Skip the take-home assessment

June 2, 2021

Next time you’re applying for a tech job, and you’re asked to write a small application as part of the interview process, I want to challenge you to push back a little. Here’s some phrasing that has worked for me in the past:

Hi [recruiter name],

I enjoyed our chat.

I’ve looked over the take-home exercise, and I think it would be a more efficient use of everyone’s time, and also a much more meaningful demonstration of my coding abilities, to review some of my open-source code, which I know is actively used in by many organizations. [link to project] would be a good starting point.

Of course not everyone has an open-source project to share. Here are some other sources of code you might offer instead:

  • If you’re early in your career, consider some code used for a class assignment.
  • If possible, consider some code from a previous employer. Make sure you don’t violate any NDAs, and make sure it’s code you wrote.
  • If you have any hobby projects, host them publicly on GitHub or similar, and offer this.
  • If you have an open-source project, or one that you’ve contributed significantly to, you can use this.
  • Google for a coding kata that interests you, and put your code on GitHub.
  • Finally, if all else fails, go ahead and do a regular coding assignment for one job application. But then offer that code to other prospective employers.

Not every recruiter or potential employer will accept your offer, but for every one that does, you may save several hours of otherwise wasted work.

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