Google's built a new tool to help you ace your next developer interview

New tool covers Java, Python, Ruby, C++, C#, JavaScript (node.js), and Go.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Google's Area 120 incubator for experimental products has launched Byteboard, an online tool to help hiring-managers surface candidates' practical engineering skills faster and more objectively.

Byteboard is meant to close the gap between the information engineers are expected to show off in interviews, and the knowledge they use when carrying out day-to-day engineering work. 

Byteboard offers a project-based interview to help candidates quickly demonstrate their skills and knowledge in specific languages and, for now, back-end software engineering skills. 

According to Area 120's Sargun Kaur, general manager of Byteboard, the interviewing tool creates a technical interview experience that's fair and which challenges applicants to solve real-world problems. 

"The structured, identity-blind evaluation process enables hiring managers to reliably trust our recommendations, so they have to conduct fewer interviews before reaching a confident hiring decision," she explains. "For candidates, this means they get to work through the design and implementation of a real-world problem in a real-world coding environment on their own time, without the stress of going through high-pressured theoretical tests."

Kaur adds the process allows recruiters to make "data-backed hiring decisions" that are "more effective, efficient and equitable for all". 

The tool could be helpful for all companies that hire a lot of software engineers and so are likely to face similar hiring complexities to Google. 

SEE: IT jobs in 2020: A leader's guide (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

The Byteboard interview is currently offered in seven popular programming languages, including Java, Python, Ruby, C++, C#, JavaScript (node.js), and Go. It's currently aimed at back-end and full-stack engineering staff, through intern to senior engineer roles, but later this year it will also include front-end, data engineering, testing, and mobile engineering roles. 

Byteboard has an integration with recruiting and applicant tracking startup Greenhouse.   

Google says the Byteboard program is designed to replace pre-onsite technical interviews and covers developing, administering, and evaluating the interviews. The idea is to allow companies to quickly narrow down their list of candidates so they can fit in more face-to-face interviews and spend more time on recruiting at conferences and college campuses. 

It also aims to address problems with traditional technical interviews which demand applicants invest time in studying for theoretical problems that have little to do with practical problem solving. 

Microsoft has also been rethinking its technical interview process, stepping back from questions such as 'How many ping pong balls would fill a 747?' and what the company describes as "fast-paced, how-quickly-can-you-come-up-with-a-solution-to-a-problem-you've-never-seen situations". 

Instead of dropping candidates into a jungle of theoretical problem-solving, Microsoft now shares the interview with candidates in advance, allowing them to research a subject and think it over. It also uses real problems that one of its teams is trying to solve and offers candidates the data they're using to solve it. 

SEE: How to build a successful developer career (free PDF) | Learn Python: Online training courses for beginning developers and coding experts (TechRepublic)

Byteboard similarly aims to overhaul the traditional interview by assessing candidates for problem-solving skills as well as "role-related computer science knowledge, code fluency, growth mindset and interpersonal interaction".

Byteboard evaluators, who are experienced software engineers themselves, then review each anonymized interview for the presence of over 20 essential software engineering skills. The candidates are then given a skills profile. 

"Through Byteboard's anonymization and structured evaluation of the interviews, hiring managers can make decisions with confidence without relying on unconscious biases," Kaur says. 

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