Why Pair Programming Works Well In The Hiring Process.

Hiring technical talent is one of your organisation’s biggest investments. But, to identify the best candidates, you need to test their skills in an effective way.

Choosing the right developer for your team can be a difficult task. Based on just interviews, assessing someone’s coding ability is almost impossible. According to a research study conducted by CareerBuilder, a staggering 74% of employers say they’ve hired the wrong candidate in the past.

Skill assessment tests can be an extremely effective tool for measuring a candidate's skills, and in helping to make the hiring process more objective. Over 76% of organisations with more than 100 employees rely on some form of assessment test at interview stage. 

There are various styles of skill tests that you could opt for, with the two more popular options being take home coding challenges and pair programming.  But which is the most effective when hiring software engineers? 

Take Home Coding Challenges

A take-home challenge is a skill assessment tool that lets you fairly and accurately test new developers.

However, it can be a tricky situation as you can’t oversee the process, since it is done at home and in the candidate’s own time. To make sure that a coding challenge is accurate and fair you would need to ensure you use the right tools for the job. You’d have to choose a tool with good plagiarism detection.

Pair Programming 

“Pair programming essentially means that two people write code together on one machine. It is a very collaborative way of working and involves a lot of communication. While a pair of developers work on a task together, they do not only write code, they also plan and discuss their work. They clarify ideas on the way, discuss approaches and come to better solutions.”

(Source: martinfowler.com

As part of the hiring process, this type of coding challenge can be more beneficial since a member of the hiring team and a candidate work on a task together. Either the candidate writes code and the interviewer reviews the code or they analyse a codebase together.

A code pairing interview helps interviewers get an understanding of the candidate’s coding, collaboration, and communication skills. A good pair programming session focuses on candidates’ skills. Studies show that this type of “work sample” is the most reliable assessment technique.

It is also a very thorough approach and therefore usually results in faster, more quality hires.

“In my experience, the most effective strategy for assessing a developer's skills is by pair programming on a simple but realistic coding task.
It's an extremely useful approach for a few reasons:

  • The candidate is in a familiar setting (their own computer) working through the task
  • You can assess their communication skills as they work through a problem
  • You can discuss their thought process instead of only seeing the end result
  • The candidate can also assess the skills and communication of the interviewer

If you have a great team, the pair programming phase can be the one that helps a candidate decide they want to work for your company, because they've already gotten a realistic idea of what it would be like to collaborate on a technical problem.” 

(Monica Lent, Founder of Affilimate)

At 4zero, we are huge advocates of seamless hiring processes that result in organisations hiring the best candidates for the role. We recommend that companies devote their attention towards making the in-person interview as useful as possible, and skip a take-home exercise (especially at first) because an in-person coding exercise lets you verify the candidate’s technical competence as well as their ability to communicate effectively and collaborate with a fellow engineer (a great example of how they will work for your organisation). 

If you’d like to hear how we can give you the edge in the search for software developers, please get in touch with a member of the team today: 

UK & Europe: +44208 089 8300
US: +1(929) 566 2860
Email: hello@4zero.io

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