Generate summary with AI

When you’re hiring for a technical role as an MSP or in corporate IT, you need to know that a potential new technician has the knowledge to hit the ground running, without too much extra education. 

However, when you only have an applicant’s CV or resume to go by, it can be challenging to know who actually has the know-how to fit into your team, and who doesn’t. After all, who hasn’t embellished a little bit to stand out from the pack? (Confession time: I don’t actually speak conversational Mandarin.)

There are a lot of roles where testing an applicant’s technical skills beforehand would prove useful, such as;

  • Software Developers
  • System Administrators
  • Network Engineers
  • Data Analysts
  • DevOps Engineers
  • Cybersecurity Analysts
  • Technical Support Specialists
  • Database Administrators
  • Cloud Engineers
  • QA/Test Engineers
  • And more…

So today we’re going to go over 5 great ways to test your applicants’ technical skills before actually hiring them. Because we know that you only want the best of the best on your team of IT superheroes.

Prepare specific technical questions targeted to the IT role

If you’ve used a technical recruitment company, you’re probably starting out with some confidence that the candidate is right for the open role. However, sometimes you get an influx of potential employees from social media, job boards, recruiters and more. 

In your first meeting, you’ll want to make sure you get past the fluffy “getting to know you” questions to determine if the candidate has the necessary skills to complete the job.

Ask your candidates questions about their experience, and don’t be afraid to mention specific tools and technologies which the business relies on. For example, as an MSP software provider looking for a new IT technician, you might ask your candidates “how would you explain what remote access is, and how it’s used, to a potential customer?”. While in corporate IT, you might ask the prospect to name 3 internal uses for remote management and monitoring software.

As roles become more technical, the questions should follow suit. Don’t be afraid to be really specific. For example, in web development, you might want to ask, “Can you explain the distinction between span and div tag in HTML5?” or “What is type coercion in JavaScript?”

Set a practical challenge on the spot

Talking to your candidates and asking questions is a great first stage, but if you want to move this prospect onto the next round, you might want to see what they can do in practice. 

One school of thought suggests that you put the candidate under the spotlight and make them do a practical challenge during the interview. This could be live coding, where the candidate and the interviewer tackle a live challenge together, and the interviewer gets to hear how the candidate works through a problem in real-time.

For example, if you run an IT department and need a new employee adept at Python, you could provide them with a sample log file with a handful of errors. You could then ask them to write a script in Python that counts and lists any errors found in the file. That way, you’ll be able to test their Python skills and see how their brains work with Python.

An added bonus of this approach is that you can map soft skills as well, such as teamwork and communication. However, it can certainly put candidates on the spot, and if they don’t work well under pressure you might not get an accurate view of what they can do. To help with this, you can give the candidate a more flexible challenge that allows them to lead the process, choose their own integrated development environment, and more.

For less technical roles, you can even use a white-board problem solving challenge, where you give the candidate an issue to resolve, such as an unhappy customer or a live cyber-attack simulation, and watch as they walk you through how they would approach the situation.

Use a take-home technical assessment

To solve the issue of putting candidates on the spot, you can also give them a take-home assignment. This is exactly what it sounds like — homework (or a test) that they can do in their own time. These are usually more comprehensive than live coding or whiteboard tests, and can take up 1-4 hours of a candidate’s time. 

These tests should only be used when getting to the final stages, as you won’t want to put candidates through a test that requires a significant chunk of their time if they don’t have a realistic shot at getting the job.

If you do decide to take this route, you can ask your candidates to do a lot more than they could achieve in an interview. You could ask them to create a proof-of-concept using your technology stack or suggest that they come to you with an outline for an MVP that will take your existing offering to the next level.

You could also provide a simple take home quiz or exam, with a mixture of open-ended and multiple-choice questions. Depending on the nature of the question, you may need to trust that they are answering the questions with their own knowledge, and not researching online.

With the rise of AI, you can create these tests quite easily, but candidates can also easily complete them if the immorality factor doesn’t bother them.

Use technical skills screening software

If you don’t feel confident about screening potential employees yourself, you can also use a third-party, outsourcing the task to a technical skills screening software provider. 

For example, you could be the hiring manager of a company looking to onboard a new employee or team to monitor your new network. But with no technical background, you may not have any idea which questions to ask to ensure you get the right person(s) for the job.

In this case, technical skills screening software will usually offer a wide range of technical skills tests that you can use to check the abilities of candidates during the interview process. These range from cognitive ability tests to programming exams, software-skills tests, and specific industry-targeted exams that check the boxes for that market need. 

Try Codility and HackerEarth for engineering recruits, eSkill for customizable technical employment tests, or TestGorilla to search by your own specific business requirements.

Choose a hybrid assessment model

You might want to consider a mixture of the testing methods we’ve already listed, as every candidate will be unique, and will work best under different circumstances. If you see that a candidate answers questions well in-person, but their at-home test is poor, suggest a collaborative peer assignment and see how they work in a team. 

If the at-home test is great, but they didn’t shine in the interview, maybe they struggle without time to think things through. With a second interview, where the general conversation topics are previously shared with the candidate, they could do a better job. And if the role doesn’t require a ton of thinking on the spot, then that’s okay!

Today’s working environments take all kinds of people, so you should also consider whether this candidate could be a good fit elsewhere in the company. If they are highly personable but their technical skills aren’t there yet, maybe they would be great at customer success, and you could support them in growing their hands-on capabilities behind the scenes.

In contrast, if they don’t seem like they have the communication skills to go to customers on-site or support the business in-person, they might be able to knuckle down and get back-end tasks checked off the IT teams’ list with efficiency.

Looking to add more hours in the day for technical IT staff, and allow them to add strategic value to the business? You need an all-in-one RMM tool for IT professionals, and hey, we happen to have a great one in mind! At Atera, we’re one of the top-rated solutions for IT departments and MSPs alike to run their operations. And we even offer a 30-day free trial, so there’s no reason not to give us a shot.

Was this helpful?

Related Articles

Mastering IPConfig Commands for Pro-Level Network Troubleshooting

Read now

Atera costs explained: A comprehensive guide for IT Departments

Read now

How to choose the right installer: MSI vs EXE

Read now

7 common IT issues, why they happen and how to solve them

Read now

The IT management platform that just works

Atera is the all-in-one platform built to remove blockers, streamline operations, and give you the tools to deliver results at any scale.