Live Coding Interviews

If you need a good full-throated argument against this practice, read Garrett Dimon’s Live Coding Interviews.

They exist because companies need to know if you can actually code, but as Garrett says:

At best, they serve as a tolerable de-risking filter for a company that needs an assembly-line hiring process.

It’s clearly fine that a company wants to know if you can code or not, plus all the ancillary things like being able to understand instructions, reason your way through problems, find help, and communicate about all of that.

But doing all that live with a random observer with whom you have zero rapport is just weird.

The underlying problem with live coding interviews stems from trying to create an objective evaluation of skills that aren’t easily quantifiable—and they attempt to do this in a wholly unnatural context with a set of loaded assumptions.

The good news is that companies can get all this information in a better way: the take-home coding exercise. Give people a setup repo with a starter dev environment and problem setup. Then ask them to spend one hour on it and commit their code. The actual interview can then be them talking through how they approached the problem and their code. This is a much closer proxy to day-to-day work, and you’ll learn more about them.

The approach for entry-level roles, senior-level roles, management-oriented, or independent contributor roles will all need slightly different approaches, and complex questions rarely have simple solutions.

Perhaps “just do take-homes” is too simple of a solution, but feels like a step in the right direction to me.



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2 responses to “Live Coding Interviews”

  1. Eric Meyer says:

    We the home coding exercise things when hiring devs at AEA, and paid the applicants for two hours of their coding time with the pre-set expectation that if they couldn’t finish in that time window, it was fine with us as long as they could tell us what they would have done with more time. It worked pretty well for us.

    • Chris Coyier says:


      Another good example

      The counterpoint is that depending on how you time it, it might have some bias. Like if you actually give people a day or two, even if you say “1 hour” or “2 hours”, a person with loads of free time on their hand might spend way more time like 6 hours, be way more prepared, and edge out someone who didn’t have 6 hours, perhaps because they already work their ass off at some other job(s) or have kids or whatever.

      Maybe that’s fixable by delivering the instructions exactly 1 or 2 hours prior to the scheduled live interview time.

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