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Technical Screening: 5 Top Practices to Select The Best Developers

Hiring Developers

5 best practices for technical screening

Sourcing developers is hard enough, so better make sure we select the right ones. That’s what technical screening is all about. 

It’s a proven assessment method that helps you evaluate the technical skills of your candidates in an accurate and fair way. With technical tests and exercises, you can review the skills of your potential talents in action.

Here’s why you should set up a technical screening process and how to optimize it to hire the right candidate for your job.

What is Technical Screening?

In a nutshell, technical screening is the process of narrowing down your list of candidates via predefined technical exercises before continuing the hiring process. 

As an IT recruiter or manager, you want to make sure the talents you’ll be talking to have the necessary hard skills and experience to fill your positions. By giving you a first glimpse of their abilities, technical assessments help you focus on the most promising candidates.

There are different types of technical screening exercises: 

  • Asynchronous Technical Assessment: before interviewing, you can start filtering your list of candidates via coding exercises and assessments. You can send them a predefined list of open and closed questions or an interactive programming exercise in an asynchronous and time-limited format. You’ll then be able to compare their results with predetermined parameters.
  • Pair Programming Exercises: you can also run a live coding exercise where you see your candidate’s skills in action. You can turn it into a collaborative effort where you can help them and give them feedback in real-time. It’s an excellent way to review your talents within real job conditions.
  • Take-Home Assignments: if you can’t decide between several contenders, you can also give take-home assignments. You’ll ask them to deliver a project within a precise deadline and compare their work. 

We usually recommend our clients to establish their screening process in this order: 

  1. Asynchronous technical assessments: to hand over to the engineering manager only candidates that have the required skills. 
  2. Live coding interview / Pair programming exercise: to allow the engineering manager to see if they can work together. 
  3. Other types of candidate interviews: to review soft skills and cultural fit.

What Are The Benefits of Rigorously Screening Your Tech Talents?

Hiring developers and engineers involves very specific challenges. Because every IT project is unique, talents need to possess experience in various programming languages, software infrastructure, or technological stacks. 

You want to make sure the talents you want to hire can really do what they claim. And that’s where a rigorous technical screening is critical.

It will help you optimize your recruiting process in several ways: 

Save Time and Money

Have you ever met a candidate with much potential on paper but less so in person? This is a recurrent challenge for a technical recruiter, as a resume is not a perfect reflection of actual skills. It also increases the cost of your recruitment by having to carefully assess every candidate. Technical screening allows you to keep only the candidates worth investing in. With predefined exercises, you can be sure they pass the necessary requirements that you’ve fixed, and you can focus your energy on the most promising ones. You also increase your chance of hiring long-lasting talents in your company and decrease your turnover rates within your teams. That’s a lot less human resources to put into your recruiting process!

Improve the Candidate’s Experience

Let’s be real: technical candidates have the upper hand in the job market. Talent shortages are so high now, that they can choose whichever company they want to work with. This creates a huge incentive to invest more in your candidate experience throughout the recruiting cycle. Technical screening is one part of that, as it allows you to make your candidate selection as smooth and engaging as possible. With prior assessments, less promising candidates don’t waste their time on unnecessary interviews, while more promising candidates can face interesting challenges. These might be the first impressions of your company, so better make them count! 

Avoid Bias and Make the Selection Fair

As a recruiter, you are left out with a lot of subconscious preferences and assumptions during your recruiting process. This makes it hard to select candidates on a fair and objective basis. It eventually makes you hire the same type of candidates over and over again. Not good when you want to and even more when you seek to ramp up your DEI (diversity & equity and inclusion) initiatives. Technical screening assessments help you evaluate candidates on unbiased criteria. You’re only looking at their test result and comparing quantitative metrics, so there’s less way for external influence. And this gives more chances for candidates with underrepresented backgrounds to shine and get through your hiring process!

Have More Confidence in Your Hiring Decision 

Especially when the stakes are high and good talent rare, recruiting decisions can be challenging. As much as you want to hold all the cards in your hands, it’s easy to have your confidence shaken by outside influence or last-minute doubts. Technical screening increases the confidence that you’ll have in your new hires, by giving you concrete data to rely upon to support your decision process. You don’t have to select your candidates on vague parameters anymore; the result of your technical assessments will speak for themselves. 

Setting up your technical screening process: 5 best practices

A technical screening should be a smooth and insightful experience for both you and your talents. Here are some best practices that we’ve collected to achieve that: 

#1 Match Technical Exercises to Real Job Conditions

Let’s say you want to hire a full-stack developer. How do you evaluate candidates for this position most accurately? You have to give exercises that simulate the challenges your talents are going to face in their daily job. 

That means providing them with a realistic integrated development environment (IDE) where they can answer the questions. You want to set up your exercise in the same back-end and front-end frameworks they’re going to use (React, Angular, Node.js, Python…). This will enable them to build a program app close to their future projects, see whether it works or not and debug it. You also want to give them the choice of the coding language that best fits their capabilities and exercise requirements. 

All this will give you a realistic picture of the performance of your candidate in the job.

#2 Check for Plagiarism and Abnormal Behaviors 

Giving your candidates a try is an effective screening process, but you have to make sure people are evaluated on a fair basis. You don’t want some candidates to have an unfair advantage over others. For that, you have to define clear guidelines and rules for your exercise. Are your candidates allowed to rely on external sources, ChatGPT, or do they have to code from scratch?

You also want to make sure candidates are complying with these guidelines and not using cheating methods. You might want to remove any copy/paste feature for questions (although we don’t recommend it). Furthermore, you might also check for plagiarism and suspicious behaviors via code playback. Another precaution to take is to randomize your questions to make sure there are no solution leaks. 

#3 Gamify Your Screening Process  

Candidates have had enough of formal, boring interview processes. If you can avoid interview fatigue, that’s already a huge plus for them. So rewarding and engaging technical exercises are the way to go. The best practices here are to tailor your questions to your candidate’s capabilities and to plan exercises with a concrete purpose. You also want to give immediate feedback on the exercise for the candidates to know where they stand. This will allow them to be in a state of flow.

If you’re looking for an even more enjoyable experience, gamified exercises like those in CoderPad Screen provide visual rendering. This enables your developers to see the results of their efforts in real-time and makes it very rewarding! 

#4 Assess the Soft Skills of Your Candidates

You know it, hard skills are not enough. You also want to see how your candidates are going to collaborate and communicate with their teammates and the manager. To make that possible, you can set up a screening process that includes a collaborative exercise, like a live pair programming test. In this setting, colleagues or managers will be able to see in real-time how the candidate faces a coding exercise, give them feedback, and brainstorm with them. Especially for complex technical projects, it’s a great way to evaluate the problem-solving skills of prospective talents and see how they react to setbacks. You can also more easily continue the discussion later on about specific moments, and thus build confidence for your future decision. 

#5 Compare Accurately the Result of Your Candidates

When your candidates are done with your exercise, it’s time for you to assess their performance. You want first to determine a score based on their global performance. You might want to benchmark this score to other candidate performance. This will enable you to compare candidates across multiple technologies and skill levels and make the performance accessible to non-technical recruiters. You might also want to determine a score per skill and on capabilities like reasoning, creativity, and structure to be more accurate in your evaluation. 

One other important thing is to be able to access the code playback. You’ll be able to track the thought process of your candidates and give targeted feedback. This will give you more material to discuss in the next interview and to see whether your candidates are aware of their weaknesses and strengths.  

CoderPad: Technical Screening Made Easy

You have a hard time setting up your technical screening process? No worries! 

With CoderPad, you can run technical assessments and live coding interviews in no time.  You can provide your candidates with predefined exercises for many programming languages and frameworks. More than that, CoderPad demonstrates other key features for technical recruiters: 

  • A technical assessment system supporting a wide range of coding languages, randomized questions, and preset job roles.
  • Automated grading and comparative scores to make recruiters screening easier and more confident.
  • An interview platform that enables your engineering managers to run collaborative coding exercises and assess their skills in real time.

Try it out now and gain more confidence in your hiring decisions!