Currently, many companies hiring software development engineers use a whiteboard algorithms interview technique. This involves asking the job candidate to code a solution to an algorithm question on a whiteboard while the hiring manager and other team members watch and critique.
This interview technique has long been criticized as making the candidate uncomfortable, as ineffective, and perhaps at least a little demeaning. Many in the industry believe it is little more than a hazing ritual. See the following links for more information:
So, even though I and many others don't believe in the effectiveness of whiteboard interviews, I have supported the right of companies and individuals to legally use them, at least until a few weeks ago when I happened across a university study of whiteboard interviews.
Does Stress Impact Technical Interview Performance Study
This is a study out of North Carolina University conducted last year. An article titled You're testing them wrong: Whiteboard coding interviews are 'anti-women psychological stress examinations', published in July of last year by the Register says about the study:
As a consequence, whiteboard interviews may fail to assess coder competency. Rather, the researchers argue, they measure how well job candidates handle anxiety.
The researchers found that stress hinders interview performance, with participants in the traditional technical interview exhibiting higher cognitive load, lower scores, and higher stress levels. In essence, social anxiety took otherwise qualified job candidates out of the running because of the circumstances of the interview.
What's more, whiteboard technical interviews appear to favor men over women.
'We also observed that no women successfully solved the problem in the public setting, whereas all women solved it correctly in the private setting,' the paper says.
Currently, just 14% of software developers in the US are women. This study suggests that one of the primary reasons for this poor representation is because of sex discrimination.
So, is this new study enough to encourage legal experts representing large corporations to at least worry about sex discrimination lawsuits from women that have failed whiteboard interviews? If you are a corporate attorney and it was your job to minimize legal risks to that company, would you recommend to human resources that whiteboard interviews are now too legally risky and the company should avoid them, or do you believe instead that it is nothing to worry about and it is okay to do business as usual?