Yupp, apparently I'm completely nuts. Demand in software engineering job market went through the roof (seems about to reach stratosphere) & I ... not only do not snatch everyone with 10 fingers and a basic understanding of "ifs" & "fors". Actually, I ask candidates to ... do homework, before they come for an interview.

Seems like some sort of a ...

... modern recruitment harakiri

But it's not as crazy as it sounds.

Firstly: obviously it does not apply to all kinds of positions - works best for senior (or self-declared "senior" ...) candidates, roles with a very wide autonomy or ones which would require operating on a higher levels of abstraction.

Secondly: I'm not asking for anything that would require a substantial amount of time - what is more, I leave the decision of how much effort to commit to the candidate (tasks are "open ended" and there's no single best solution). And regardless of the outcome (whether we make an offer in the end or not) I provide a detailed feedback to compensate the effort: you sweat a bit, but so do I.

Thirdly: the point is NOT to use homework to verify "hard" skills (it's a "side effect"). The primary purpose is to "enrich" working context during the following interview - we can straight away jump into the discussion about details (w/o lengthy introductions), I can check your intellectual "rigidity" (do you stick to your way of thinking only), reactions for requested changes. I learn how you approach & cognitively crunch previously familiar problems when stress appears.

For fun. For fame. For glory.

You may be wondering - why do people (candidates) bother? They can easily find plenty of job offers of other companies who do not ask about any up-front effort. Bah, they will send an Uber to get you for an interview & please don't bother with updating your CV ;P But we don't suffer from the candidate shortage - how come? In the end, I am not Sergey Brin & company I hire for ain't Google (which would completely eliminate the issue of limited candidate inflow ;>) ...

The secret is simple: we make it (homework) compelling. Challenging. Original. Fun to work on. A test to prove yourself. Something candidates would certainly like to work on, but they didn't have a chance yet. Our strongest brains have worked really hard to come up with stuff that's nearly irresistible to take for a spin ;)

What's the (observed) effect?

  • less than 20% candidates who were asked to do homework before the interview have not decided to continue recruitment process (for various reasons, homework MAY have been the case)
  • "passability" of our recruitment "filter" didn't increase - that's for sure - but now we're much more certain we're making a good decision (regardless of whether it's positive or negative) - homework really shines when it comes to assess candidate's attitude & aptitude
  • the post-recruitment candidate feedback is stellar: over 90% of "homeworked" candidates claimed that the experience was memorable & helped them learned something