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Top 9 Ways to Test the Programming Skills of Candidates

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03 February, 2023

Hiring a programmer is expensive. The upfront costs can often run into five-figure salaries. After all, technical talent is most sought-after across industries and domains.

If recruiters hire the wrong type of software developer, the costs will only go uphill from there. Add to the fact the complexities that come with hiring programmers, and we've got a real problem at hand.

Let's understand what the data tells us:

  • Time-intensive process: According to research, the time to fill a software developer can go up to 39 days.
  • High costs: Numerous estimates reinforce how costly it is to hire software developers:
    • SHRM: As per SHRM, the average cost per hire is $4,129, and it takes 42 days to fill a software development position.
    • Glassdoor: According to Glassdoor, it costs about $4,000 and 24 days to hire a new worker. 
    • Indeed: As per Indeed, the average salary of a software engineer is $119,630, with a $5,000 cash bonus per year.

In this article, we will understand how to:

  • Test programming skills of candidates
  • Reduce the cost of bad hires
  • Hire job-fit programmers

Let's jump in.

What is the Importance of Coding Skills Tests?

Whether recruiters wish to test the soft skills or test the programming skills of software developers, a coding skills test comes in handy. Here are its top benefits:

  • Soft skills: Helps assess a candidate's communication skills and evaluate their ability to provide clear, concise, and well-structured responses.
  • Scalability: Helps scale the hiring process and test numerous candidates simultaneously due to advanced automation.
  • Quick: Helps find the right talent for a role or a job quickly and effortlessly.
  • Accurate: Avoids chances of misleading self-reported technical skills by candidates as they have to engage in live coding tests to solve real-life problems and scenarios to prove their proficiency in programming.
  • Optimized hiring: Helps maximize the hiring results as coders may not be great at marketing their own skills; programming tests provide the talent with a chance to shine and stand out from the crowd.
  • All-round testing: Helps hire talented coders whose skills go beyond coding; for instance, a live interview programming test can demonstrate in real-time how the developer will solve a problem step by step, analyze their soft skills, and determine how seamlessly the talent will fit into the team.


Use iMocha, a coding assessment tool with a 2500+ skills test library comprising app development tests, coding tests, and more!


Top 9 Tips on How to Test Programming Skills

There are thousands of ways to test the programming skills of candidates.

Here are the top 9 expert-approved strategies recruiters can make their own and use in combination:

Tip #1: Check the Candidate’s Portfolio, Projects, and GitHub/Stack Overflow Profiles

In the software development world, resumes and CVs are not enough to gauge an applicant's skills. This is why most programmers have a portfolio to demonstrate their skills.

Recruiting managers must take a look at the following to get a complete understanding of the candidate:

  • Portfolio of the candidate, which must include the following:
    • An “About me” section
    • Overview of the projects, including how and when they were executed
    • Educational background (are they self-taught, or do they have an educational degree?)
    • Contact details

Pro tip: Look at the developer's contextual contribution to a project and the overall impact of their work. Also, analyze the candidate's problem-solving, analytical thinking, and debugging skills.

  • GitHub/Stack Overflow profile: Both these platforms enable developers to build and maintain their software. Developers can also ask questions related to programming. When evaluating either of the profile, check for the following:
    • Number of projects successfully implemented
    • The quality, readability, and formatting of the code they wrote
    • New languages and frameworks learned to understand how well-versed they are with the latest technologies
    • Contributions to open-source projects (are they contributing regularly?), which is an indicator of the candidate being a strong team player
    • Recent activity and number of followers (to understand if the candidate is a thought leader and a proactive member of the community)
  • Hobbies and interests: Hiring managers must also look for additional hobbies and interests of the candidate that may provide insights into their love for coding

Tip #2: Use Programming Skills Tests of iMocha as a Predictor of Performance

Instead of relying on resumes, evaluate candidate performance and skills objectively with strategic programming tests.

To test the programming skills of candidates and assess their knowledge of C - Language, Database, and Software Engineering Design, iMocha offers a basic online computer skills assessment.

This test focuses on evaluating the knowledge of applied skills gained through real work experience instead of solely relying on theoretical knowledge. Plus, it comprises different formats such as:

  • Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)
  • Multiple Answer Questions (MAQs)
  • Fill in the Blanks
  • Whiteboard Questions
  • Audio/Video Questions
  • Coding Simulators
  • True or False Questions

The test enables tech recruiters to:

  • Assess the working skills and job readiness of candidates
  • Interview high-quality candidates and save time
  • Leverage powerful reporting and detailed analysis of test results to make informed decisions and predict candidate success

Pro tip: Add cultural-fit tests, personality tests, role-specific tests, and cognitive ability tests to the mix and gain a well-rounded perspective of the candidate.


Spending too much time going through resumes for the right candidate? Learn how iMocha's analytics help filter irrelevant candidates and reduce time-to-hire by 45%



Tip #3: Use iMocha’s AI-LogicBox, a Pseudo-Coding Platform

One of the biggest pain points for recruiters is assessing programmers for the latest skills (think: Salesforce, AWS, Azure, SAP, and more) using coding compilers and MCQs.

This is where iMocha's AI-LogicBox can lend a helping hand to recruiters by allowing them to assess the developer's functional skills.

Recruiters can access a repository of over 1500 questions, including data skills, quality engineering, enterprise application, infrastructure management, cyber security, clouding, application development, and more.


Key Pain Points

How AI-LogicBox Solves It

  • Using Multiple Choice Questions:
    • Restricts answers with options
    • Does not allow candidates to justify the answer
    • Does not offer recruiters an in-depth understanding of the candidate's logical capabilities
  • Eliminates the guesswork related to MCQs 







  • Writing the code from scratch increases the time and effort needed to attempt assessments and lowers candidate participation
  • Offers a ready repository with 1500+ questions for Digital Skills, Quality Engineering, App Development, etc.


  • Conventional technical encoding assessments:
    • Are time-consuming and boring, which leads to a lower candidate and employee engagement
    • Can potentially corrupt the test outcomes, resulting in a loss of skilled talent
    • Tend to focus completely on syntax instead of creativity and logic
  • AI-LogicBox works as 'Code in the Blanks'a faster and smarter way to code than regular coding assessments as it focuses on logic implementation and creativity rather than syntax 








Get a free demo and learn how iMocha's AI-LogicBox can empower you to make intelligent talent decisions.



Tip #4: Use Live-Coding Assessments for an Engaging and Immersive Hiring Experience

One of the most controversial topics for candidates is the concept of 'live coding,' and for a good reason. Candidates have to do plenty within a short time frame. They need to:

  • Constantly think on their feet and act with agility
  • Be patient and composed, and ask the right questions
  • Multitask and explain their coding thinking process while working on it
  • Possess excellent communication skills (even if they're dealing with the interview jitters and anxiety)

However, if conducted properly, it can double up as an invaluable skills assessment tool. Take, for instance, iMocha's Live Coding Interview feature, which enables recruiters to:

  • Evaluate the thought process and approach of candidates by providing a pair-programming experience, which helps evaluate how the candidate approaches problem-solving in real time.
  • Get a real-time collaborative assessment experience, which lowers the time to hire and prevents the occurrence of multiple interview rounds.
  • Eliminate written feedback and time-intensive processes.
  • Maintain a high invite-to-appear ratio, as the coding assessment is anything but traditional.

Your candidates not taking assessments? Learn how iMocha's innovative problem is solving this challenge.



Tip #5: Make Use of Project-based Assessment and Assess Developers on Key Front-End Technologies

Front-end developers today need to be hands-on with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript technologies. However, MCQ assessments or traditional interviews cannot evaluate these skills accurately.

Here's where iMocha's project-based question assessments empower hiring managers. This hands-on coding activity allows them to assess the front-end skills of a developer in a coding environment with real-time output.

Using iMocha’s Project-based Assessments, tech recruiters can:

  • Conduct practical hands-on skill assessments more quickly, accurately, and in a more scalable manner
  • Evaluate applicants and candidates based on real-world scenarios by making use of framework-based technologies

Here's how it works:

Step 1: The candidate gets access to a pseudo-coding environment where they can compile their code to see if it actually works.

Step 2: The candidate builds a mini project using iMocha's compiler or IDE in a set time. 

Step 3: The mini-project created is then auto-evaluated, and recruiters can get the complete analytics and the candidates' syntax for reference.

Translated benefits for the recruiter:

  • Easy evaluation of project-ready proficiency of candidates through real-world scenarios.
  • Zero hours wasted for manual evaluation and one-click access to detailed reports on candidates' skills, competencies, and weaknesses.
  • High candidate engagement due to creative assessments as opposed to typical coding or MCQ tests:

iMocha Project-based AssessmentsImage Source

  • Simplified workflows to conduct take-home project assignments.
  • Access to a ready-to-use iMocha projects library.
  • The ability to simulate a professional workflow in a candidate-friendly environment.


Tip #6: Provide Take-Home Project Assessments

If candidate convenience is a priority, tap into the power of take-home coding challenges.

These coding tests empower candidates to:

  • Complete the test remotely and on their own
  • Complete a real-world task with a time frame of 3-4 hours

On the recruiter's side, here are the top benefits:

  • Helps recruiters get a comprehensive understanding of candidates’ skills in a real-world setting
  • Enables recruiters to understand how candidates would perform within the team
  • Allows recruiters to analyze if candidates are flexible and can work with tight schedules

Pro tip: The biggest challenge of a take-home challenge is that the hiring team will need to evaluate every test manually and provide feedback. This is why it is best to send a take-home test once recruiters have conducted a few rounds of interviews and short-listed candidates.


Tip #7: Conduct Pair Programming for a Collaborative Hiring Experience

If you've got tech recruiters on your team with good coding knowledge, engaging in pair programming tasks makes sense. Here's how it works:

Step 1: In this type of coding test, an employee on the hiring team completes the test together with the candidate.

Step 2: This helps the recruiter actually discuss and participate with the candidate (as opposed to simply observing them). 

Step 3: The recruiter can gather in-depth insights into how the candidate works, solves issues and communicates clearly.

All in all, pair programming is an effective method for how to test the programming skills of candidates. It can be done remotely or in person.


Tip #8: Assess the Coding Knowledge by Providing a Coding Simulator

Assessing the candidate's coding knowledge, analytical thinking, problem-solving, and logical approach with one centralized tool has never been possible—until now.

iMocha’s coding simulators help with the following:

  • Accessing and hiring top coders and evaluating the coding skills of employees.
  • Offering an exceptional coding experience with a real-life coding environment for coders using Code Stubs, Intellisense, customizable editor keyboard, editor theme, and custom test inputs.
  • Offer the largest coding content library in the world with 2500+ coding problems (for Front-end, Back-end, Mobility, Specialized QBs, Databases, and so on) across 35+ coding languages, which include Java, Python, C#, and more.
  • Recruiters can add their own coding problems or get customized problems created.
  • Access coding insights using intelligent analytics and comprehensive reports on the candidate’s code quality, the correctness of the code, plagiarism check, code replay, and more.

Top features of iMocha’s coding simulators:

  • Code Stubs across multiple languages so candidates can focus on the logic and algorithm instead of writing the code from scratch.
  • Intellisense to save the coder’s time and provide auto-completion of code lines.
  • Customizable Editor Keyboard (Vim/Emacs) and Editor Theme (Dark/Light) to prioritize candidate convenience and offer them a world-class coding experience.
  • Custom test input that empowers the coder to test code using their own inputs.
  • Code Replay to capture the mind map of the candidate.


Hire at scale, faster, and most skill-fit candidates with iMocha's Skill Intelligence platform



Tip #9: Conduct Hackathons

Another foolproof way to test the programming skills of candidates is to conduct hackathons.

How do these help?

  • Collaboration: Developers leverage hackathons as a collaborative platform to solve problems together and complete the set tasks.
  • Targeted hiring: Hackathons enable recruiters to hire candidates on a specific topic or theme. The theme essentially comprises certain programming skills that the candidates must possess to solve the tasks.
  • Talent pipeline: An important responsibility for tech recruiters is building a robust talent pipeline. This is where hackathons work their magic. Recruiters can attract developers and add them to the organization's talent pool. These 'assets' can be contacted later on once a relevant role opens for them. 

How to Assess the Competency of Candidates with iMocha? 

Whether recruiters want to test the coding skills of junior, mid-level, or senior developers, iMocha helps them in testing the technical competencies and programming skills of candidates.

The best part? Recruiters can customize the test by:

  • Setting the difficulty level and choosing questions between varied experience levels (such as easy, medium, or tricky) from a 2500+ skills library
  • Combining multiple skills in one test and evaluating different technical competencies
  • Adding, editing, or bulk uploading custom coding, MCQ, and whiteboard questions
  • Receiving a tailored assessment created by iMocha's subject matter experts for accurate screening
  • Using anti-cheating measures in-built within the tool to deliver a fair assessment experience

In a nutshell: iMocha's programming assessment tool is created by subject-matter experts. The tests are continuously improved so that hiring managers can recruit objectively and accurately.

Moreover, they can hire skill-fit and job-ready candidates, remove hiring bias, and save additional overhead costs related to a bad hire.



Learn how iMocha reduced time-to-hire from 17 days to 7 days for niche roles for a leading IT services company.



Q. How to test a developer's skills?

Here are a few tips on how to test the programming skills of developers:

  • Look into their programming portfolio to understand the kind of projects they can deliver and the languages as well as frameworks they prefer.
  • Study their Stack Overflow or GitHub profile to understand the kind of open-source projects they contribute to and how active they are in the community.
  • Conduct live coding interview tests to assess their skills and technical capabilities in real-time using robust software.
  • Drive soft-skills tests such as tests for communication skills, analytical thinking, personality tests, and more.
  • Learn about the candidate's hobbies and interests relating to coding to understand their level of passion for programming.

Every tech recruiter's hiring strategy will differ depending on the project and organizational goals. So, make sure to use a combination of these methods and hire top-notch talent the first time around!

Gemma Benny
Gemma Benny
I am a Content Writer at iMocha. A B2B writer that creates articles and listicles while trying to build a relationship with potential clients and also adding value to the content wherever possible. I have previously worked with clients in the medical, fashion, education, IT, and beauty domains. Before joining as a full-time writer, I worked as a digital marketer for over two years. When I am not keeping busy with content writing, you can find me baking, exploring the culinary world, and playing badminton.
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