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Ask HN: Work samples from recruiter's candidates
4 points by ChuckMcM 1263 days ago | hide | past | web | 10 comments | favorite
So like lots of folks I get a crap ton of mail from recruiters, although since I have 'VP' in my title much of it is recruiters trying to 'sell me' on candidates. This sets up an interesting dynamic, its a pain to try to figure out from the chopped up and 'anonymized' resume if the candidate is any good, and if you do ask them to send you the name its still a pain to figure out if they are worth talking to.

My new strategy is this, ask the recruiter to send the candidate programmer a programming task. Have them send me the results, an explanation of the results, and an analysis of the requirements. (fundamental skills that anyone who wants to get an onsite interview has to have).

So if you're an engineer and the recruiter asks if you'd be willing to do this exercise to see if the job is a good fit, are you ok with that? angry? curious?

What worthwhile candidate would ever do this? Why would you create a recruiting process that selects for the most desperate, least informed candidates in the hottest seller's market for talent in the last 20 years?

I'm not "angry" about it, just bewildered.

(I'm also a hiring manager; we simply don't work with recruiters.)

> What worthwhile candidate would ever do this?

One who was looking for a job but didn't know where to apply? I come across people all the time who are worthwhile candidates but the person who trying to get them placed is clueless. And I come across recruiters who are a waste of oxygen but you can't really know that unless you've got some way to measure their capabilities.

> (I'm also a hiring manager; we simply don't work with recruiters.)

Generally I don't either as there are enough people in my network that when I'm looking to fill a role I can find someone, however when you need to fill a role with a deadline and you don't have a ready source of candidates (this is not uncommon in the Bay Area) for places other than Google, Apple, and Facebook :-).

It depends on the size of the task. A task of 30 minutes to 3 hours is not that bad to ask of a candidate, depending on circumstances.

But I saw a recent job offer on a HN "Who's hiring?" which came with a programming challenge. Once I read it, I realized it might take several hours to get it all done, and they said "add even more to impress us!"

Well, I'm full-time, as are a lot of good candidates. I don't have time to mess with this. Normally I like small software development challenges, as I like software development.

And, y'know, if I was unemployed, I would pour a bunch of time into this. The very worst case is that I learn and practice new things, and I would want to stand out from the pack.

But since I'm employed, I don't have time to spend 5+ hours on a project where the employer has not put in any effort of their own.

I found a news article about the company where they said they would get 600 resumes for a posting and set up challenges as a filter. I think they went way to far in the other direction.

I don't get a crap ton of recruiter mail. (Yay?) I'm in a good gig now, so I don't really respond to the ones that I do get. Sometimes, if I feel that they're not too slimy, I'll respond by saying "I'm OK now, I'll keep you in mind down the road if I ever need anything," and file away their contact info in the event my current gig goes south. My life is busy enough that I'd probably be annoyed at the presumption I've got time to deal with a work sample test on top of dealing with the spam in the first place. However...

I'm definitely one of those people described in XKCD's nerd sniping strip.[0] If the sample problem actually flicked that little nerve in my brain, you might get a response from me just because I couldn't help myself. But here's the kicker. You'd only get my solution as long as I could email it directly to you instead of the recruiter. At that point, even if I'm not interested in working for you now the sample problem you wrote has sparked some interest. Now, I'm interested in striking up a relationship with that might not amount to much at the moment, but may prove fruitful in the future. If we've gotten this far, I'm not interested in dealing with the recruiter any more.

[0] http://xkcd.com/356/

This task is beyond most recruiters' skill sets to do properly. Most recruiters are also paranoid about any level of direct interaction, since both candidate and interviewer have significant financial incentives to cut them out of the deal, so you'll have to deal with (and work around) that fear.

A five-minute programming exercise that you spend more than 5 minutes designing, that you grade yourself, will be about the most you can do before you start turning off qualified applicants, at least at this early stage. If I want to spend 3 hours on a programming challenge with no guarantee of payment, I can certainly come up with more enjoyable ways to do so where I don't get constant reminders that I'm taking too long.

The best time for the programming challenge comes after the initial "does this person look like they fit into our organization?" set of interviews. Those interviews not only screen out a large percentage of your pool, but also sells your organization to the applicant, incentivizing them to take longer to get the job.

There are also the fairly thinly veiled 'hack a thon' type things where you offer a prize of a Macbook Air for best hack using technology X and as part of the signup you get both a number of people's names and a good sense of their coding ability.

This is the first impression you want to make on your candidates? You're the busywork company?

These are the kind of candidates you want? The ones who are willing to have their introduction to a future employer be an annotated answer to a "fundamental skills" problem? Instead of, say, a five-minute chat that touches on such issues as "who am I?" and "who are you?" and "what's the job, really, because the recruiter obviously doesn't know?" and "why might I be unusually happy and successful in this job, and also fun to work with, and therefore worth a lot of your company's money?"

I wouldn't. I get mail from recruiters every day so it's not feasible to take the time to solve even smallers puzzles. However, I could direct them to my public github work to prove my skills.

Also, I'm not sure all interviewers consider it fantastic if you ace the puzzle if everyone else who works there barely finished it. On the other hand, if I was guaranteed to get an offer by completing the puzzle, it would change my mind. But most companies that wants programming tasks solved assign such a low value to it and values other factors much higher that it just isn't worth the time.

I would think about it IF this was a current problem the company was having, and they want to see what potential solutions are out there. So it can't be an imaginary problem (ie typical interview questions)

But then you'll get into all sorts of legal issues (like can you actually use code candidates wrote, etc). So that makes it impractical. So it now enters the realm of boredom since it's an imaginary problem :)

No. Recruiters seem to try to fit any candidate into roles they are not appropriate for.

If it was a programming challenge I'd rather be approached by the company doing the hiring.

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