Not a fan of tests, but at Virtuos we had a test split into 4 areas, which was mostly intended for (very) junior positions - realtime rendering, 3D production / DCC tools and some art questions, general IT / Windows knowledge, and a coding section.
Those covered the areas where we would employ TAs - work in an engine with shaders, lighting, etc.; work in a 3D application like Maya, Max, Designer, etc.; day-to-day troubleshooting with Windows, P4, plugin install, etc.; and finally, writing code.
The test was about 4 pages - you could answer it in 30 - 40 minutes if you knew your stuff. We didn’t really want to waste people’s time by giving them tasks that would keep them busy for days - personally, I feel long tests aren’t very professional, and you as an employer should take other peoples’ time as serious as your own. Anyhow…
People straight out of college usually could answer it on their own. They could google if they wanted. But even with that some people just couldn’t get the right answers or explain how they came up with them But that’s okay - in the real world we also often rely on info from others, such as API docs, engine docs, the client’s confluence, Stackoverflow or Google. But we must understand what the info we find means and how it applies to the problem.
The format was a mix of multiple-choice, fill in the blanks and open answers. We would expect that answers would reflect the experience from candidates’ interviews or CVs. Generally we administered the test before the interview. Sometimes afterwards, if we felt the candidate didn’t do well at the interview due to personal reasons such language barrier, anxiety, etc.
The test would tell us: if the candidate knew the basics, if he could reason, if he could express himself in writing, if he was more of a generalist or specialist.
The idea was that getting all answers right wasn’t the point. The idea was that the candidate should give solid, well explained and reasoned answers for the questions in his area of expertise. We sorted out people where the expertise claimed didn’t match with the test results, or those who would not explain their reasoning. Obvious copy & paste jobs would also get tossed.
The test, CV and portfolio would then be the basis for the interview.
Another thing I recommend is getting a set of interview quesions ready. Not necessarily a script, but a guide that makes sure you cover certain topic areas during the interview so you can compare candidates better. I usually try to tick the following:
- past technical experience; technical challenges and how you overcame them and what you learned. Type of tech worked with. Scope worked with (e.g. did you work on small scripts or large pipeline code-bases?)
- past work experience; does the setting compare to our setting? e.g. team sizes, relation to superiors and other teams, process in managing work, tool dev, and day-to-day work.
- interpresonal: how do you work with individual artists? Do you have a process when helping them? (basically, we want a bit of a customer-focus mindset with TAs, because unless they are pure content creators, their main job is support and helping others!)
- creativity, curiosity: if you could make your own game or tool, what would it be? why this? how would you start planning or coding it? what tech would you choose? what risks do you think there are?
- learning. How do you learn? Have you trained others? How wow would you go about learning something new?
At some points we did have a Unity and Unreal based take-home test, but I was never comfortable with it. It felt artificial and narrow in the topics it touched. We only gave this a few times to senior candidates. The other drawback was of keeping the test relevant, so we had to plan TA time to regularly review and update it.
I think the main problem with focused tests that only touch on a few topics is that they introduce another bias - people who don’t have the skills at the moment where the test is administered, but who are perfectly able to acquire them in no time (after all, being a TA is about constant learning!) can be caught off guard and are at a disadvantage. Unless your test is so easy and general that everyone can master it, but then it would be pointless… or if you’re okay saying “well, if you need a week to learn stuff for this test, then do it…”, but I hate wasting peoples’ time, especially if they have a good folio and resume.