability rather than by general SQL knowledge (it's easy to forget the general order of syntax when you're not working in front of a text editor or a GUI!). For some reason this interview made me feel rather stupid and not very good at what I do.

For the job I did get: Again a new web startup company complete with funky flooring. I had 2 interviews. First with 2 ladies who were not technical. This was a complete barrel of laughs and I felt comfortable with them and they with me. The second interview was an hour long "discussion" with a developer who was assigned the task of establishing my identity. In both this technical interview and my failed technical interview the interviewer was in their late 20's with similar backgrounds and speaking styles. However I as a developer felt much more comfortable with this chap and his "discussion" approach. We covered many technical concepts and likes/dislikes. I didn't have to prove I could write code because my past projects already established my competency. The interview culminated in a discussion about spell check implementations and speed issues so it wasn't as lightweight as you might imagine.

I've experienced many different interviewing styles over the years from being interviewed by a camcorder and an anonymous man to more friendly "chat" type interviews. The differences are stark and ultimately I believe the kind of people that usually get through the net are the one's that reflect the behaviour and attitudes of that particular interviewer on that day. It all seems a bit pot luck for both the interviewer and interviewee!


From: Tim Hawkins <[hidden email]>
To: [hidden email]
Sent: Monday, 27 April, 2009 13:18:07
Subject: Re: [entrepreneur-1056] How can we test a developer's skills?

when interviewing engineers and developers i tend to use the following rules of thumb. 


1. pose questions that show wether somebody is knowledgeable or deductive, knowledgeable people often appear to be very good, but are often not adaptable. you want deductive programmers. 

2. Im more interested not in what people know, but in how they fill in the gaps in their knowledge. a good engineer knows how to use resources, books, internet, open source etc to find a problem solution that they may not know. 

3. Look for generalists, people who write code that solves classes of problems, not specific problems. 

4. look for people who show enthusiasm for the application, if they dont get turned on by your application then its just working for money, and they are unlikely to go the extra mile. 

5. dont be too driven by qualifications, most of the really good people i have worked with have been self taught, and motivated to keep current, see 4 above. 

6. look for people who will ask for help when they need it, there is nothing worse than an engineer that grapples with a problem for days when a simple question would clear it up. 

7. ask them to describe the most elegant thing they have seen, and tell you why it was elegant. 

For the reasons above, im not really keen on mechanical testing of skills, you need to just chat to the candidate and get a feel for their approach to things. 


On 27 Apr 2009, at 13:00, iqbalgandham wrote:

Hi

Its actually not that hard, aside from there fitting into your overall company culture, which is something you can deduce yourself. What I always do (if I can meet the person face to face) is to give them a pen and a piece of paper, and then get them to write me 3 programs

1. A simple one which asks them to open, red, write etc from/to a file
2. Something which asks them to pull info or insert into a database
3. Something a little more advanced which asks them to carry out a calculation, i.e count the number of primes between 1-1000 etc etc

The key is the pen and paper, you will be surprised how many coders cannot do it with pen and paper, since they like to code, run it, see if it works, then try again and again. If a coder can do it on paper, they will be on a diff level to most you will meet.

Also note, that you do not want to make the questions too difficult, since what you need coding will usually come down to working with a DB, inserting, deleting etc etc.

Also check out

http://www.techinterviews.com/perl-interview-questions-and-answers

they have segments for each language, and OS,
This is MS interview questions, they deal with OS, algos etc

http://halcyon.usc.edu/~kiran/msqs.html

Here are a few from google, MS , amazon etc

http://placementsindia.blogspot.com/

Also note, when stuck between two coders, who are equally as good, get them to
a) Write a paragraph of text explaining what they did last summer on holiday
b) Create a 3 slide ppt, showing what they do at work

Why? because whenever you are stuck between two people, the one who can write things down, and present them clearly and coherently and concisely wins

Iqbal Gandham
L: www.iqbalgandham.com/in/iqbalgandham
W: www.iqbalgandham.com
T: @iqbalgandham
S: feelin_tired



From: Tom Watts <[hidden email]>
To: [hidden email]
Sent: Monday, 27 April, 2009 11:55:03
Subject: [entrepreneur-1056] How can we test a developer's skills?

Hi everyone.

Long time listener, first time caller.

I was hoping that someone on this group could offer some advice...

We're in the business of building and running online communities for research and innovation, which we deliver to brands and agencys. Part of our proposition is the delivery of our bespoke social network tool.

To date, we have been working with an external agency, who have done a good job at building our product to specification. However, as business ramps up, we are looking to refine the product and introduce new features and services. As such, it has become necessary to recruit a developer, who is versed in the use open source tools (LAMP).

We've looked around and have a good final list of candidates, who we feel could be a good 'fit' to our existing team.

The one area that we have yet to test for is the ability to actually code - including their approach to coding. Not having these skills internally, it is difficult for us to achieve this. As such we were hoping to find some form of test that we could give them.

In my mind, I thinking of a simple 1-2 hour exercise, whereby the candidates could make a simple web application/service/feature, which would demonstrate their skills. We have a friendly developer who could then look through what they have made and give us an idea of their abilities.

Is there such a test that people know of? If not, perhaps there is a different approach that someone has used successfully?

Either way, I would very much appreciate any ideas people may have.

Thanks in advance

Tom
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dub I Communities for Insight & Innovation

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Re: How can we test a developer's skills?

afit
In reply to this post by Tom Watts
Hi Tom

You've already had a lot of good feedback but I thought I'd chip in with some thoughts of my own. I often help start-ups change outsource partners or move development in-house.

I think you're on the right track. As a good principle, bear in mind grand master programmer theory (link here: http://www.reincubate.com/blog/2008/sep/9/recruiting-strong-technical-staff-start-ups/): only one in twenty programmers is a really good programmer, and they will be up to twenty times more productive than an ordinary or "good" programmer. You should be prepared to get through a lot of applicants before you make your choice.

I've tried out many types of technical test but the most effective for me has been to set the programmer a task in a language they don't know, and give them half an hour with a laptop with a browser and notepad to complete it. If they don't know Python, it's an excellent language to set the test in. Maybe only 3 in 50 even manage to finish the program: and only one of them will do it well. That one's the hardcore coder: they can cope with uncertainty, and can take on new APIs, frameworks, or even languages very quickly.

Best,
Aidan Fitzpatrick


reincubate Aidan Fitzpatrick, Partner, Reincubate
E: [hidden email], T: +44 (0) 7817 681232
Accelerating growth of start-up & entrepreneurial businesses


On Mon, Apr 27, 2009 at 11:54, Tom Watts <[hidden email]> wrote:
Hi everyone.

Long time listener, first time caller.

I was hoping that someone on this group could offer some advice...

We're in the business of building and running online communities for research and innovation, which we deliver to brands and agencys. Part of our proposition is the delivery of our bespoke social network tool.

To date, we have been working with an external agency, who have done a good job at building our product to specification. However, as business ramps up, we are looking to refine the product and introduce new features and services. As such, it has become necessary to recruit a developer, who is versed in the use open source tools (LAMP).

We've looked around and have a good final list of candidates, who we feel could be a good 'fit' to our existing team.

The one area that we have yet to test for is the ability to actually code - including their approach to coding. Not having these skills internally, it is difficult for us to achieve this. As such we were hoping to find some form of test that we could give them.

In my mind, I thinking of a simple 1-2 hour exercise, whereby the candidates could make a simple web application/service/feature, which would demonstrate their skills. We have a friendly developer who could then look through what they have made and give us an idea of their abilities.

Is there such a test that people know of? If not, perhaps there is a different approach that someone has used successfully?

Either way, I would very much appreciate any ideas people may have.

Thanks in advance

Tom
--
Tom Watts
Director

w: dubstudios.com
t: +44 (0) 20 8123 3452
m: +44 (0) 7791 163 866
skype: tomwatts22

dub I Communities for Insight & Innovation

Youmeus Ltd t/a Dub Studios is registered in England and Wales, Registration No: 6167745 and registered at The Pines, Boars Head, Crowborough, East Sussex. TN6 3HD




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