My How to Land a Job as a Software Engineer series has me inspired and this is the third post I've written today. If you've ever applied for a technical position, you've probably met the prescreening questionnaire before. For software engineers, it generally comprises a set of questions about the language you'll be using and a few puzzles or programming tasks.
My company has something of a prescreening questionnaire and we're working on a more robust one. I've done them in the past and I have several friends who have done them for the companies they work for now. It's a common tool to assess your goodness of fit with the requirements of the position being filled.
So, you get the email from the HR department that says, "Thank you for your resume. You've been selected to move to the next stage of the process. Please complete this prescreening questionnaire and return it. You have one week from today." Sometimes the questionnaire will be online in quiz form and other times it'll just be a list of problems. Sometimes you're allowed to use the internet to help you and other times they ask you not to. In any case, my suggestion to you is to follow whatever rules they give you. Don't cheat! In my post about what hiring managers are looking for in a resume I kind of harped on the whole honesty thing.
Well, I'm about to do it again. Some people have their friends help them with the test or the coding problems or they Google when they were asked not to. Sure, this may help you get the job, but you are setting yourself up for failure. If you cheat on the test, they're going to find out when you go in for the technical interview. If they don't find out in the technical interview, they're going to find out that you're ill qualified once you start working. In any case, you're just gonna disappoint them and there's very little good that can come of it.
Work the problems and do it with integrity. If you don't get the interview or you don't get the job, it's for the best; that job was not for you and you're now better prepared to move on. After you submit your results, study the questionnaire. Learn everything you didn't already know. Then, learn more about what you know. Next time you have a prescreening task, you'll actually know the information you need. When you do get called into that interview, you're going to impress them with your knowledge and capability instead of disappointing them.