The traditional interview process leaves much to be desired, but the question is, how do we fix it? One answer is the asynchronous interview. Love it, hate it, or never heard of it, more and more companies are making the switch.
Traditionally, interviews have been synchronous. They happen in real time, in-person, over the phone, or through video call - one person asks, the other answers. An asynchronous interview happens over a longer period of time and communication is done virtually. What makes it asynchronous is that the interviewer sends out their questions, the candidate answers when they have the time and availability, then the interviewer goes over their answers when they have the time and availability. Given this room to breathe, each question and response in turn is deliberated over before review.
The best known form of the asynchronous interview was the async video interview. Typically used by large retailers and blue collar industries looking to mass hire, this is an interview presented to the candidate as a video. The candidate watches, listens to the questions, and responds by recording a video with their own answers.
What we’re starting to see is more and more of the entire hiring process becoming asynchronous, not just the interviewing.
It should be of little surprise that an industry as mobile as tech is embracing a more asynchronous approach to hiring. Especially in the face of the much maligned live data structure and algorithms interview.
Instead of relying on live technical whiteboarding and having candidates solve anxiety-inducing coding challenges in front of a panel of interviewers, the technical evaluation can be replaced by an asynchronous process.
There are two ways to replace the live coding challenge with an asynchronous process:
1. A screening quiz: Candidates use a tool like Hackerrank, Codility, or CodeSignal to answer a series of small coding challenges (usually data structure and algorithm based) and multiple choice questions often within a set amount of time. This is often used to replace a resume screen and is completed early in the interview process.
2. A take-home assessment: Candidates are given a more open-ended problem statement, sometimes with an existing codebase to work off of. They are often asked to write a feature, design a new system or fix issues in the codebase. This is often used to replace a technical screen or part of the onsite and is completed in the middle of the interview process.
A lot of candidates find issues with both of these attempts at rethinking the traditional live coding interview. The screening quiz often creates the same anxiety-inducing experience by recording every move of the candidate and creating a very short timeframe of when they have to complete, and tests the same impractical skills as the live interview.
Candidates often feel like take-home assessments are not scoped well and for that reason, they are too much of a time sink with an uncertain reward. Candidates also feel that by having the candidate complete the task without any direct interaction, the company is not investing any time in the process.
We are seeing that take-home assessments are starting to take a new form that combines the benefits of the synchronous and asynchronous interview. Candidates are starting to prefer these take-home assessments. At Hatchways, we have seen take-home assessments where 83% of candidates preferred them over a live interview.
These new forms of take-home assessments are more similar to a work simulation. Candidates are added to existing GitHub repos and are invited to messaging apps like Slack to collaborate with interviewers as they complete the asynchronous assessment. This not only makes the experience feel closer to real work, but it also demonstrates an investment by the company into the candidate. This also gives them an avenue to give feedback to the candidate and highlight important remote-based soft skills in an asynchronous assessment.
Lastly, we have also seen companies compensate individuals for these more involved take-home assessments where the applicant is doing real work that can be used by the company. Some companies have taken this even further and run asynchronous interviews by doing a work trial with the candidate.
The traditional interview process gives a weak signal on how an applicant would really perform on the job, and that signal only gets weaker as our work gets more and more remote. The way we work has changed, and it’s time the way we interview changed with it.