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Q&A: Musings of a CEO on Tech Interviews, Cheating and AI

Hiring Developers , Interviewing

Yes, AI has changed the way that candidates cheat. But, it’s also changed the way that we work and interview.

I sat down with CoderPad CEO, Amanda Richardson, to collect her perspective on tech interviews, cheating and AI. 

In this Q&A session, she emphasizes the importance of trust and effective interview design. She encourages recruiters and hiring managers to shift their mindset from fear to curiosity. 

Q: What would you say to hiring managers and Talent Acquisition professionals who are worried about cheating in interviews?

So many TA and technical hiring managers ask me about cheating in interviews—and I agree that cheating can be an issue. But NOT in the way most people think. 

I’d say lead with trust, not fear. Trust that 99% of candidates believe in themselves enough to show their real skills (and the other 1% was always going to be undeterred). Trust that you’re in it together: you want the right candidates for the role, and candidates want the right company to work for.

Q: How should interviewers, who are mindful of cheating, approach designing interview questions?

In the same way any interviewer should approach interview questions. Orient around giving the 99% of people who want to find the right-fit job questions that are unique and pertinent to the role at hand. 

Q: How would you recommend that recruiters react, when faced with a cheater?

Be open-minded. Curiosity will get you further than assumptions. Ask for explanations. Seek understanding without instant judgment. And see what you find out. 

Q: How can hiring managers handle the high volume of candidates for technical positions, while minimizing cheating?

Ok, it’s wild out there. The sheer number of candidates for every technical job is overwhelming. And with volume, comes a higher risk of fraud.

Getting through the volume in a way that (a) prioritizes candidate experience while (b) getting your teams the visibility they need is the real trick. But how do you do it? 

We actually recently experienced this ourselves. We posted a Director of Customer Success role and a People Manager role, both fully remote. We received over 800 resumes, in about 36 hours—for each role! 

And I know a lot of HR folks are seeing very similar application flows. So how do you quickly screen candidates and manage a funnel of hundreds of applications. I don’t think there’s just one answer.

For our Customer Success role, for example, we put together a short Excel exercise. It takes only a couple of minutes to complete and focuses on calculating net dollar retention and gross dollar retention—two key skills for the job. We added a couple of objective screening questions to ensure we’re aligned on expectations for what this leader should be able to do.

Q: What’s your take on the perception that it’s easy for candidates to cheat in technical interviews?

Recently a friend and I were talking about technical interviews. “Everyone’s cheating all the time,” she said. “It’s crazy. And it’s so easy to find question answers online.” 

I asked her how she was creating her questions for the interviews, and she is pulling questions off LeetCode.

You know what the REAL answer is? Create better interview questions.

Questions that are tailored for recent problems, unique to your business, and actually test for the skills you need. With this, you will attract and engage great candidates who are:

  • Motivated by the work that you actually do and value
  • Excited by your company mission and purpose
  • More likely to understand how to do the work, and solve the problems you need to solve

Q: Do you consider that using AI tools, like ChatGPT, in technical interviews is cheating?

Absolutely not. 

Don’t hobble your candidates, help them! Let them use these tools. 

Technical interviews are about assessing two things: one, can the candidate actually do the job with the tools they will have, and two, will they be able to work with your team? 

For the first point, you have to give them the tools they need and will be expected to use on the job. Sure, there are things like GitHub, but there are also tools like Copilot and Stack Overflow. These are shortcuts that make developers more efficient and, in the end, help you assess whether or not they can do the job.

Q: What would you say to those who do consider that using AI tools in technical interviews is cheating?

When I hear recruiting teams talk about how using AI or ChatGPT during the interview process is cheating, I actually get concerned. It gives me the impression that they don’t fully understand the job of a developer. 

If you think a developer just pumps out a bunch of code, that is certainly a core part of the job, but it is not actually the most important part. Developers are problem solvers. 

There are often multiple ways to solve a problem. Talented developers will design a solution that is scalable, secure, and future-proof (in terms of how the product might evolve or extend). They’ll think about solving a problem for your customer. That’s the real value of developers.

Q: Why do you consider it important to allow candidates to use tools like ChatGPT during interviews?

Telling them they can’t use ChatGPT or that it’s cheating actually means you can’t assess them with the tools they’re going to use or for the resourcefulness they need to get the job done. 

You need to be able to assess whether or not they can solve problems in the context of your business and with the tools you’ll give them. 

So give them ChatGPT, see how they do, see how they perform in the interview, see if they can decipher a right answer or understand how an answer was conceived and how it could be applied to the job.

Q: What’s your advice for hiring managers who are still hesitant in regards to adopting AI within their interviews?

If you’re hesitant about letting candidates use AI in your interview process, rethink your mindset. 

Consider why it scares you and what the real problem is. Maybe turn to peers who are letting candidates use AI during technical interviews to focus on skills around future-proofing, developing sustainable products, and solving problems efficiently.

Ask them how it’s going for them.