Want a development job? Solve a puzzle.

As you can probably guess, the biggest names in the tech industry such as Microsoft and Google have a lot of applicants every day. In such a fast-paced, competition-driven industry, being able to find the right talent from these huge pools of applicants is an ever-arduous challenge. But recruiting divisions have some tricks up their sleeves. And those tricks are actually development puzzles.

There’s only so much you can learn from a person’s résumé. Experience, education, and benchmarks like IQ, SAT, and GPA are all important in their own ways, but they still fail to give a complete picture and can’t reliably predict how productive a fit the candidate will be. And with applicants from all over the world, in-person interviews aren’t always a viable option either.

But there’s a surprising amount that can be learned from a good brainteaser. Sometimes these coding puzzles are part of the application itself, and other times it is a pre-screening process in itself. Take Facebook for example and their Programming Challenges. They have been using clever programming puzzles for years, and have made it a public part of their screening process. The original of these was the “f” Facebook logo, create using color blocks that comprise the (somewhat archaic) visual programming language Piet. Those who saw the significance could translate the blocks into an email address with a request that they contact Facebook for an interview.

Since 2006 when the idea took root at Facebook, other big names have followed suit. Microsoft includes puzzles and programming brainteasers as a regular part of their interview process, with questions like:
Write me a function for the game of tic-tac-toe in C# that returns a bool. you name the params. Tell me if X has won the game.

Google is another big user of brain teasers. Theirs tend to be less exclusively programming oriented and more general problem-solving. Sometimes, though, they do get technical. Here’s a gem:
Distance is defined like this : If a[i], b[j] and c[k] are three elements then distance=max(abs(a[i]-b[j]),abs(a[i]-c[k]),abs(b[j]-c[k]))” Please give a solution in O(n) time complexity

The beauty of these puzzles is how much they can tell about a person’s attitude and willingness to take on challenges. You find creativity in their answers, determination in their persistence, skill and intelligence in their ability to answer.

This drives to the heart of what we’ve always promoted here at Recruiting Concepts. A real fit, a placement that is going to be successful for the company and the employee, can only come from getting beyond the résumé. Some companies who are looking for the best use puzzles to help find talent outside their usual methods. Others use Recruiting Concepts.

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