Is it "reasonable" to ask IT job candidates to prove their skills?

Summary:Increasingly, IT professionals are asked to take some sort of test when they go for a job interview, to prove they know the technology that's on their resume, even when lawyers, accountants and HR pros in the same organizations are not. Is this fair?

Did your last job interview give you flashbacks to this?
Consider your workplace: When a in-house council gets hired, are they tested on their familiarity with those thick law books that line their offices? Are HR professionals required to show evidence that they have never embarrassed their former company? Do accountants have to provide the scores from their back-in-the-day CPA exams?

Yet increasingly, IT professionals are asked to take some sort of test when they go for a job interview, to prove they know the technology that's on their resume. This is the subject of a long--and heated--discussion on Slashdot this week, wherein an IT job candidate says that even with more than one university degree, a couple of IT certifications, over ten years work experience in the industry with two to four years with each employer, working with a wide range of technologies, he's not sure he finds it "reasonable" to take a test on a job interview.

This is, understandably, a sore subject among many commenters. "I won't take them. I have turned down several jobs over it," responds the first Slashdot commenter, banbeans.

But it also might be a sore subject among those who hire IT pros, or enough that nearly every IT professional that has been featured on this blog to date has warned tech job candidates not to embellish or outright lie about their skill sets on their resume. Clearly, many had been burned before.

"Don't ever pad your resume unless you’re able to back it up. I’ve interviewed candidates and if they had kept to what they really knew they’d have been better off... there is nothing worse than someone nixing their chances because they have overextended themselves," explained Michael Donohoe, a developer for the New York Times.

Some blame these resume-embellishers for causing interviewers to distrust IT candidates.

"We only have ourselves to blame. Why do you think the interviewers want a test? Because somewhere along the line, in some capacity, they were burned by an unscrupulous IT person who lied about their level of competency," writes Slashdot commenter multimediavt.

Others feel that the job-seeker is wrong to be offended.

"Actually it does happen in other fields... I'm a statistician/epidemiologist and every post I've ever applied for has had some kind of technical test. Some have been more formal than others. Anyway if I was applying for a post that needed a high level of technical knowledge I would expect to be tested on it," retorts another Slashdot commenter.

How about you? Do you think employers are right to ask IT pros to prove their skills, so to speak? Have you been asked to take a test of any sort when you've gone on an IT job interview? Was is a deal-breaker, or did you not care because you wanted the job?

Topics: CXO, IT Employment

About

Deb Perelman is a journalist in New York City with a focus on tech and the daily grind. Previously she was a reporter for eWEEK, leading the magazine and Web site's coverage of the issue and trends that affect IT workers.

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