I am a big fan of simple coding tests to pre-screen applicants for developer positions. With search and forums, coding tests, if not written correctly, will simply test an applicant’s ability to search. I tend to write simple questions which will likely yield a sub-optimal answer through search, but a more optimal answer based on experience.
For example, a task like “Print the numbers 1 to 100 in Python” has, surprisingly, yielded a variety of answers from candidates. An answer which involves a for loop raises a red flag as it suggest an unfamiliarity with Python built-ins. It’s not enough to reject a smart candidate, but it raises my suspicions that the applicant may be unsuitable.
I like the Atlassian-style approach for giving applicants fun and engaging tasks, such as summarizing a technical presentation. That would be nice to try.
By the way, I work as a software architect at Syncapse in Toronto, and right now we’re looking to hire some decent PHP developers.