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How to test a programmers coding ability?

I am interviewing a lead programmer and I have already done the 'cultural fit' test and found they were a good match. Now I am trying to see what their coding ability is like, since they will be coding our whole site.

This person in particular is older and has been a part of a couple start ups. They do not have any public projects that we can view, but their track record indicates they know how to code.

Our company is a marketplace and I was thinking of having him create a craigslist crawler that could autopost items in craigslist for us. Does that seem like a fair test for their coding abilities?

85 Replies

Jessica Alter
10
1
Jessica Alter Entrepreneur • Advisor
Entrepreneur & Advisor
Based on your discussion posts, I really think you should have a technical advisor at a minimum. There are tons of great people in the FD:Advisors network. But you can't do this on your own.
Bon Franklin
6
0
Bon Franklin Entrepreneur
Co-Founder of Morphid
Not in my opinion. That challenge seems pretty easy and doesn't test one critical thing: writing flexible code. I think it is good to test them by giving them a challenge, but telling them that part of the challenge is that you will later change or add one of the requirements. The change shouldn't be big. That way you can tell if he makes brittle code that isn't flexible to changes in the real world or not.
Quinn Goldstein
5
0
Quinn Goldstein Entrepreneur
Consultant at GCG
agree get a techie to help you evaluate their tech skills.
Rob Gropper
8
0
Rob Gropper Entrepreneur
Director at PetHero, SPC - Member at Eastside Incubator - Principal at Tuxedo Technologies Group
...that would be an interesting test of his/her personal/professional ethics since what you are asking them to do is, i believe, in violation of CL's terms of use. Of course they might also question your ethics for asking. As an FYI, there are likely CL crawler projects on GitHub and i know there are some Ruby gems that do what you are suggesting.
Piyush Kumar
0
1
Piyush Kumar Entrepreneur
President, CompGeom Inc.
Craigslist crawler is a 1 liner (curl/wget). Autopost could be problematic, because of Captcha.
Kate Hiscox
1
0
Kate Hiscox Entrepreneur • Advisor
Boss at Venzee
We have our developers test on a single story from our project. Are you working on agile with your MVP storied up? If so, it probably makes sense to have them work on an MVP feature.
Roshan Diwakar
10
0
Roshan Diwakar Entrepreneur
CTO and Principal Consultant at Xtreme Automation Corp
A two-week independent project is always a better fit.

A techie doing a code and design review after that project is done and delivered would be a perfect follow-up. They can talk about design decision, coding practices, algorithms etc.

A techie doing a straight interview is a no-no. In this era of multiple platforms, languages, libraries, frameworks:

{set of techie 'interviewer' questions} and {set of potential founder knowledge required for success} is almost an empty set.

Sure you can ask basic fundamental CS questions of algorithms and data structures or threads or map-reduce or nosql or javascript or rails and test their knowledge. But, none of those are predictors of success.

For a startup, the best predictor is execution. Why not do a real world test of execution?

So, you are on the right path. Just follow it up with a design/code review with a techie.
Bharathi Masilamani
0
0
Bharathi Masilamani Entrepreneur • Advisor
Software Development Manager at Amazon
Very interesting suggestion from Roshan and others. I would second asking the candidate to build a simple feature /MVP and then have a trusted techie to walk through their approach.



Brandon White
1
0
Brandon White Advisor
CEO of Zeuss, Inc.
My advice, I have a few scars from this sort of situation, get a veteran technical adviser and have them do a real time coding skills test especially if they have not other work or code on github you can review.

Also, make sure you have vesting shares with a cliff on the vesting so if it does not work out you do not find yourself with a shareholder that is not adding value.
Scott Milburn
0
0
Scott Milburn Entrepreneur
Entrepreneurial Senior Executive and Attorney
Take a look at www.kitovet.com. This is a new service that hosts projects relevant to your business so job applicants can go through the exercise, then the company evaluates the results and provides you a scorecard.
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