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Dealing with technical tests

Working in digital recruitment means that for plenty of the positions we recruit for, an interview is only the beginning.

For creative jobs, a portfolio comes into play.

For companies of all shapes and sizes, but particularly the multinationals, a psychometric test is common.

And for many digital development jobs, a technical test is the norm.

This can seem alarming, especially when you haven’t come across one before. So here are our top tips for smashing a technical test.

// Know what you’re dealing with. Businesses take countless different approached with technical tests. Some will design their own – we have a client who provide a piece of code and give their interviewees an hour to perform a set list of operations. Others set up paired programming activities, where the interviewee sits with a current programmer at the business, working through a list of tasks. The important thing is that you know what to expect before arriving at the interview. Ask as many questions as you can, whether you’re working through a recruitment consultant or direct with the company. Can then send your examples of previous tests? If you’re working with a consultant, can they tell you anything about how other interviewees have performed?

// It’s about PROCESS. All that said, don’t get too bogged down with the notion of a ‘right answer’. When the technical test involves a standard code kata activity, it can be easy to simply search for the ‘answer’ online – but that’s just one element of the test. Generally, technical tests are aiming to find out how you work, how you tackle a problem. We’ve had plenty of developers successfully secure jobs on the back of technical tests that weren’t fully complete and correct, but that showed them to be diligent, careful, logical workers. It’s a return to GCSE maths – you need to show your workings. Where necessary, explain what you’re doing out loud.

// Manage your time. You’ll usually have a set timeframe in which to complete a list of tasks – so don’t waste 90% of your slot struggling with 10% of the work. Wear a watch, and don’t be afraid to abandon a task that you’re stuck on to complete one that you’re familiar with.

// In a paired programming task, ask questions – and listen to the answers. These tasks are also about ascertaining how well you can work with the existing programmers, so it’s essential that you interact constructively.

// Use the debrief period productively. Almost all technical tests will be followed by a discussion of what you did, and why. This is an opportunity for you to justify your tactics, to explain why you couldn’t complete action A – but, crucially, what you would have tried next, or what information you would have needed to finish. Use this period to build on what you’ve already achieved, not just to mumble your way through what you’ve done.

Our Creative and Marketing recruitment division has guided hundreds of digital developers through their technical tests, so if you’re in need of more advice, why not get in touch? Call 0161 714 0600 or email info@instinct.co.uk.