Small Task to Test Programmers?
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Thread: Small Task to Test Programmers?

  1. #1

    Small Task to Test Programmers?

    I have had some bad luck and bad experiences hiring programmers in the past and I want to find a couple of top notch programmers to work full-time on my sites over the next year or longer. I came up with the idea of sending out a small task to a number of candidates and allow them to work on the same task and then see who comes up with the best solution. Now I need to find a small task and I was hoping people here might assess the situation and let me know what to send out. I have a site that is being developed from the ground up and it will be database driven and the search function will be the core of it all. The site provides access to freelancer profiles that clients can contact and send projects to. My idea is to send out the search function as a task but I'm not too sure that is possible. Any ideas?
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  2. #2
    PHP Witch laserlight's Avatar
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    They might just get someone else to do it for them. I don't think it should be about the best solution, but about who can explain their solution in person such that you feel confident about hiring them as they know what they are doing. As for the search function thing: why not get them to pair program with you or another developer on your team and see how they work? (Then they also get to see if they want to work with you.)
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  3. #3
    Thank you for responding. Unfortunately, I do not have the luxury of meeting them in person as I live in Tokyo, Japan where the pool of English speaking programmers is very small. However, your suggestion is a good one and a Skype interview is possible. As for pair programming, that is not possible because I have no programmers working for me full-time and I am not a programmer myself although I do know what good programming is... or at least I can tell when it is bad. Thank again for your post but I was hoping to find information about what to use a s a specific task to get comparisons from a variety of PHP programmers and choose based on the quality of the work submitted in addition to the quality of the interaction between us.
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  4. #4
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    Might consider Searching-> PHP programmers pre-employment test or pre-employment test. Can probably find some that allow you create your own questions.

  5. #5
    Hi Steve, Thanks for posting. That is an excellent idea. I am on it now, It will at least give me some security in knowing the programmer knows his stuff. Thanks for the idea of where to start.
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  6. #6
    Pedantic Curmudgeon Weedpacket's Avatar
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    I recently came across an online test of this nature where the interviewee was given a rich text box to enter their code for performing some given task. Every keystroke was timed and logged, and afterwards the interviewer would get a video playback of the box's contents being typed.

    It was an interesting idea.
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  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Weedpacket View Post
    the interviewee was given a rich text box to enter their code for performing some given task. Every keystroke was timed and logged, and afterwards the interviewer would get a video playback of the box's contents being typed.
    Thanks for posting, Weedpacket. I like this idea very much, but I'm not sure how to set it up. I guess I would have to hire a programmer to set up the test for the programmers, which poses a slight conundrum.
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  8. #8
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    I've done this type of testing before and it is extremely useful for scaring off truly bad applicants. It does not guarantee success, however.

    I would recommend taking some of your existing code and deriving a test from that. For instance, if you have a database abstraction layer, send it to them (withOUT your passwords, of course!) and ask them to use it and make a database connection and perform a variety of queries. It all depends on what you want them to do.

    If you want to take the interview approach, it could be skype or GoogleTalk or AIM or YIM or MSN that you use. Ultimately, if they hire someone else to do it for them, it should not matter much to you as long as they deliver results and don't present any security risk.

    Speaking of security risk, I once got code from another developer that not only allowed a user to upload files to the server (it didn't check to make sure they were images) but also allowed a user to include any file they liked by specifying it in the query string. I would recommend that you consider hiring legitimate programmers in your legal jurisdiction so that you can sue them if you have to -- or go bang on their door and give them a good ass-kicking.
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  9. #9
    Thank you for the good advice and for taking the time to post. I like the idea of taking some of the existing code to see what they can do with it as it gives me some idea as to what the results should be. The only problem I see is that the existing code is very very old. Some of it was written by me in 1998! That means the new site will require completely new code from the ground up. However, you have given me other ideas with you suggestion so I appreciate your help. 
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