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Are job simulations the future of hiring?

Simulating a job during the recruiting process may seem like a radical idea for some roles, where resumes and interviews are the norm. In the tech industry, candidates for technical and non-technical roles alike are often scrutinized for where they went to school, where they’ve worked, and how they respond to questions in a phone interview—but they’re less frequently asked to do a realistic task relevant to the job they’re applying for.

Why is this the case, when so many other roles require job simulations as part of the hiring process? Take pilots, for example: they engage in a literal job simulation by demonstrating their skills in an advanced flight simulator. Musicians, similarly, are asked to perform their music when auditioning for an orchestra: this, too, is a job simulation. In both cases, the job simulation gives potential employers a highly relevant piece of data about the candidate’s qualifications for the job.

This article will show you how to make your interviews for technical roles more like simulations, while at the same time creating an enjoyable and rewarding candidate experience.

Measuring skill with validated assessments (or, why all assessments are not created equal)

Validation is the process of gathering evidence to see how well an assessment measures what it is supposed to measure. To evaluate the validity of your technical assessments, you need to perform both internal and external content validation. It’s also worthwhile to consider face validity. Let’s define these terms:

  • Internal content validation asks: do the coding tasks you use measure the right skills? In other words: will the question give you the information you are looking for?
  • External content validation, on the other hand, addresses whether individual tasks or tests are relevant to the job you’re hiring for. In other words: are you asking the right questions in the first place?
  • Face validity refers to the impression a task or question leaves on the test taker. In other words: is it clear to the candidate how the assessment is relevant to the job they’re applying for? If so, the assessment has high face validity.

So then, what does validity in assessments have to do with job simulations? Assessments with high validity are also highly realistic—they simulate the real work of the job. Assessments that ask candidates to answer questions or complete tasks that seem to have nothing to do with the job they’re applying for, on the other hand, are likely a poor indicator of how the candidate will perform on the job. Even worse, they make for a frustrating candidate experience.

Which are better job simulations: assessments or interviews?

If you want to make your tech recruiting more like a simulation for your candidates, which should you use: assessments or live coding interviews? The answer: both. Depending on the role you’re hiring for, the candidate’s level of seniority, and the stage of the recruiting process, both asynchronous assessments and live coding interviews can provide a job simulation—if you use the right tools.

When you’re recruiting for high-volume junior-level or new grad developer roles, you’ll want to use a realistic screening assessment at the top of the funnel to efficiently and objectively identify top talent from a large applicant pool.

If you’re looking to hire highly sought-after senior engineers, you may want to provide a more white-glove candidate experience and focus on assessing technical skills in a live coding interview that’s tailored to experienced engineers’ skills.

Simulating the job with advanced tech recruiting tools

Using technical recruiting tools that aren’t realistic simulations creates two core problems:

  1. For hiring teams, it limits their ability to observe and evaluate how a candidate would perform on the job.
  2. For candidates, it requires them to engage in an unfamiliar, artificial environment rather than one that resembles their actual working process.

Making coding assessments and interviews feel more like a simulation is one of the biggest challenges to solve in technical hiring today. It’s a hard problem, because the tools software engineers use every day run on dedicated hardware: the developer’s laptop or desktop machine. CodeSignal is one of the few tools that emulates the functionality of a local development environment in the cloud, allowing interviewers and candidates to collaborate in  a highly realistic IDE.


In summary, using job simulations in technical hiring provides a number of benefits to both employers and candidates: 

  • Candidates get an inside look at the job they are applying for and show off their best work;
  • Employers are empowered to evaluate a candidate’s performance in a real job situation using a valid and reliable assessment;
  • Hiring bias is reduced—if a candidate can actually do the job, their educational pedigree and previous employer become much less relevant as screening criteria.

Smart hiring teams are keenly aware that it is a candidate’s market right now. Companies need fair and effective ways to assess candidates while creating an exceptional candidate experience—and simulations can do just that.

Want to learn more about transforming your technical hiring processes into a realistic job simulation? Click here to schedule time to talk with an expert at CodeSignal.