CAD Practice test for Potential Employees?

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums GENERAL DISCUSSION CAD Practice test for Potential Employees?

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    Andres F. Pineda

    Good Monday to you all!

    Over the weekend, a couple of friends and I looked into the idea of hiring new potential employees.

    It would be a new process for all of us as our group is composed of friends / colleges whom we worked together throughout our graduate school years and we know our strengths and weaknesses. As always we’d like to make sure that they are competent CAD users.

    Does anyone know of or have a CAD test that they use for potential employees? As an employer what specifics do you look at when testing, any suggestions of what we should test them on, specifically?

    If anyone has any thoughts on this, feel free to share your ideas, process and prior experience on the subject.



    First, have you all established a CAD standard, or is it a free-for-all ?  What would a new prospect have for reference on the test…do they get to name the layers what ever they want and use whatever lineweight or style they feel like ?  What about text in model space vs layout space?  What about use of fields for titleblocks, or making blocks and wblocks, etc. ?  What’s the rule on exploding text and hatches?  Are drawings plotted from model or layout? 

    Somebody who knows what they’re doing could still make a real mess of things if a standard isn’t in place to force them to toe the line.



    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    What is competency in one office may not be competency in another. Office standards are something to be aight and learned rather than something to test for.

    What your office needs to determine is at what point on the learbing curve do you need a person to be at in order to match the effort you are willing to make that will make them proficient in your office.


    Two years ago we hired a guy (CE) one year out of Penn State who had one semester of Autocad to start out as a civil site plan drafter. There was nothing in his portfolio that indicated that he had any more than a basic understanding of how to use Acad. We did not test him. He knew the basic commands, layouts, plotting, and such which was pretty clear from asking a few questions. It was also clear that he did not have much more than that. Maybe it was a good thing that he was not pre-programmed too much because he blended in pretty quickly.


    We taught him the office standards and made sure that he understood that he was expected to not know everything and encouraged him to ask questions. His desk was set up next to someone else with two monitors. One for him to work on and the other so that it was easy for his office mentor to see without getting up. That way questions could be asked and answered with very little disruption. It might be more a testimony to that individual, but he was very functional within no time …. and began using that second monitor in dual mode within just a few weeks.

    Chris Whitted

    I suppose the question is whether you’re looking to hire someone with little or no experience, such as a recent grad, someone with at least a few years who should know how to run CAD, or someone who has been a project manager or higher for some time and may not have worked with CAD on a regular basis for a while.  In my opinion, testing is not the way to go.  A list of common tasks or procedures that you can ask ‘do you have a method for doing this or are you familiar with it’ and perhaps the inclusion of some actual file examples in their application would be more appropriate.  Toby lists a number of possible issues.  I’ve seen some highly organized CAD operators who were incredibly inefficient and vice versa.

    I certainly understand the concern.  It hasn’t been uncommon to see someone put software on their resume or say they were experienced with it only to find they really aren’t (and of course ‘experienced’ is a subjective term since one can use some software all day and not touch a fraction of its capabilities).  But I can’t recall ever being asked to take a test or hearing of a firm that did to prove CAD abilities.  Usually portfolio examples are sufficient.

    Wyatt Thompson, PLA

    When I was in school several classmates were asked to take CAD tests as part of their internship interview process. I never had to do that so I don’t know exactly what the tests were like or if the employer found much benefit. The reaction from the students,however, was not positive (“What are we, CAD monkeys?” Well….yes, actually…).  I understand your desire to have someone join your team who is proficient in the tools you use, and I would encourage you to be aware of the impression a test may send to your potential candidates. If you need an expert CAD user who is ready to rock on the first day, you may want to consider soliciting for that type of position instead of a landscape architect. I suppose you could also request that applicants be AutoDesk certified; I’m not sure how much that credential is worth, but you might find it valuable.

    Tonie C.

    I think CAD is very hard to test for because there are so many ways to do the same task.  Most of those tests only accept one way of doing something.     

    Why not hire on a trial basis?  Do a temp to hire with a 90 day window.  Let them know that you want them to use your office CAD standards and be able to perform XY and Z within that time frame.     


    Our firm tests every potential new employee who would be doing any kind of plan production.  The reason for testing is because we have been burned in the past with people who are less than honest on their resume’s or how they have produced work.  So now everyone gets tested.  Our test is relatively simple.  There is like 10-15 questions/steps that must be taken to solve a simple drafting excercise.  You can tell real fast who knows what they are doing and who does not.  If the person gets hired then they are taken to the next level and trained on all of the office standards etc. 

    Jason T. Radice

    I recall having to do this for only one employer, my first out of college. The test was fairly simple, just sit down with a few premade blocks and try to design something out of them. That included having to explode and re-form the blocks, drawing lines and splines, as well as p-lines. One BIG clue to autocad competence is if the person is reasonably fast with text commands vs. using the dropdown menus or button. They at least know a bit more than the basics. I would not put much into the whole paper space/model space thing, as pretty much every place I hav worked has used some sort of convoluted method for producing the actual construction document. Also be sure they know the 3D commands.  I don’t put too much stock in performing the tests anymore for fresh hires, as pretty much everybody now has had at least basic CAD exposure in college…not so when I was starting out.

    Andres F. Pineda

    I want to thank everyone for shedding some light onto the subject and sharing your views. We have a clear concept on how we want to proceed in the future with hiring new potential employees.

    I shared the opinions with my colleges, and we concluded that in this particular case testing the employee on basic CAD tasks through a  trial basis just as Tonie Cox suggested and Andrew Garulay, RLA suggestion of “teaching them the office standards and make sure that he/she understood that they are expected to not know everything and encouraged them to ask questions” would do the trick.

    It made me realized that this trial period is no longer a one way trial, but also becomes about them testing us.  If they can do their task, of course is the top of our priority, but just important testing how he/she fits within our office culture plays even a bigger role; If he/she feels comfortable with the way we do things and happy where he/she is working at.

    I have always been a strong believer in working with a company/organization that I believe in; as well as its culture and management.

    I guess there is no wrong or right way of doing this process and every office has their way of doing things,  the only difference comes down to how efficient you want to make this process. 

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