Technical tests: friend or foe?

7 mins

Chances are that if you’re a software specialist, you’ll be familiar with the concept of bei...

Chances are that if you’re a software specialist, you’ll be familiar with the concept of being put through your paces with technical testing when applying for a role. Love them or hate them, technical tests are seen as a crucial part of the interview process for many employers looking to hire permanent or contract software engineers.

Whatever your stance, technical testing in software is a hot topic of discussion right now. So we’re asking, why are technical tests so popular? And what are the pros and cons of employers adding them into the mix? Read on to find out more on this, as well as learning our quick tips for your next technical test.

Why technical testing’s not going away

According to Harvard Business Review, up to 90% of employers carry out testing of some kind during the interview process. In software, this equates to technical testing that will substantiate your specialist capabilities in coding, developing, testing, programming, etc.

Demand for software expertise is sky-high right now. ITjobswatch recently estimated that software engineering accounted for more than 10% of all jobs advertised in the UK. In the US, the California Business Journal reported that the current demand for software engineers has risen by nearly 17% across all industries in 2022. And in Europe, more than half of companies are reported to be having difficulties filling software developer vacancies. Looking specifically at stats released for the Netherlands, 12% of organisations were looking for ICT specialists in 2020 and a massive 70% of those struggled to find the right expertise.

Perhaps it’s this requirement for employers to quickly bridge their software skills gaps that’s shaping a trend for technical testing. The percentage of companies employing developers from non-academic backgrounds has almost doubled (23% to 39% in one year), as it’s thought that technical tests better demonstrate the capabilities of developers with less hands-on experience and/or qualifications. 57% of hirers are open to removing CVs from the recruitment process altogether, in favour of technical assessments.

Look no further than the software success stories of Tiffany Mikell, Sun-Li Beatteay, Dani Owens, Joe Olsen and Solana Armstrong for proof that if you have the skills, you don’t always need the degree.

The knock-on effect of this? Technical assessments are probably here to stay.


Types of software technical assessments

In case you’re not familiar with technical testing, here’s an overview of what you can expect:

Automated code test

An automated code test is a popular choice for technical recruiters looking to assess your competencies. They’re normally short, timed, and cloud-based evaluations where you’re provided with a problem or series of problems by writing code. Examples of providers of these kinds of tests include Hackerrank and CodeSignal. Such platforms will run checks on your code to provide you with a pass or fail.

Sometimes, multiple choice questions are preferred by some employers in place of full coding tests.

Remote code test

These kinds of tests are usually provided to candidates to complete at home. They’re important to businesses because they provide insight into a candidate’s methodology and working processes – not only their ability to code. Outcomes and approaches could be different for each applicant, but they could all pass, despite alternative methods. And remote code testing can provide an opportunity for candidates to demonstrate skills in researching or presenting too.

This type of test is often more in-depth than automated tests, and the main difference is that they’re assessed by a human, as opposed to a computer. Remote code testing can feel more authentic, and often includes the kinds of real-life challenges you may face if you were to work for the company you’re applying to.

Technical interview

Different from more traditional interviews, questions in a technical interview will be just that…based around the technicalities of your role.

Rather than working alone to solve challenges and demonstrate your aptitude, you’ll spend an hour or two in the company of an assessor, responding to their interactive questions. Technical interviews, which often includes pair programming, provide hirers with reassurance you have the skills to complete specific tasks on the spot.

Nowadays, it’s common for technical interviews to be carried out over video calls as well as in person.

As the above suggests, technical testing for software vacancies can add extra layers of time and complexity to an already challenging recruitment process. So, is it worth it? Here are the pros and cons.


Pros and cons of technical testing 

Here are our top three benefits:

1) Technical tests provide you with additional credibility and proof that you know your stuff. References and recommendations are great. Experience is a bonus too. But one way to reassure your prospective employer you’re the right person for the job is to show them you’re technically adept through technical testing.

2) If you’re relatively new to the software scene or didn’t take a traditional educational route to learning, your CV may not land you your dream job until you’ve built up some experience. By excelling on technical tests, however, you can prove you have the skills required, whatever your background.

3) Technical tests provide you with an opportunity to demonstrate soft skills as well as technical skills. Think knowledge, passion, teamwork, problem-solving, creativity - all traits that can be shown through technical assessments, particularly face-to-face interviews. This can be especially useful for contractors looking to quickly demonstrate their capabilities, but who may not become as fully immersed in a company’s culture as a permanent staff member.


The downside to technical tests:

1) They’re time-consuming and add more depth to an already stressful situation…unless you’re a rare breed that actually enjoys being interviewed and examined! And, of course, there’s always the chance that you can mess up under the pressure of a test, whereas in reality you have extensive experience of solving coding problems.

2) For more experienced professionals, technical testing provides more competition. Greater numbers of lower-level candidates could have a chance of passing technical tests, despite having a shorter working history. Overall, employers can quickly and easily test larger numbers of candidates.

3) One test does not fit all! Sometimes companies ask candidates to complete a test that’s not well aligned with the technicalities of the role.


Our quick tips for succeeding in technical tests

1) Ask in advance about what kinds of assessments you may need to do throughout the recruitment process. Preparation is key, especially in timed tests, so try and get as much information as you can early in the process. Remember, your recruiter can help with this kind of information – we’ll work with you to ensure you’re prepared.

2) Try some practice tests – due to the growing demand for software specialists, there are now lots of different tests and examples available online.

3) Research, research, then research some more. The point of technical tests is to assess your suitability for the specialist knowledge required for your specific role. Make sure you know precisely what’s involved and tailor your test responses to suit.

4) If there’s opportunity to explain (particularly in technical interviews) why you would respond in a certain way, make sure you do so, to provide the interviewer/assessor with insight into how you think, and problem solve.

5) Make sure you’re setting adequate time aside to complete technical tests and in an environment that’s free from distractions or interruptions.

6) Stay calm. (We know - easier said than done when you’re under the spotlight and up against a timer.) But don’t forget technical tests are a great chance to demonstrate soft skills, including how well you perform under pressure.


There’s no denying that the application processes for software roles are becoming more challenging. And because of the high demand for companies to find software talent quickly, technical tests are likely here for the foreseeable.

But remember, as a software expert, you’re in one of the most exciting, up-and-coming professions, with great career prospects and earning potential. Lots of companies are searching for people like you!

Working with software companies and candidates is part of the daily routine at Apollo Solutions. So, if you’re looking for advice on anything to do with interviewing in this space, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’re here to help with any of your software interview-related queries or to help you find your next role.

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