On software aptitude tests

Posted by – 2012/05/08

Last Monday I decided to pull out all the stops and actually get a job, meaning stop playing Minecraft, update my CV and pass it to a dozen or so agencies who appear to exist for the sole purpose of creaming money off the top of my daily rate. By Wednesday I had an interview lined up with a client, providing I pass a Loadrunner exam provided by IKM Europe. Sounds like fun… let’s do this!

After four multiple-choice “which menu is this option in?” questions I’d cancelled the test in a rage and was on the phone to the agency explaining that I was genuinely offended that they’d rank their applicants using quantitative measures of memory when the required skill-set is essentially qualitative and down to problem solving. Ten minutes later I was sat pink-bottomed, my neck wound in, reluctantly plodding through the rest of the questions.

You’re a Windows expert right? Without looking, what’s the second item up after pressing the start button on a Windows XP machine? Okay, Linux, what’s the “-s” in “ls -s”?

I think I counted two questions about systems diagnostics, one on paging and one on bandwidth, which would actually judge a candidate’s ability to solve problems, but the rest were about installation, process names and menu items. Along with the menu questions I was expected to know whether the first parameter to sprintf was the formatting or the destination string, the difference between “%09ld” and ”%9ld”, that LoadRunner uses strftime and which token means abbreviated month name. Surely a smart person would press the F1 key every time rather than learning C’s escape sequence mess off-by-heart.

How a score of 76 out of 100,  a B+ at best, puts someone over two standard deviations from the mean is anyone’s guess. Either most people are rubbish or the test is measuring the wrong things. I suspect it’s a combination of both, but more of the latter than the former.

Good job it didn’t measure punctuality and work ethic or I’d have been jobless in the bottom quartile, spending tomorrow morning in my dressing gown with a beard instead of suited and booted in a bank. Do razors come with an instruction manual? It’s been a while…

3 Comments on On software aptitude tests

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  1. jewjoo says:

    f1 didnt do anything in vim…
    Nah but seriously that sounds really silly. You should found a start-up and hire me.

  2. erus says:

    I would +1 this or something but you need some buttons!