I will never do take-home exercises anymore

Angelo Cassano
4 min readMar 16, 2021


Take-home exercises are becoming a standard hard-skill testing recruiting process, especially for particular roles that rely on remote positions. But do they really work?

Taking part in a recruiting process is stimulating. Am I a masochist? Probably. From my perspective, I think everyone should take part in a recruiting process at least once or twice per year.

Why? There are three main reasons behind that:

  • You get to know how other companies work
  • It enhances your relational skills
  • Keeps your problem-solving capabilities trained

In the last year, I applied for different roles and of course, I took part in different recruitment processes. Some of them asked me to complete a “small” take-home exercise. Let’s see how it went.

Senior Flutter developer selection process experience

I found this company on LinkedIn that was looking for a well-knowledged Flutter developer to strengthen their mobile team. I thought I was qualified for this role so I decided to apply.

I sent my updated CV and I wrote a cover letter to explain why I was suited for the job, then they contacted me a few hours later: it’s a match! They scheduled me for interview where they asked me about my career path and what were my expectations. At the end of the interview, they asked me to complete a “small” take-home exercise during the weekend.

At this point you might be wondering why I keep embracing the term small with double quotes, so let me explain. They asked me to develop a “small” application composed of two interfaces, that talk to an open-source REST API and present the data inside of it.

Let me get this straight to the point. The hardest part of this exercise is code and UX refinements. You can set up a working product in less than an hour, but it will suck aesthetically and engineeringly.

It took me two business days to complete the task: the exercise also required good UX, strong architecture choices, animations, unit, and integration tests.

Senior software engineer selection process experience

At the beginning of 2021, I decided to bring the challenge to another level. I’m a native Italian speaker, so I decided to take part in an English recruitment process.

In short, this company was looking for a senior software engineer for a particular programming language that I didn’t know, no matter what your knowledge was (in terms of programming languages of course).

I was very skeptical about that, but the recruiter who contacted me on LinkedIn reassured me, so I decided to get into it. We scheduled an interview and after some questions about my career path, he introduced me to the hard skill selection process.

Well, that exercise was not quite “small”. They told me they weren’t expecting me to deliver the task in a few days, so I thought that I would have made it in a few weeks. Long story short: I should have studied this new programming language in less than a week, and then complete the exercise, average working days? 5 to 15.

Senior Backend engineer selection process experience

In the last few weeks, I get contacted through StackOverflow for a senior backend engineer position. They asked me if I was interested in their company, so we arranged three different interviews.

Between two interviews, they asked me to develop a “small” authentication system that manages roles and some other different behaviors. They also asked me to mind about database optimizations and algorithm performance, and to provide with a bunch of papers (documentation, flow charts, entity-relationships diagrams, and so on).

Deadline? 5 days. Did I complete it? Partially. In the next interview, the examiner told me it would have required at least a month to complete it.

Do take-home exercises really work?

They do. Indisputably.

I think a take-home exercise should take no more than two or three hours. You need to understand how the developer solves a problem and how he broadly thinks, you don’t need to take him down emotionally or put it under pressure. I need to warn you about a thing, we have a life too.

And guess what, I even attended paid take-home exercises: yes, some companies really take seriously their recruiting process.

In this article, I wanted to talk to you about how to not abuse them, so if you are a recruiter, please don’t do it. You will let your candidates run far away from your company.



Angelo Cassano

A perfectionist. Software engineer and IT passionate.