Top 5 Questions to Ask When Preparing for a Technical Assessment

Dataiku Company Julie Olivieri

Congratulations — you’ve arrived at the assessment step in your recruitment process! This means both your resume and the first conversations you had with recruiters demonstrated that your profile could be a great match for your dream role, whether it’s data scientist, software engineer, or cloud architect. You should be proud... but the journey is not over yet.

Tech assessments vary a lot from one company to another, but ultimately, their goal is always to get a better understanding of how you make use of your skills when facing a real-life technical challenge. At Dataiku, they are usually assigned as a take-home assignment after the first two interviews with a recruiter and the hiring manager.

So is that where you are? At home, in front of your computer, feeling ready to start your assessment? Are you sure you are ready?

woman in front of a laptop nervous biting a pencil
I know from experience — my team and I have recruited hundreds of technical profiles, and we are working closely with the tech leaders hiring them — that at this exact moment, too many candidates still have dozens of questions. Although I won’t be able to provide you with technical insights on your script, I’ll do my best to help you feel confident asking the questions that will set you up for success.

What Exactly is Being Assessed With This Test?

Remember when you told your partner to go to the grocery store for something, and (s)he came home with a completely different item than you needed? Don’t leave things unclear: make sure you understand the scope of the technical exercise. What is the company trying to evaluate with this exercise? 

A technical assessment will be the right occasion to showcase your skills. At Dataiku, we use this opportunity to evaluate your technical skills of course, but also your soft skills. We believe that someone joining our teams should bring more than their knowledge in Java, Python, or any other technology. We also don’t expect people to know everything, and often, our questions have no right or wrong answers; they are just a way to evaluate the thought process. 

Can I Choose Language/Tools/Framework?

If yes, pick the one that the company is using if you've mastered it. Otherwise, pick something that you’ve truly mastered. A technical test is not the best moment to try new technologies or take too many risks. Showing that you can get out of your comfort zone can be positive, but it should not be to the detriment of acing the exercise.

For example, in Dataiku’s engineering hiring process, candidates are asked to develop their own web app using the technical stack of their choice. For us, it’s not really about what technology you chose, but rather why you chose it!

Can I Ask for Help From a Friend or Someone I Know?

In the context of a home assignment, a fresh pair of eyes can help you check what you’ve done, make sure you didn’t make typos, and correct some aspects. You can ask a friend that you trust, but be careful: they shouldn’t change anything substantial. That means don’t ask someone else to take the test for you — it will be obvious and people will notice if you do get the job and join the company. 

Can I Ask for Help From the Company?

Some companies will give you an email address to check if you are on the right track for your assessment: use it. Not using this chance to ask technical questions in preparation for your test might make you lose points.

In a real-life situation, you would have a meeting with your manager or your colleagues to discuss your work, challenges, or explain your reasoning and choices. It shouldn’t be different for the assessment in the interview process.

I think you’re starting to see that communication is key. Every company at any role and level will assess your communication skills (verbal, but also written communication). 

How Much Time Do I Have to Complete This?

Although it tends to be up to the company to set a deadline, don’t be passive. Be clear on your side — do you have a big project you need to complete at work? Are you traveling? etc. At Dataiku, we always respect the candidate’s time and stay flexible on the deadline.

Generally speaking, I would personally recommend returning the assessment within a week to show your motivation but also avoid losing the opportunity, as some candidates might be more advanced in the recruitment process (and others just faster to share their test). 

I hope you now realize that a technical assessment is not designed for you to fail, and neither is the recruitment process; however lack of communication can be problematic. Asking these questions to the recruiter, the hiring manager, or the interviewer to make sure you understand the instructions is key and should help you succeed. Now set yourself some time to focus and do your best — you’ll nail it!