Screening out the bad candidates with a coding challenge!

A while back, I published an article on nujob about an experience I had failing a coding challenge and eventually turning that fail into a pass.

The article resonated with a few people and even got retweeted by Uncle Bob.

It troubles me that that there has been a recent trend of companies using coding challenges blindly as a first stage screening – mainly because of the wealth of coding challenge systems that have appeared online such as HackerRank, Codility, and Geektastic.

Of all the ones I’ve tried. Geektastic is the one I liked the most as although it is an online system – it actually tries to get out of your way and let you write code in your own way in you own dev environment. Furthermore the code isn’t automatically marked, there is no right or wrong – This is a huge step in the right direction.

The other ones I have tried, like Codility, seem to want you to write code in the browser window – which is very very cool, but soon becomes a burden (no intellisense, unclear compiler errors, inability to write your own tests, missing librarys, 3rd party libraries impossible – the list goes on). They do say you can copy paste out to your own IDE and copy paste back – but seriously…. why make me do that?  And then after all that, you get a score based on some tests they run in the background – the recruiter or client sees this score and tries to use it to compare candidates… yuck.

Anyhow, since I’m passionate about this topic and since I liked Geektastic, I got in touch with Rick, the CEO, and went for coffee. We chatted about all things coding challenge and it was a breath of fresh air.

Rick asked me to write a guest post for Geektastic and I jumped at the chance.

The topic for me was obvious… How to create a coding challenge that screens out the bad candidates without alienating the good ones.

I shared my ideas with his audience and it was my chance to get into the nitty gritty on this topic.

One of the biggest pain points I have is having to do a test in the first place. Like my peers, I have wealth of experience and a happy client base from the last 15 years to match – if you make me do a coding challenge, you better make it easy for me!

This is something that I find it often a problem, good candidates don’t want to do your stupid test. I think the ultimate screen-out test is finding something that a good candidate can do in 10 minutes, but a bad candidate can’t complete or takes the full amount of time.

Heaven forbid it should also be a challenge that they actually enjoy!!  I can tell you now… if you make me parse a phone bill or do Fizz Buzz (again!!!), I’m not gonna enjoy it – I’ll probably still do it,  after all I’m a bit of a geek about them.

Anyway, it is quite a deep topic, and I get into many of the details in the article. Big props to Zeno for helping me out too.


I love feedback, if you enjoy the article, please take a minute to write a comment on the article on geektastic. I’m really keen to hear what you think and your views on the topic. I promise to respond – thanks in advance.

Want a simple website or a blog? Use WordPress

You may notice that this site is made using WordPress.

There is a very good reason for this.

WordPress makes sites like this one, which are essentially a blog and a few other pages, very easy.

WordPress has come a long way since it came out and it is so simple to get up and running, publish new content and even to restyle with a new theme.

WordPress is a content management system (CMS). This means you can publish content (articles and pages) on your website with little or no knowledge of coding or html.  People familiar with facebook pages would find wordpress just as easy, except the content is on your own website, not on page on facebook.

I am an application developer, I build complex web applications. I could write something like WordPress, but that’s kind of the point, why write something that already does the job more than well!

Many people come to me and ask them if I can build them a website. Of course the answer is yes, but in the long run, it’s better if I show you how to setup wordpress or even setup wordpress for you.

When it comes to writing an application, like facebook, twitter, instagram or things like that, then wordpress is not going to cut it for you. But if you want an informational site, a sales site or a content publishing site (blog) then WordPress will be perfect for you.

It’s also interesting to note that around 20% of sites on the whole internet are sitting on top of wordpress.

So if you want a website, and you don’t know how to code, think wordpress. is not the worst place to start your journey.

WordPress itself is free software, is a hosting platform that is free for the basic version, but has a few small costs when you want things like your own domain.

I recomend going down the route of having you own hosting account with someone like Tsohost and then choosing the 1 click install for wordpress and then manage it yourself.

However some will want a more custom and managed service, but still with the power and flexibility of wordpress and of course I can help via my managed website service – Online Street