Tech job interviews assess anxiety, not software skills

Technical interviews currently used in hiring for many software engineering positions test whether a job candidate has performance anxiety rather than whether the candidate is competent at coding. The interviews may also be used to exclude groups or favour specific job candidates.



According to the research team behind the study, technical interviews are feared and hated in the industry, and it turns out that these interview techniques may also be hurting the industry's ability to find and hire skilled software engineers.


The study suggests that a lot of well-qualified job candidates are being eliminated because they're not used to working on a whiteboard in front of an audience.


Technical interviews in the software engineering sector generally take the form of giving a job candidate a problem to solve, then requiring the candidate to write out a solution in code on a whiteboard, by explaining each step of the process to an interviewer.


Previous research found that many developers in the software engineering community felt the technical interview process was deeply flawed. So the researchers decided to run a study aimed at assessing the effect of the interview process on aspiring software engineers.


For this study, researchers conducted technical interviews of 48 computer science undergraduates and graduate students. Half of the study participants were given a conventional technical interview, with an interviewer looking on. The other half of the participants were asked to solve their problem on a whiteboard in a private room.


The findings suggest that companies are missing out on really good programmers because those programmers aren't good at writing on a whiteboard and explaining their work out loud while coding.


The specific nature of the technical interview process means that many job candidates try to spend weeks or months training specifically for the technical interview, rather than for the actual job they'd be doing.

Source: North Carolina State University