There are online services such as IKM that offer skills tests in many areas, including programming.

Would you use these kind of tests when hiring for a senior developer position?

What about just for objectively benchmarking candidates before calling them for an interview? Would you use it as a step after short-listing candidates after interviews?

Is this approach more suitable in some situations compared to others? Have you personally used this kind of service or know someone who has?

  • Does IKM offer the ability to customize the questions?
    – talonx
    Nov 8, 2010 at 10:00
  • Yes, they say that in their brochure. I have no real experience. Also the testing is adaptive i.e. gets tougher progressively as you go on to correctly answer questions.
    – softveda
    Nov 8, 2010 at 10:08
  • Even better ,use an IQ test :)
    – Aditya P
    Apr 1, 2011 at 9:40
  • The one time I took an "online skills test" as part of a job interview, I got several questions wrong because they were written wrong (what the test expected for the correct answer was actually invalid) or poorly (none of the answers made sense in the context of the question, or the question was not clear).
    – alroc
    Mar 14, 2013 at 13:04
  • 1
    Online tests are IMO very limited: a senior might not be familiar with the specific topic of the online test but might be able to learn it within two weeks. A less expert developer might happen to know that topic and score very well, but that's about it.
    – Giorgio
    Mar 16, 2013 at 15:34

7 Answers 7


To be blunt: No, No, No, No and No!

Get the candidate in to do some coding with you, it's the only way you'll know how they think their way through problems and how they might fit into your team.

As an aside I'd try to avoid recruiting via the CV lottery technique :-), instead find good people through word of mouth, conferences, technical community meetups etc. Avoids the sharky recruitment agents as well.

  • 2
    Good idea during interview time. But what about screening candidates, shouldn't the good ones simply fly through it. To management this seems to be an objective and cost-effective solution than calling many candidates for interview. Trying to play devil's advocate here.
    – softveda
    Nov 8, 2010 at 10:11
  • 2
    See my 'aside' note. Going through the CV then technical on-line test lottery just isn't going to reliably get you a good candidate. Lets say the online test is like a Sun/Oracle certified exams for Java - The junior developer who's just studied the exam passes this test with ease. Martin Fowler, who hasn't coded in Java recently - fails, who would you rather hire? Nov 8, 2010 at 11:01
  • I agree with you and that's why marked it as answer. I am not doing the hiring so the decision is not mine.
    – softveda
    Nov 20, 2010 at 10:31

From a IT professional of 38 years who recently had to take one of these tests, I was appalled at idea that some one sold them as useful. The questions seemed to focus on techniques rarely used in everyday experiences, things an experienced programmer would just clone from working examples of other programs or use manuals or freinds to determine. No experienced programmer hardly ever writes a program from scratch. What a waste of time. Anyone that thinks experienced programmers know every feature of the languages they use by heart, have no idea of the way the job is done in reality. It's scarry as usual, to think that HR people with no practical technical experience, look on these tests as an excuse for their lack of knowledge. Nuff said.


In theory, the idea of an online test to screen out completely unqualified applicants isn't too bad of one. Unfortunately, it's pretty close to worthless in reality.

First of all, none of the online testing sites I've looked at had a test that was really worthwhile. Second, it's all too easy for a completely unqualified person to get a friend (or whomever) to help in out for the duration of a test, and pass with flying colors without knowing anything about the subject matter.

Even if you could work around the second problem (e.g., have them take the test on a computer at your offices, with nobody else present, no chat programs, etc.) I doubt that there's such a thing as a useful online test anyway. Tests generally deal in facts, not ideas -- but programming is mostly about ideas and (particularly) exercising good judgement. While a programmer certainly needs to know some facts about the language(s) they use, a test of that sort of knowledge won't tell you much.


I would suggest you to use online testing services only to filter the incompetent candidates. Because many senior developers (as they think) are not senior developers. Just middle or junior.

After you filter incompetent programmers, you need to meet each candidate and ask him about the experience.

Experience should be the main criterion for selection. Programming skills is second, but also very important.

Checkout the following testing services, similar IKM, but oriented only to the programmers:

Tests for Geeks, Codility, BrainBench


Are you hiring him to take tests or write code?

If you're having that much of an issue with the introductory screen, your recruiters and placement partners are doing a bad job and you should replace them. If someone send me nothing but a stream of really bad candidates that can't pass a simple in person test, we change recruiters.


Would you use this kind of tests while hiring senior developer positions?


What about just for objectively benchmarking candidates before calling them for interview?

No. Benchmarking implies you compare candidates based on score. The tests are better used to determine a baseline, not perform benchmarking between candidates.

Would you use it as a step after short-listing candidates after interview?

No. You should have done the test before the interview. The interview is the basis for future consideration.

Is this approach more suitable in some situations compared to others?

If proof of programming knowledge is most of what a candidate would bring (e.g. junior developer) then it is proportionally more useful.

Have you personally used this kind of services or know someone using it?

I was subject to one at a recruiting company I used. I found it helpful in understanding which concepts I needed to brush up on.


I have used tests to hire developers, and would again. While all three finalists failed, I ended up hiring the one that had the best score of the group. I think it was a good move. When you are hiring a skill set that you don't already have on staff, it is impossible to evaluate the skill of the person you are hiring objectively any other way.

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