I used to scour Kijiji and Monster.ca for freelance web developer jobs. I like working from home (who doesn’t), but I hate how inconsistent the pay can be when you need it. So I frequently replied to postings for pretty much any web dev postion.

Company 1:

So one time, I go to this start up company for an interview. They just do basic sites with PHP/CSS, basic stuff that I’ve done for years. I go to the place, and they ALL the staff are graduates from the same program as me (except a year ahead of me) and they even recognized me. I thought this would be an easy interview and everything was win win.

Here’s what they did wrong. Now, I am not opposed to testing your interviewers with coding questions at all. I think it is a good practice to get a feel for what they know and how well they would fit in, but this… this was something else completely. Something that leaves me dumbfounded to this day.

They gave me a WRITTEN code test. I had to write code out from scratch on paper without using a computer. Without looking up anything on the internet. Without copy-paste. Nothing. How am I supposed to see what I do wrong? It’s not like this is school and I had to study and memorize a few HTML tags, this was real world stuff.

So I do this test as best I can, not knowing if I made a mistake (since I can’t really test anything), and hand it in to one of their staff (who is around my age). He then goes over everything and tells me “this is wrong, you shouldn’t have done this, you missed a semicolon here, etc.” over all my mistakes. I kept telling all of them “If I was able to test what I was doing, I would have done it correctly” which no one really answered to, nor would they let me talk about the methods I used to try and answer their test. They wouldn’t communicate with me.

And again, they were all graduates from the SAME PROGRAM AS ME, and even recognized me. We all had more or less the same knowledge on web development. I would understand if it was someone 10-15yrs experience, but this wasn’t the case, AND they were start-up company, so being pretentious like that had no place.

Company 2:

This company had a written test too, but it was more attention to detail questions. Questions like “Which font is sans-serif?” or “Which one of these fonts is Helvetica?” etc. It was also written pencil/paper, but in my opinion, this company did it right. All the questions were appropriate to the skill level they wanted, and they weren’t super in depth questions like Company 1.

Company 3:

This company gave me an online test for a PHP Developer position. They even had a site where it would compile and show you the results of your code, plus they had the option to compile the code in multiple languages. You would think this would be the best way to do things, but they made one fatal flaw. Some of the questions didn’t give the option of doing them in PHP… in a PHP developer position. Really? They couldn’t have looked over that?

I’m not talk about “this wouldn’t be possible in PHP”, I mean there wasn’t even an option to send them PHP and compile it. What was I supposed to do? Learn Python/Ruby in the time limit (there was an hour time limit) so I could answer the questions? I just had to leave them blank, I couldn’t do anything else.

Anyways, has anyone else been tested like this? How have you seen employers “test” their potential employees?

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