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.
The Asynchronous Interview
Traditionally, interviews have been synchronous. They happen in real time, either face-to-face, over the phone, or through video call - one person asks, and the other answers right away. On the other hand, an asynchronous interview happens over a longer period of time, and communication is done primarily through virtual channels. The unique aspect of this approach is that the interviewer sends the questions, the interviewee replies when they can, and the interviewer reviews the responses when they're free. Given this room to breathe, each question and response in turn is deliberated over before review. There is more time to think about each question and answer.
One of the most popular forms of asynchronous interviews is the async video interview. Typically used by large retailers and blue-collar industries looking to mass hire. In this setup, the interview is delivered as a video recording to the candidate. The candidate watches the video, hears the questions, and then records a video to provide their responses.
Asynchronous Interviews are Growing with Remote Hiring
We're seeing more parts of the hiring process, not just interviews, become asynchronous. This is because more companies are hiring remote workers. Communication at work is becoming less "real-time", with more being done through online channels. For example, team discussions and decisions are now happening over online documents instead of in-person meetings.
As more companies move towards this type of communication, we're seeing more interviews also become asynchronous.
The Benefits of the Asynchronous Interview
The main plus of asynchronous interviews is they're less nerve-wracking. Unlike in-person interviews, you can answer questions in your own time. There's no need to respond right away.
More Like Real Work
Real work often happens over time, not all at once. We talk over things, review documents, work when we can, and then share our results. Asynchronous interviews work the same way, so they give a real feel of work skills.
Asynchronous interviews can be done when it suits both the job seeker and the company. This is great for those who have other jobs or family commitments.
Easy to Scale Up
With asynchronous interviews, a company can look at many job seekers at once. This isn't possible with in-person interviews which need an interviewer for each candidate and can only happen during work hours.
The Drawbacks of Asynchronous Interview
Takes More Time
Asynchronous interviews usually need more time from job seekers. Depending on the task, it could take hours or even days to finish. This could be hard for people who already have a job or are applying for lots of jobs. Also, because the process takes days, companies can't make fast decisions about who to hire.
Plagiarism and Cheating
With asynchronous interviews, there's more chance of people copying or cheating because they can use the internet and get help from others. Companies need to check that the work job seekers submit is really their own.
Asynchronous interviews don't have as much back-and-forth between job seekers and companies as regular interviews. This means companies might not learn as much about how a person communicates, their body language, how they work in a team, and how well they'd fit in at the company. They also miss the chance to persuade job seekers to join their company and take the job.
The Asynchronous Technical Evaluation
It makes sense that the fast-moving tech world is starting to use asynchronous hiring more. Especially in the face of the much maligned live LeetCode-style 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.
Here's how you might swap a live coding test for an asynchronous one.
Screening Quiz or Challenge
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 usually used instead of a resume screen, or to sort through lots of junior job seekers. It's typically done early in the interview process.
Job seekers are given a more open-ended problem, sometimes with existing code to work with. They might be asked to write a new feature, design a system, or fix code. This is often used to replace a technical screen or part of the onsite and is completed in the middle of the interview process.
Recorded Video Interview
Job seekers might be asked to record a video where they explain a past project. This is usually done with more experienced engineers who have projects they can show. Companies do this after a recruiter screen and it's often followed by a live discussion. Sometimes, this type of interview can replace a take-home task. If job seekers have a project they can talk about, they might do this instead of a take-home task. If not, they do the take-home task.
Challenges with the Asynchronous Technical Evaluation
A lot of candidates find issues with these attempts at rethinking the traditional live coding interview. The screening quiz can be just as stressful because it tracks every step they take and gives them very little time to finish. It also tests the same unrealistic skills as the live interview.
Job seekers often feel like the take-home tasks aren't planned well. Because of this, they can take too much time for a reward that isn't certain. Job seekers also feel like if they do a task without talking to anyone from the company, the company isn't putting any time into the process.
Finally, job seekers think recorded video interviews aren't as personal as live ones. Sometimes, asynchronous interviews can leave a bad feeling with job seekers who might think the company is just trying to save time and doesn't want to spend time talking to them.
Addressing the Challenges
We are seeing that take-home assessments are starting to take a new form that combines the benefits of synchronous and asynchronous interviews. Job seekers are starting to like these take-home tasks more. At Hatchways, we found that 83% of job seekers liked them better than a live interview.
Here are a few ways take-home tasks are being changed to make them better.
Connect with Candidates
These new forms of take-home assessments are more similar to a work simulation. Candidates are added to existing GitHub repositories and are invited to messaging apps like Slack to collaborate with interviewers as they complete the asynchronous assessment. This makes the task feel like real work and shows that the company is putting time into the process. It also lets them give feedback to the job seeker and show important skills that are used in remote work.
The new take-home tasks are also testing new, useful skills like reading code instead of writing code. If job seekers have to review some code, it's more like what they'd do at work, and the task can be shorter (only 30-45 minutes long). This helps with one big problem of take-home tasks - they take too much time.
Lastly, we have also seen companies compensate individuals for doing these more involved take-home tasks where the work might be used by the company. Some companies have taken this even further and run asynchronous interviews by doing a work trial with the candidate. In the case where the candidate is not doing real work, the compensation may not be monetary and comes in the form of giving the candidate feedback or promising a follow-up discussion.
Job interviews are changing, and more of them are not happening in real time. This can be good or bad. It's good because it fits better with today's work-from-home culture and can be less stressful. But, it also has some problems, like it can take more time and feel less personal.
Still, companies are finding ways to make these types of interviews better. They're creating tasks that feel more like real work, making the tasks shorter, and sometimes even paying job seekers for their time. These changes are helping to make job interviews better for everyone. We'll likely see more changes like this in the future, making it easier for companies to find the right people and for job seekers to find the right job.
At Hatchways, we're helping companies make take-home tasks that are great candidate experiences and useful for the companies in evaluating signal. If you want to know how we do this, take a look at our work here! If you want to try a Hatchways assessment as a canddiate, check out the experience here.