How to Hire Best Candidates through Paired Programming Interviews

How to Hire Best Candidates through Paired Programming Interviews? Hiring the right person is essential. According to Forbes, the U.S. Department of Labor puts the cost of a bad hire at 30% of the annual salary for that position. A ‘top performer’ over an ‘average performer’ yields up to 67% more productivity and profit. Hiring the wrong candidate can cost organizations more than just money. Whereas hiring the right candidate will lead to success both in your professional and personal life. All organizations spend lots of money, time, and resources to hire talent. After all, hiring good talent lays the foundation for a successful company. 

Most hiring managers accept that finding qualified professionals in tech is a very challenging task and It is globally acknowledged that hiring a coder is more challenging than usually believed. In these organizations’ hiring and selection process the technical interview is one of the most important things designed to find the right candidate for the job

While technical interviewing is an important part of all organizations, its role in the IT sector increases even further. It allows the interviewer to assess candidates’ technical, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills. It is very common for the interviewer to ask project-oriented, numerical, reasoning problems, and different technical questions that can test the candidate’s ability to create solutions and solve problems. 

Hire Best Candidates through Paired Programming Interviews

Traditional Whiteboard Coding Interviews

Currently, In the IT sector, the most common technical interviews approach used by hiring managers to assess a coder’s capability is via “Whiteboards.” This traditional Whiteboard approach involves using a whiteboard/paper to write an algorithm or actual codes in an IDE/editor. The question can either be a specific algorithm and data structure problem, or it can be a more abstract systems design and architecture-based question. 

The coder uses a specific programming language (like Java, Python, C++, JavaScript, or others) and attempts a solution to a coding problem by penning down the process on the spot. Usually, such problems aim to evaluate how well a coder can think on the spot to approach a new problem as well as how well they can explain the programming thought process.

But is the whiteboard programming interview approach sufficient to understand the candidates’ potential without testing them in an actual coding environment? To pass the technical interviews, Interviewers may choose to spend time getting better at the interview instead of getting better at the job. They may practice the kinds of algorithms and data structures that are frequently asked in the coding interviews. By practicing and memorizing the solutions of those particular algorithms, Interviews could be an easy task. They may work on treating code as a performance, not as a craft, and finally, in the job, they may suffer a lot. Overall this approach makes it difficult to find who is a strong candidate for the job and who is better only in interviews but not good for the Job.

Generally, the Whiteboard approach is best suitable to find whether a candidate can code or not. Job openings for coding positions often attract other people who have just basic knowledge of coding or who can’t code at all. In these situations, the whiteboard approach may help organizations with eliminating the candidates. Whiteboard interviews often exclude people from non-traditional tech backgrounds.  

This approach may help to find coder’s efficiency in the past, but in today’s competitive environment it is inadequate in updating the interviewer on numerous issues. Hiring managers must consider an interview approach that mitigates whiteboard coding challenges and offers a deeper understanding of the coders’ proficiency. 

Paired Programming Interviews

Pair programming interviews are one of the inclusive ways to find the right candidate and top talent for your team. The goal of a pair programming interview is to understand the technical skills more in-depth. To give paired programming interviews, candidates need not have experience with pair programming. Jonathan Fernández (senior consultant developer at ThoughtWorks) writes in his recent blog:- “the goal of a pair programming interview is about an employee and a job candidate working together to solve a problem, but not about the candidate solving the problem.

In this approach, both interviewer and interviewee share a coding platform to solve a technical problem together. The test can take approx 30 to 45 minutes. Paired programming interview approach helps recruiters assess a coder’s proficiency using an embedded code simulator. During this interview, the interviewer guides the candidate through the process and the candidate writes most of the code. Both interviewer and interviewee discuss the process, give their opinion, and both can ask questions.

In paired programming interviews, the interviewer gets an understanding of the interviewee’s coding, collaboration, communication skills, personality, utilization of various languages, frameworks, libraries, and/or APIs. When the activity is conducted internally, While the interviewee learns about whom they will be working with and what a typical workday looks like.

Main Aspects in Pair Programming Interview

The main aspects assessed in the pair programming interviews are as follows:-

  1. Communication Skills:- Whether the interviewee discussed possible approaches, their pros, and cons, the complexity of the code?
  2. Problem Solving Skills:- Was the interviewee able to understand the problem, break it down into sub-problems, and then come up with solutions, from where they started and what path they took? 
  3. Quality of Coding:- Did the interviewee write clean and easy-to-understand code?
  4. Correctness of the Code:- Did the code cover all common scenarios?

Although interviewers don’t take specific measures during the pairing session, they expect the candidate to apply well-known development patterns (SOLID, YAGNI, KISS, etc.) and good practices (test-driven development) to achieve this, and they also love to talk about when and why you should apply them when coding. An interviewer expects the candidate to show how they are approaching the problem, how they are thinking through it, from where they start, and how they landed at the solution, and not just if they know the solutions.

Alternative to Traditional Paired Programming Interviews

Post-pandemic IT hiring has given rise to virtual tech interview platforms to replace the face to face paired programming interviews. What most companies did not realize was the sheer volume of interviews to conduct would place an extreme burden on the bandwidth and morale of software engineers and developers leading those conversations. With demands to work all hours of the day balancing interviews and revenue-generating deliverables. IT department directors and the interview panelists began looking for a change.

Many turned to the eTeki Marketplace to conduct Paired Programming Interviews because internal interview loads were an obstacle to getting projects and deliverables out the door. The eTeki freelance technical professionals lead interviews of candidates identified by companies and their staffing intermediaries, making the trusted hiring process faster and providing greater certainty of the overall technical fit of the interviewee than any solo coding challenge or automated test could provide.

Coders fuel virtually every industry today and those of the future. The gig economy has ushered in the need for outsourced interviewers (i.e. interview clouds) to scale the demand for evaluating coding capabilities through paired programming.  Technical experts who enjoy leading this type of conversation and discussing approaches to technical challenges can now give back to their professional community and earn extra income. So, scope your interview needs and let a bar raiser from another company do the heavy lifting. Your internal process picks up with the handful of interviewees who deserve your valuable time. 

In my experience, the best part of eTeki is their 360𝆩 feedback loop. As you would expect, expert interviewers score the interviewees, but not just some random score. It’s based on paired programming exercises, competency in key technologies, and experience using those in past projects. The interviewees leave ratings and reviews for the peer who interviewed them. Companies also give their review and rating on each paired programming interview given by an eTeki’s interview panelist. Hooray for the transparency of the overall marketplace experience!

How to Run a Good Programming Interviews?

Some points should be considered during a Paired Programming Interview to make an awesome experience.

  1. Keep the candidate relaxed:- Interviewee can’t give their best if they are stressed. So try to make it as a normal day paired programming. Take a moment at the start of the interview, if the candidate is tensing up then invite them to slow down for a moment.
  2. Test only one problem per interview:- Take time to dive into the question and examine it. You can talk with the candidate about how they write the code, and how they will modify the code when presented with new requirements.
  3. Record the interview:- Sometimes You will need to go back and recheck the interview part. Recording can help in this situation.
  4. Get help from tech interview experts:- Reach out for help when scaling the quantity of interviews before it becomes a challenge for your company.  

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