June 29, 2020

Screening for Software Developers—Similarities and Differences in the Job Market

In the modern technological era of digital jobs and demand for computer scientists, software developers represent a very niche field of highly technical experts. In many ways, the screening process also represents a technical aspect of the field writ large.

For certain professions, screening for the right candidate can be a somewhat lengthy process. For most government employment agencies, including the U.S. for example, drug testing and being able to provide a security clearance is needed before candidates even start training. For other professions, such as in academia and heavy research roles, screening does not require such formalities but does usually consist of looking at a candidate writing and publishing abilities—what have they written and for what journals. Such information, depending on the sector, provides a proper “screen” respective to each candidate and lets employers know the fitness of the applicant.

Software development is an interesting field because the screening process is a bit different, meaning that screening in this industry can feel non-traditional with respect to other job sectors.

This is because software developers have a very unique skillset of computer science and project management skills. Software developers usually work in roles that require lots of weekly independent work that involves being able to problem solve and critically think at a high level regardless of the contract.

Thus hiring, and screening for a software developer will look a little different from the other more traditional industries of business and the social sciences.

Key Differences

In some sectors that are Communications heavy—such as public relations and to some extent non-profit work, having a positive attitude, a willingness to learn new technologies and interface with new software such as SalesForce, and having an ambitious mindset is key to at least getting to a second-round interview. In such positions, it is really about the candidates drive and their willingness to accept a new work culture. This is because such positions are soft skill heavy, and while they do require technical expertise, this latter part can be learned on the job and is more fluid in terms of a learning curve.

This is not in direct contrast to software developer roles, however, this field, which in many respects, is similar to engineering or physics, is a very hard-skill oriented field. KPIs need to be proven during the screening process as well as some type of coding language aptitude testing.

Coding feels like a standardized test

The testing is really where the screening for software developers differs from most professions. When a candidate is given a coding test, the questions usually start out with basic CS functions and gradually get more difficult, requiring more strategic thinking and also time management skills as candidates race against the clock. In many ways, this type of testing can feel like standardized testing, noted by a few career developers who have mentioned that the ways in which coding tests operate are a lot like logic or sequence questions.

When standardized testing like procedures occurs for such a screening process, it really helps individuals trying to break in or establish themselves in this industry aware of the stakes of the game. This is because standardized testing, which has been argued as irrelevant by some critics who think it is an unfair test of intelligence and aptitude, also plays into the nature of a test-taker. In other words, you can’t simply get by in software development with a good resume and KPIs achieved in previous posts, you actually have to prove your acumen time and time again on coding tests, which is a new skill in entirety.

On top of this, there are also cultural fit interviews and other types of phone screening that act in more subtle ways in this industry. It is interesting because in other fields, as mentioned, the charisma and ambition are needed upfront—a Sales manager wants to hire someone who is energetic about increasing Sales revenue, regardless of whether or not they went to a prestigious school or university. In software development, based on some preliminary research, it feels as though the cultural fit and personality styles almost makes its way into the screening process, towards the end, after the difficult Coding exercises have been completed.

TagsScreening Software DevelopersCoding Assessment
Michael Robbins
Michael is a writer that helps organizations align their mission and values to a wide audience.

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