3/26/2018 - 8:48 PM

A prospective employer invited me to do a HackerRank test. Here's my proposed alternative.

A prospective employer invited me to do a HackerRank test. Here's my proposed alternative.

Well, that was unexpected. In the following, I’m trying to follow Jon Evans’ advice from “The Terrible Technical Interview”.

To: recruitment@EmployerABC.com
From: Ahmed Fasih
Subject: Re: Programming Test Invitation

Hi there! Thanks for offering to let me take a HackerRank test for ABC, I appreciate the vote of confidence.

I'd never heard of HackerRank, but after you wrote two other employers sent me their own HackerRank tests. Having worked on those tests first (I considered them practice, for the real thing with ABC :), I'd like to check if you have flexibility in finding an alternative way to evaluate my basic coding chops.

This is because, as functional programmer and author Paul Chiusano says, "Programming is all about managing complexity" [1], but HackerRank is quite bad at measuring my ability to manage complexity. It asks for small algorithmic coding puzzles to be done in unnatural conditions including (1) time limits, (2) forbidding research on Wikipedia or StackOverflow, (3) forbidding collaboration, and (4) forbidding the use of libraries (Python and JavaScript e.g. are so different when confined to their vanilla languages without Numpy/Pandas or lodash/npm packages).

I'm hoping ABC's recruitment policy is flexible enough to let me offer alternative, or at least parallel, routes to quantifying my skill in coding—skills in managing complexity, selecting libraries, and extending existing code, not just solving algorithmic puzzles. I have written a number of open-source projects that I'd love to spend two hours adding features and squashing bugs:

  • Ebisu is a Python (and JavaScript) library I wrote to implement a Bayesian estimation problem (for scheduling quizzes in spaced-repetition software): I have a detailed writeup on what it does at https://fasiha.github.io/ebisu/ and the source code lives at https://github.com/fasiha/ebisu

  • Mudder.js is a JavaScript library I wrote that implements simple arithmetic in arbitrarily-high-base numbering systems to lexicographically-subdivide string space, which is useful in NoSQL databases for use as keys: a detailed writeup is included in the repo at https://github.com/fasiha/mudderjs

  • The Texture Shaded Globe lets you interactively visualize the world's elevation and terrain after it's been texture-shaded, which is a fractional-Laplacian frequency-domain operation that I wrote in Python to work on ~100 gigabytes of data: the app is at https://fasiha.github.io/texshade-cesium-viewer/ and a description of it, with links to specific views, is at https://fasiha.github.io/post/texshade/

  • KanjiBreak is a webapp I wrote in JavaScript and Elm to collaborate with my friends and family who were also learning Chinese/Japanese characters. We are using it to make a character dependency graph: the app is at https://kanjibreak.glitch.me and includes a detailed "Help" section (it may take a few seconds to load the first time, since Glitch is a free resource that spins down inactive servers).

These are just four projects I picked as I scrolled through my list of recently-committed GitHub projects [2] that I think showcase not just skill in programming but also in math and design.

Would ABC be willing to work with me to define a better way to check my technical qualifications by choosing one of these projects (or any other project of mine!) to perhaps conduct a code review and/or add an enhancement that you would like to see? I think that would be a much more interesting and useful way to spend two hours, rather than implementing cute little algorithms inside an isolated environment like HackerRank.

I'm hoping that, if the HackerRank test turns out to be an absolute requirement for ABC, that we can do something like the above in addition to HackerRank.

Thanks for considering it! I'd love to work for ABC, and I hope I'm not being too forward or presumptuous by sending you this long email.

Best regards,


[1] See http://pchiusano.github.io/2017-01-20/why-not-haskell.html
[2] At https://github.com/fasiha?tab=repositories