It’s Time to End Whiteboard Interviews for Software Engineers
The most important reform to promote diversity and inclusion in your engineering organization
In 2017, prominent software engineers took to Twitter to confess that they would fail a whiteboard interview. A popular way to evaluate programmers of all experience levels, “whiteboarding” involves presenting candidates with a computer science problem to solve on a whiteboard in real time. Engineers have been complaining about them for years.
David Heinemeier Hansson, the founder of Ruby on Rails, one of the most successful web frameworks in history, led the way. Top developers from Google, Microsoft, and the New York Times joined in.
Yet whiteboarding still constitutes a core part of the interview process at many tech companies, especially at FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google) and unicorn companies.
But the new normal of remote recruiting during the coronavirus pandemic presents an opportunity for recruiters, tech leaders, and the entire software industry to reexamine the original purpose of whiteboarding interviews. We need to ask whether they deliver on those goals and look at who they serve — computer science graduates — and who they don’t — those coming from nontraditional backgrounds. We need to realize that remote interviewing only makes the problem worse.
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We need to implement alternatives that more effectively and inclusively measure engineering talent, team fit, and growth potential in video and phone interviews. It’s the most important reform toward a more diverse and inclusive industry.