Hiring creative, specialized and competent persons, such as software engineers and other IT specialists, is more often than not a mind-boggling task, for it is packed with countless variables that can turn the hiring process into a living nightmare.
Recruiters and hiring managers occasionally battle competing goals: finding the correct quality, quantity, and variety of candidates, making fair and effective hiring decisions, and doing all of this efficiently, on time, and on budget.
Even though hiring processes are created to cope with most of these challenges, they often prove to actually be the stumbling block if not devised and executed correctly. In this article, we will focus on take-home assessment as one of the indispensable parts of the hiring process and share with you a few insider tips on managing it with minimum hassle and maximum results.
In today’s candidate-driven market, optimization and proper specification of the hiring process is essential. Failing to be transparent and proactive about your recruitment flow might result in candidates withdrawing from the said process. There are various reasons for such an outcome: some candidates do not believe it is necessary, others have other options lined up, and they will pick a hiring procedure that is less tedious for them.
Based on their approach towards hiring, candidates can be roughly divided into two groups – assertive and non-assertive.
Each of the two broadly defined groups have similar concerns, respectively:
- Will the compensation be up to my expectations?
- What will my status in the company be?
- Do the company mission and values resonate with me?
- Will my skills be put to good use?
- What kind of health care plans does the company offer?
- What are the company’s work-from-home and time-off policies?
- Are there any additional perks (gym membership, free meals, child daycare, and similar amenities)?
- What will the hiring process look like?
- Am I truly experienced enough for this position?
- Are other candidates more qualified or more experienced than I am?
- Am I a good fit for this company?
- Will I be too nervous at the interview?
- Will the hiring process be fair and non-biased?
- What will the hiring process look like?
Just to be clear – we are not suggesting that you, as a recruiter, should automatically place candidates into a box A or a box B. Instead, you can use this division along with the listed questions to better understand the candidate and modify your approach accordingly.
Take-home testing is an excellent way to evaluate your candidates’ coding, DevOps. project management, copywriting, and other skills. Through take-home assignments, your company can examine how a potential applicant reacts and performs on a specific part of the job. As a recruiter, you are already familiar with this – your next step is to explain it to the candidate.
To do so, you first have to find out if the candidate had previous experience with such form of testing and, if so, was the experience positive or negative. If the latter is the case, you should acknowledge their concerns and offer your pro arguments:
- They are an excellent way of obtaining necessary information to make an informed hiring choice while not taking up too much of the candidate’s time.
- They add objectivity and consistency to what can be a highly subjective employment process.
- Ensure the candidate that your company will not take advantage of their results.
- Some candidates have “quiet personalities” and rarely stand out in the crowd. In this way, they are entitled to the same treatment as others.
Encourage candidates to ask questions
Being open to answering candidates’ questions is a strong signal of openness and honesty. Having that in mind, don’t forget that the hiring process is a traumatic experience for many candidates.
Answering questions is challenging enough, let alone coming up with the ones to ask after the interview is complete. In this case, the best practice is to divide the conversation into several segments and give them enough time to come up with potential questions after each part.
In this way, the candidate will feel more prepared for the task and encouraged to take the take-home assessment. At the same time, you will gather valuable information about their interests and personality traits and determine if you are a good fit even in the early stage of the hiring process. This practice is very valuable as it helps you maintain the efficiency of your hiring pipeline.
Be sure to keep track of all the questions and answers as they are going to be useful later on. Also, if you don’t know the answer to the question they might have, be straightforward about it. As a recruiter, you are not obliged to be informed about every detail or process in the company. Instead, make an effort to speak with the hiring managers and provide an answer. Alternatively, you can request that the candidate puts it in writing so you can discuss it with the best-suited team member.
Showing the candidate that you don’t have all the answers is not a sign of ignorance – instead, it might encourage them to ask questions themselves.
After you have completed the interview and made sure the candidate is planning to proceed with the take-home assessment, go the extra mile - make an effort to sum up all the information vital to their task and send them via email or another appropriate channel.
Trying to memorize all the information given in the interview is a backbreaking task, and few candidates can pull it off.
Keep in mind that most candidates will not ask you for such a “favor” for fear of seeming unprofessional. On the other hand, they might be introverted, and making any kind of request for further clarification would be way out of their comfort zone, if not unachievable.
Another possible solution is to make an FAQ list for them, listing the most common questions candidates have had in the past and providing answers. This way, you can minimize the error margins, as well as the need for further questions.
Showing proactiveness on your part could prove to be crucial in this stage.
Here’s a short email template you can use for this purpose:
Email Subject Line: [Company Name]: Take-home assessment recap for [Candidate]
Dear [First Name],
Thank you for taking the time to discuss our take-home assessment process.
Here is a brief recap of our conversation:
To help you finish your take-home assessment more efficiently, we have created an FAQ list that we believe you might find helpful:
If you have any questions or need any clarification in the meantime, please feel free to contact us.
The importance of keeping your candidates in the loop with the evaluation process is commonly overlooked and most often underestimated. By keeping them informed, you are not just showing your interest in them but are likely to reduce the number of on-the-day dropouts. Staying in touch with your candidates regularly helps you clarify the expectations and keep them interested.
Explain how the company’s side of the process works.
Give them “insider’s information” on what criteria you use to assess their performance.
Make it clear that you use the same review form for all candidates and that they are all evaluated in the same way.
Remind them unintrusively of the deadlines.
Explain in which format you will provide feedback.
Provide feedback even if the candidate did not make the cut.
Remember – any kind of answer is better than no answer.
Fair and honest candidate evaluations should be a principal focus for every recruiter. This ensures that you treat every candidate with respect and has a positive impact on hiring quality, corporate reputation, and long-term retention.
Many things can go wrong in the hiring process – issues with the email addresses from your company (usually emails ending up in spam folder), overlooked applications, hiring managers being late with their part of the process, recruitment software errors, to name a few.
For example, your hiring managers were given unreasonable timelines or took the day off, causing a clog in your hiring funnel. After discussing the problem with the hiring team, notify the candidate immediately. Apologize for the inconvenience, explain the issue and thank them for their patience. It’s not about pointing fingers; it’s about working as a team.
If it affects the candidate in any way, the only worse thing than having an issue is keeping quiet about it.
The recruiter’s job is not an easy one.⭐ There are many moving parts in the hiring process that can cause issues and clog up the hiring funnel. Using take-home assessments to evaluate job candidates and following the tips from this article will make the process more stable, transparent, and beneficial to both your company and the candidates.