Architecture Skills Testing Conundrum

by Codeaid Team

Developing software applications is not just about writing code. It is also about architecting the system to be understandable, extendable, reliable, and scalable.

Architecture Skills Tests

But while there are lots of different code writing tests out there, there are almost no tests that can accurately assess a developer’s architecture skills. 

So, how do you test architecture skills? 

Right now, architecture skills are predominantly evaluated during technical interviews. However, such interviews don’t shine a light on the interviewee’s practical skills.  

Let’s delve into the reasons why testing architecture skills is important and explore how you can test these skills effectively.  

Why Test for Architecture? 

Architecture skills are just as crucial as writing code because architecture is the high-level structure and design of the software. Architecture also defines all software components and the dependencies between them. It’s essentially the blueprint developers use when building complex software systems.  

Architecture exists at many levels (class level, system level, and infrastructure/deployment level), and it involves making important decisions regarding the system’s: 

  • Performance 
  • Integrations 
  • Design patterns and principles 
  • Data management 
  • Code readability 
  • Flexibility  
  • Scalability 
  • Testability 
  • Security 

As architecture defines so many key components, getting it right is crucial for the success of the software solution.  

But how can you test architecture skills so you get an objective overview of the candidate’s practical abilities? 

The Challenge of Testing Architecture Skills 

Today, most recruiters test architecture skills during technical interviews instead of through tests. This means that most hires never actually get their architecture skills tested in practice and their true capabilities show only after they’ve been hired.  

But here is the tricky part about this: Developers often have high-level theoretical expertise but little practice. So, when the time comes for them to apply the theory in a real-life project, they might actually underperform.  

So why don’t recruiters test the practical side of a candidate’s knowledge? 

There are not many readily available architecture skills tests out there. That’s because practical architecture tests are hard to develop and can hardly fit in the usual coding test time frame of 2 hours. 

Let’s take a closer look at architecture skills tests and their benefits. 

Architecture Skills Tests: Testing Beyond Technical Interviews 

Architecture skills tests can enable candidates to show their skills in a real-life-like work environment. This gives them enough time to: 

  • Think about the problem 
  • Do small research 
  • Come up with a solution  
  • Prepare a presentation of the solution that will explain their idea 

Software managers also benefit from this type of assessment as they get more time to review the test and make better decisions. 

Developing architecture skills tests may be challenging, but with careful consideration of crucial aspects such as comprehensiveness, format, code involvement, and evaluation criteria, it is possible to create effective assessments.  

Let’s take a look at each of these components: 

Testing Comprehensive vs. Specific Architecture Elements 

One question that arises when designing an architecture test is whether to cover all elements of good architecture (such as scalability, performance, fault tolerance, and maintainability), or focus on individual architecture topics.  

Trying to test all aspects of architecture can actually fail to assess the candidate’s understanding of architectural complexities.  

But: The nature of architecture involves trade-offs and understanding them is vital.  

That’s why the optimal approach is to include scenarios that involve trade-offs. For instance, assessing whether candidates can make informed decisions when balancing fault tolerance and performance is crucial. This way, you can test candidates’ comprehension of the trade-offs involved in architecture and get valuable insights into their architectural expertise.  

Choosing the Best Format for Architecture Tests 

Another consideration in architecture tests is determining the most suitable format for evaluating a candidate’s skills.  

Should the focus be on diagrams, text-based explanations, or a combination of both? 

The answer may depend on the specific requirements of the role and the complexity of the architectural challenges candidates will face.  

While diagrams can help visualize architectural concepts, textual explanations allow candidates to articulate their thought processes and reasoning. Striking the right balance between these formats can yield a comprehensive evaluation of the candidate’s architectural capabilities.  

The Challenges of Architecture Skill Testing

Incorporating Code in Architecture Tests 

Contrary to popular belief, involving code in architecture tests is not off-limits. One approach is to utilize open-source systems as the basis for evaluating the developer’s architectural understanding.  

By having candidates assess specific architectural aspects of these systems, such as scalability or modularity, you can gauge their ability to analyze and comprehend real-world architectural implementations.  

This approach provides a practical way to evaluate both the candidate’s architecture skills and ability to work with existing codebases.  

Architecture Skills for Intermediate Developers 

Architecture skills are not exclusive to senior developers.  

Intermediate developers should also possess a solid foundation in architecture principles. However, their knowledge will be focused on class-level and component/module-level architecture issues. 

So, evaluating architecture skills for intermediate developers may require a different approach.  

While it may be challenging to expect them to write extensive code, assessing their ability to understand and review architectural diagrams, documentation, and existing systems can provide valuable insights into their architecture skills. That’s why emphasizing their comprehension of component relationships and tier-based architecture can help assess their competence in these areas. 

Critiquing and Optimizing Existing Architecture 

An alternative option for assessing architecture skills is presenting candidates with an existing architecture document and having them give feedback on it or propose optimizations.  

This exercise allows candidates to showcase their ability to analyze architectural designs critically and suggest improvements. By evaluating their thought process and the clarity of their recommendations, you can gain insights into their architectural knowledge and problem-solving abilities. 

Advantages of Architecture Skills Tests 

These practical architecture tests come with a few benefits, including: 

  • Accurate and comprehensive skills evaluation: Architecture tests give candidates the opportunity to show their practical skills in the field. Well-designed tests can also cover a few different architecture concepts, principles, and patterns, allowing developers to show their competency in different architecture-related areas.  
  • Standardized assessment: Recruiters can give the same standardized test to all candidates. This allows them to compare candidates objectively based on their performance. 
  • Unbiased evaluation: Did you know that only 6.2% of all software architects are women? Practical tests focus solely on candidates’ performance and ability to solve problems. This reduces bias in the evaluation process and provides a more objective assessment.  
  • Time efficiency: Architecture tests are usually time limited. This allows recruiters to assess a large pool of candidates efficiently. 
Advantages of Architecture Skills Tests

Architecture Skills Tests: Accurate Assessment, Better Hires  

Architecture skills tests are a valuable tool recruiters can use when evaluating candidates. However, they can’t fully replace technical interviews. 

When used in combination with technical interviews, such tests provide a more accurate assessment and increase the chances of hiring the right candidate. 

Currently, the greatest challenge is to find reliable and well-developed architecture tests that can be integrated in the hiring process and give accurate results.  

As a leading coding test platform, Codeaid has developed its own architecture skills test. 

Ready to elevate your recruiting process and hire better developers?  

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