8 Tips for successful Developer and Data
Science Hiring Challenges

Image of a developer taking hiring challenges

There’s no doubt about it – developer hiring or data science hiring is a pressing issue for most businesses. Especially if they have an appetite for onboarding the best tech talent. To solve this, more and more companies are adopting modern hiring practices and investing in sophisticated recruitment tools and mechanisms. Developer hiring challenge is one such mechanism. Most technology players, be it a seed-stage startup or a Fortune 500 giants are banking on it lately.

This blog shares some of the best practices for maximizing the results of remote hiring challenges conducted for sourcing and screening engineering and data science talent.


What are typical hurdles in Developer Hiring contests? 

Developer hiring challenges are often an excellent way to grow the hiring pipeline. Hiring challenges strengthen the employer brand among a relevant audience, and objectively screen talent based on skills that matter. However, as much hunky-dory as this sounds, it can get tricky at times.

Most of the top engineering or AI talent consider multiple roles simultaneously and are high in-demand. In these cases, it’s not just about reaching them. Delivering a great candidate experience remains an essential part of it.

Furthermore, while conducting a developer hiring challenge, you might be sourcing talent through some tech communities or just testing the talent in your existing hiring pipeline. In either case, it’s essential to reduce the churn at all stages of the process. Every applicant is more valuable when talent is scarce.

This blog lists 8 To-Dos that you can glance at before conducting challenges. These could be for hiring the next set of frontend engineers, backend engineers, AI engineers, etc.

  1. Review the onboarding process for the hiring challenge
  2. Pick the right developer hiring platforms for sourcing talent
  3. Maximize the number of people you’re testing
  4. Decide the suitable format of questions
  5. Ensure a convenient challenge experience for developers
  6. Know how to deter and detect cheating
  7. Make sure to share your company culture

 1. Review the onboarding process for the hiring challenge

Reviewing the onboarding process has a lot to do with giving a great candidate experience and reducing churn. Giving a good candidate experience is one of the most critical factors in shaping your employer brand for developer hiring or data science hiring.

Most talent acquisition leaders who work with us analyze and optimize the candidate journey to the best extent. As a recruiter, you must to check if the platform requires a dedicated sign-up on their platform for your hiring challenge. Additionally, if the platform or the standard settings require developers to complete a bucket list of proctoring tasks, evaluate if that’s okay for you and get a buy-in from other stakeholders too. If the platform supports an automated email reminder feature, make sure that you haven’t kept it disabled.


Automatic Reminder for developer hiring challenges



Skillspace.ai recently added this feature of email reminders which is helping companies reduce manual effort and churn in the invite-to-assessment stage.

All of these can be roadblocks or, more specifically, churn points when you’re chasing the best talent in universities or the industry. Addressing and reviewing these with an easy-to-use technical assessments platform can be an excellent way to get started with a strong foundation.

Further to further improve the efficiencies, one common practice is to call potentially good candidates and explain to them as to why the test is important. A similar practice was adopted by Dun & Bradstreet that helped them get 86% of people to take the tests. So if you don’t have this as a part of your current practices and you’re seeing a massive churn in the first step, it may worthwhile to experiment with a bit more human touch in the candidate screening process.

 2. Pick the right developer hiring platforms for sourcing talent

Job posting platforms like AngelList, LinkedIn, etc., work well in many cases. Beyond these, recruiters source talent from several developer communities or events too. For example, there’s an actively engaged developer and data science community (100K+ individuals in numbers) on DPhi. Full disclosure, DPhi is our parent platform so we may have some bias towards it. But in our experience we’ve seen companies like Alibaba, TigerGraph, Tata Communications, Peking University, and several startups leverage it smartly for engaging with the community of experienced data scientists and professional developers.

As a recruiter, you need to know that every community generally focuses on a few user segments. Many developer challenges platforms majorly have university talent or have big numbers to show without high-quality talent. When engaging with such platforms, make sure if there’s a fit with your hiring requirements. Else, you’d end up having a lot of noise in your hiring channels. You might get to see a significant number of people registering for your hiring challenges. Still, most of them would not be able to clear them or might not even have the professional experience you’re looking for. Hence choosing the right platform can play an integral role in ensuring that you hire data scientists or developers as per the targeted schedule.

 3. Maximize the number of people you’re testing

A Harvard Business Review report mentions – “the talent pools recruiters have routinely tapped are becoming outmoded. Highly gifted candidates can now be found outside traditional talent clusters, such as leading universities and technical colleges. More and more people are acquiring critical skills informally on the job—or even in their own basements.”

The global technology leaders understand this. Hence, they have built a strong employer brand that fetches them talent organically from diverse backgrounds. Further, they’ve made their in-house tools for conducting assessments for developer hiring at scale. Typical examples for these can be seen as challenges like Facebook HackerCup or Google Codejam. But how do you address this if you’re not one of these?

If you’re using a platform whose pricing model limits you to test only a limited number of people, you need to know the options available at hand before hiring the next set of engineers. At Skillspace.ai, we realize the inefficiencies caused by this model. Hence, we offer unlimited assessments through our starter pricing plans, and are open to working with enterprises to implementing unlimited assessments with all the features if necessary. This way, our users test as many people as they’d want without having to worry about budgets.

A former Recruiting Director of Facebook mentioned on Quora that it helps to reach out to candidates who are not great at marketing themselves. This can happen if you’re sourcing in targeted ways and evaluating maximum people based on their skills and not just their social profiles or resumes.

 4. Decide the suitable format of questions

Most technical leaders would have a perspective about the skills they want to evaluate for developer hiring. To give you an example, if you have spare time, you can check out this long thread on Y-Combinator’s Hacker News platform with many arguments on specific famous hiring processes.

For early-stage hiring (0-3 years), it’s common to test on data structures and algorithms and other fundamental subjects, instead of specific programming languages. Such tests typically check the developers to solve problems while considering the edge cases on time and under pressure. We are not against this practice and understand why engineering leaders in our clientele add these algorithmic questions to their tests on Skillspace.ai.

However, it’s important to note that systems have evolved. You now can conduct similar kinds of role-specific assessments for specific frameworks or fields like data science.

You don’t have to give a complex set of algorithmic questions for a candidate for a role like a frontend developer. It not just churns out a lot of good candidates but also spoils the candidate experience. Instead, you can give projects that can be graded automatically using unit testing. This would test their hands-on proficiency with the required frontend engineering frameworks.

Based on the requirements for data science hiring, you can have a mix of coding and AI/ML questions . This way you can test both algorithmic proficiency and the ability to work seamlessly with Jupyter Notebooks and develop ML models as required by your data science teams.

 5. Ensure a convenient challenge experience for developers

You have spent a few hours and drafted the exact requirements from the talent. That’s great! But you must ensure that every thing is properly communicated to the developers. Make sure that you’re putting out the instructions at a place where they’ll be read.

If possible, add the essential instructions in your candidate email invites that you’ll be sending to developers in your hiring funnel.

Option to add just proctoring settings and instructions to developer hiring challenges



You’ll often find the option to add instructions that with be communicated via email invites and test landing page. (Note that, Skillspace.ai offers several more functionalities at the moment. Signup to check the latest features, if interested.)

Before finalizing a platform for sending out tests, ensure that the platform experience resonates with your employer brand. Otherwise, you can be looking forward to long threads by developers describing the hiring experience for your company. And yes, every coding platform offers an IDE. But hiring teams need to put themselves in developers’ shoes to understand if the experience is something they’d admire.

 6. Know how to deter and detect cheating while hiring developers

Developers are active in online communities. It’s no surprise that you’d find questions of live hiring challenges posted on developer discussion forums. Thus you should pick only those questions which are not indexed on search engines already.

Select a platform with the right set of proctoring features and adjust them as per your needs. For example, Skillspace.ai offers the liberty to choose the extent of proctoring in hiring challenges. Every proctoring feature hampers the test-taker experience to a certain degree. Hence picking the right balance is essential.

A common practice is to have most of the proctoring features enabled in university hiring drives and lesser proctoring for professional developer hiring. If you are using the correct technical assessments tool, you can easily access the code submissions in the remote tests. Your teams can further ask further questions on them during the interview rounds if you wish to do so. 

 7. Make sure to share your company culture

With every developer hiring challenge, you get the real estate to share your employer brand. You might not want it to be on the highest priority and keep the focus on the tests. But make sure to mention your brand at a place where developers can view it. Almost all the platforms should give you this option, and whether or not your account manager is consulting you about this, you should be using it.

Further, one of the key things that a former talent leader of Zeta, Directi, Bank of America, Fractal Analytics mentioned is that it’s imperative to zero down on the value proposition as share it as much frequently as possible. Hence if you have an opportunity to do that before your hiring challenges, leverage it.

In a nutshell

Developer Hiring challenges are great ways to hire technical talent. And in all the likelihood, you’ll get some branding and talent from most of your hiring challenges.

However, in today’s growth-driven ecosystem, when you’re looking to hire a certain number of developers within a particular timeline, knowing a few edge cases will help you maximize the output of your investment.


Want to schedule a consultative call on developer hiring?

If you’re looking to conduct developer hiring challenges and want to connect with our team for a demo or customized insights customized to your use case, you can request a call here. Our team will be happy to add value to your hiring experience.