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Technical Interviews

February 12, 2024

It’s difficult to provide specific advice on a technical assessment for a company since every company is going to have their own unique set of challenges and problems they’ll want their hires to work on.

If you know you want your candidates to perform a technical assessment and you’re not a technical cofounder, our advice is to run it by someone on your team who does come with technical experience. It’s important to test on something you know how to evaluate, and what a great performance looks vs. an average or even poor performance.

However, for any technical assessment, we always recommend establishing the objective and criteria by which candidates will be evaluated and sharing this with them. It's important for them to understand how they're evaluated so they know where to spend their time and what to include in their response back to you.

We’re sharing some examples below of what a technical assessment could look like, if you choose to use one.

Example of a technical assessment for a Software Engineer:

  • Objective: Let’s say in this example we’re a healthcare company. The objective could be to assess the candidate's coding skills, problem-solving ability, and code quality.
  • Assessment: The challenge could be to develop a secure API endpoint to handle patient data, implement an algorithm to detect anomalies in health data and create a service to integrate with healthcare devices.
  • Evaluation Criteria: Code efficiency, readability, use of best practices, and the ability to write secure and maintainable code.

Another example of a technical assessment for a Software Engineer:

  • Objective: Let’s say in this example we’re a cybersecurity company. The objective could be to create a tool that scans web applications for common vulnerabilities (e.g., SQL injection, XSS, CSRF).
  • Assessment: Analyze network packets to detect patterns associated with common cyber threats (e.g., DDoS, phishing attempts), and log potential threats for further investigation.
  • Evaluation criteria: Network security, pattern recognition, and data analysis.

Example of a technical assessment for a Data Scientist or Data Engineer:

  • Objective: Let’s say in this example we’re at a healthcare startup again. The objective could be to test the candidate's skills in handling and interpreting health data.
  • Assessment: The challenge here could be to provide a dataset (ensuring it's anonymized and compliant with privacy laws, or completely fake) and ask the candidate to perform specific analyses, which could involve identifying trends, predicting health outcomes, or optimizing resource allocation.
  • Evaluation criteria: Proficiency in data analysis tools and techniques, ability to derive meaningful insights from data, and understanding of the ethical considerations in handling health data.

Example of a technical assessment for a Product Manager:

  • Objective: Let’s say in this example, you’re at a fintech company. The objective of the technical assessment would be to measure the candidate's ability to use data in making financial product decisions.
  • Task: Present the candidate with a set of data related to user behavior, financial transactions, or product performance metrics. Ask them to analyze the data and make a decision on a specific aspect of the product (e.g., feature enhancement, targeting strategies, or performance improvements). Which course of action would they recommend the most highly, and why?
  • Evaluation Criteria: Analytical skills, ability to derive insights from data, understanding of key performance indicators (KPIs) for fintech products, and decision-making process.

What about other types of assessments?

Other types of technical assessments could include a pair programming interview. This type of interview is when you're assigned to pair on a problem with an employee. Some examples include:

  • Given this test file, let's TDD the associated class
  • Let's write a K-means algorithm
  • Check out this bug in the code, let's find the source and solve it together

The interviewer (and peer) is seeing how you think through problems and how you go about coding production quality code. Learn more about pair programming in our article about 10 common tech interviews.

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