A Lego Game for Choosing a Summer Student
October 24, 2018
The University of Canterbury in Christchurch has a strong software engineering and computer science program. It’s the perfect place to find and hire a summer engineer to work at Trineo’s nearby headquarters. The lucky student will build and deliver some much-needed features and functionality while gaining experience in Salesforce.com.
The Lego exercise
To watch how the students work and interact in natural situations, we gave them a Lego exercise. Our objective: put them in a pressured situation that was fun and not too intense. We knew that they didn't have much real-world experience, so this was a way for us to test their soft skills. Here’s how it worked.
The six candidates drew numbers to form two teams. Then we set them up at our boardroom table with each team on one end. Mark Donaghy, Trineo Salesforce Practice Manager, played the role of product owner. Their task: to build a Lego vehicle that adhered to a specific set of requirements. For example, the vehicle:
- Must transport 10 Lego figures in seated positions
- Must be movable across the boardroom table from end to end
- Must have 20% red bricks
An abbreviated agile sprint
We ran the project in an agile way. The teams had:
- 1 minute to plan and discuss the project
- 2 minutes to conduct the sprint
- 2 minutes to demo their work
- 2 minutes to retro
After the first sprint, Mark, as product owners sometimes do, changed the requirements. He introduced the need for the vehicle to fly. Then we repeated this process for one additional sprint.
Observing the candidates
As each team worked, I observed one team, and Trineo engineer Matt Wratt observed the other. We wanted to see how the team members interacted. For example, did they balance the workload? Who took which role?
We were curious to see if the candidates would question the requirements or ask for clarification. When Mark said the vehicle had to fly, would they ask, “Does it have to be thrown across the room? Can it hover? Does it need to have wings?” We left it up to them to work out.
Choosing the hire
Ultimately, this exercise wasn’t the deciding factor in who received the summer job. We were able to learn more about the candidates, and get a flavour of how they work in teams.
If you are looking to run this exercise for your own hiring process and you don’t have access to Legos, then you could run a paper plane challenge instead. I have seen this work just as well. If you don’t have access to a large table, you could also set up your teams on the floor. There is plenty of room for flexibility. Just remember to offer plenty of snacks.