For 20% of Java candidates, they do it just fine. Heck, a few echew the IDE and are fine working completely from the terminal (these tend to be particularly very solid at coding). Still wrestling with the idea.
The folks that already work with us (who wrote Java in a former role) see no problem with setting up a project nor do the folks that we hired recently (seeing as they likely passed that technical interview). But that all could be bias.
Maybe you are right. Maybe the next candidate or five in Java will get a base project and we can see how it goes.
I think Java depends much more heavily on powerful tooling to do the heavy lifting, and my experience of using that tooling when I haven't had a chance to configure it in advance has been pretty miserable.
If it's remote, I'll ask them to share their screen with me with a project set up and ready to go, having emailed them a copy of the interface we're going to implement about 30 minutes before the interview.
In general, if I'm asking them to code on my (or the company's) hardware, I'd start from an existing project, if only because I wouldn't expect them to be familiar with the installed tools (oh, you use maven? I'm a gradle user ... etc.) On their own laptop, I'd expect them to be more comfortable.
I'm doing a remote interview on Wednesday. That'll be on the candidates machine (because screen-sharing is easy, getting them inside the corporate network, not happening), and they've been told they'll need an IDE ready to go. I'll expect a project set up and ready to go before the call even starts.
What round is this?
Also, how much of their day-to-day work is going to be setting up new projects? I sometimes feel a better test is to be thrown into an existing code base and asked to make a change. It's far more indicative of the sort of work somebody is likely to actually be doing.