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How to Ensure Candidates Will Participate in Your Technical Screening

Hiring Developers

Technical screenings are a vital tool in any recruiter’s toolbox. They help you take those hundreds or thousands of applicants and whittle them down to those with the skills it takes to do the job.

There’s just one problem.

Most software developers and other technical professionals don’t have a very high opinion of them. A lot of tech pros will even refuse to take them, considering them time-consuming and beneath them.

To them, it’s another way big business takes humanity out of the already dehumanizing application process.

The last thing you want to do as a recruiter is offend your candidates by offering a test as the first step in the application process. But you also don’t want to spend the next nine days of your life combing through a phonebook’s worth of resumes.

So, what’s a recruiter to do?

It’s all about presenting the testing in a way that makes it palatable to your candidates – highlighting why you use it and how it will help improve the hiring process, not worse.

You can take four key steps to make the assessment step more acceptable to your candidates so that they actually partake in it so you don’t have to toil over a stack of resumes.

Set clear expectations early

Setting expectations early on in the process will prevent the candidates from feeling that they’ve received a nasty surprise when they’re told that a skills assessment is part of the application process.

Be transparent in job ads

The best place (and really the only place, if a skills assessment is at the beginning of the process) to be open about testing in your hiring process is in the job ad – and be upfront about the reasons, like needing to fairly assess all 732 applicants so that you can respond to all of them in a reasonable time.

That way, candidates will not feel misled when they receive an invitation to test in their inbox. 

Stating this requirement in the email also helps prevent the candidates from feeling like they’ve been singled out. Everyone sees the same job ad and must take the same assessment.

To increase the chance that candidates will see the notice, it may also help to include a notice about it in the automated “your application has been received” emails that go out when a candidate submits their application. 

Communicate time commitments

One of the more important parts of communicating that there will be an assessment is the time commitment involved. There’s a big difference between a 45-minute test and a 2-hour test, especially when you’re a candidate already juggling another job, university courses, a family life, etc.

Clearly stating the time commitments helps the candidate plan their testing and shows respect for their time.

Highlight fairness and diversity

When you’re expecting a candidate to take a test to “save you some time,” you’re not highlighting any benefit to the candidate and they might avoid the test altogether.

However if you’re having the applicants take a test so you can judge candidates fairly AND save yourself time, you have a winning reason for candidates to follow through with the application process.

Explain the role of testing in fair hiring

Skills testing is a great way to eliminate bias from the hiring process – it doesn’t matter what fancy schools or prestigious companies you have on your resume. As long as you can pass the skills test, you can move on to the next round.

And since everyone is taking the same test, no one candidate will have a non-skills advantage over any other. The playing field is level, as they say. There’s no room for unrelated details to influence hiring decisions at that point in the interview.

Discuss how it helps create a diverse applicant pool

Many candidates want to know that the companies they’re going to work for care about diversity and inclusion. 

📖 Further reading: 8 Steps Recruiters Can Take to Instill Inclusivity in Tech Interviews

In your job ad and elsewhere, let them know how skills testing increases diversity. Because it eliminates the bias of background or physical appearance, skills tests increase the diversity of the applicant pool precisely because they can’t (and don’t) assess those trivial details.

Additionally, it helps bring in candidates who don’t have a traditional computer science background. If you drop the degree requirement and only look for skills fit, you’ll open up your talent pool to a broader range of candidates.

Respect candidates’ time with efficient testing

If there’s one thing software developers hate, it’s an inefficient use of time. Wasting their time with long and useless tests is a cardinal sin that will drop your Glassdoor ratings to basement levels.

Keep assessments concise

Some of your applicants will be unemployed and heavy in their job search. Others will be balancing full-time jobs, childcare, volunteer work, health issues, and any other part of life that takes up our time.

As a general rule, the shorter your assessment, the more likely you are to not only have candidates complete it but to have them start it in the first place.

Most people working a full-time job—and even a significant portion of people out of a job—don’t have 3 hours to spend on a skills test. If you create a test that long, you risk significantly decreasing your talent pool. 

When you create your skills tests, you’ll want to balance the need for accurately testing skills with respecting the candidate’s valuable time. 

You’ll want to make the test as short as you can while also feeling confident that the right candidates make it to the next round of interviews. A test that can be completed in one hour or less is ideal and if you find that you can design one for your needs that is even shorter, that’s even better. 

Focus only on essential skills

Perhaps the best way to reduce your test duration is to focus only on the skills necessary for the candidate’s job. Ideally, you’ll assess only the “must-have” skills and leave the optional ones for a later discussion with the technical interviewer.

Developers often joke about the job ads which have a laundry list of nice-to-have skills which are completely unnecessary for the actual post. Show you are more realistic and focus only on the skills which will actually make a difference day-to-day. Developers appreciate this pragmatic approach. 

This may require an uncomfortable discussion with the hiring manager to determine which skills are essential for the test and which ones are just bonus skills. You’ll have to bring up the tradeoffs of long tests measuring lots of skills, which will reduce the talent pool, versus shorter tests measuring fewer skills, which will increase the talent pool. 

Prioritize feedback

Doing a test to never find out how you performed can be frustrating. While giving individual feedback after every interview can be overly time consuming, the same cannot be said for test results.

Provide test results

When a candidate puts in time to take a test for your application process, they’ll appreciate seeing some kind of result from the test. 

Interviews are fraught enough with one-sentence rejection emails; having a test result at least makes the interview process seem a little worthwhile. In other words, receiving results provides an additional incentive to complete the test. 

The test results can help a candidate pinpoint their weaknesses so they can better prepare for their next assessment, whether its with you or another company. 

It also helps them understand how their performance impacts the hiring decision, helping the candidate to see how the test achieves fairness in the hiring process. Candidates who underperform will understand why they’re not selected for the next step. Receiving results also provides an additional incentive to complete the test. 

Use automated tools for feedback

Testing platforms like CoderPad Screen allow you to automate the test results feedback process. Once a candidate completes the test, the platform will automatically send them an email letting them know how they did.

You can also use this email as an opportunity to offer candidates a chance to retake the test if they have genuine reasons why they performed poorly. Perhaps they had a medical emergency while taking the test, or they were up all night with a fussy baby, or it was the day their plumbing decided to stop working. Either way, being open to test retake requests will quickly elevate you in the eyes of your candidates – and you won’t accidentally eliminate great candidates that were simply having a bad day.


Effectively presenting technical screenings to candidates is crucial for maintaining a positive relationship with potential hires while ensuring the efficiency of the recruitment process. 

By setting clear expectations, communicating time commitments, highlighting the fairness and benefits of the testing, and respecting candidate time with efficient and focused assessments, recruiters can mitigate the common frustrations associated with these screenings. 

Furthermore, providing timely and constructive feedback not only respects candidates’ efforts but also enhances their experience, potentially increasing their willingness to engage with the process. 

Employing these strategies can transform technical screenings from a dreaded hurdle into a valuable step that supports fair and inclusive hiring practices. This approach not only saves valuable time for recruiters but also fosters a positive perception of the organization among technical professionals, ultimately leading to a more diverse and capable workforce.

This article was written with the assistance of ChatGPT.