In recent months, many companies have been exploring alternatives to HackerRank for coding interviews. This is due to concerns around issues such as cheating and plagiarism, providing a suboptimal candidate experience, asking unrealistic questions, and the cost of the platform. Fortunately, there are several viable options available that can help companies overcome these challenges and improve their hiring processes.

Problem 1: Cheating and Plagiarism

Cheating and plagiarism are significant concerns for companies using HackerRank for coding interviews, partly due to the abundance of online resources available for pre-built questions on the platform. Moreover, candidates, especially interns and new grads, share answers and collaborate on solutions to problems, even for non pre-built questions, on social media platforms like Blind and Glassdoor. This not only undermines the accuracy and reliability of the assessment process but also wastes the time and effort of recruiters and hiring managers who have to sift through numerous unqualified applicants.

Here are a few ways to avoid this issue:

  • Customize your own questions on HackerRank rather than choosing a pre-built one.
  • Create several variations of your question and have several different questions to cycle through to prevent leaks on platforms like Blind and Glassdoor.
  • Come up with follow-up questions that you can ask about the applicant's submission to more easily catch cheating.
  • Tell candidates upfront that you will be asking follow-up questions on their submission in the next interview to de-incentivize cheating.
  • Most commonly, companies switch to live coding to reduce plagiarism and cheating, but this comes with the caveat of increasing interviewing hours spent.

Problem 2: Candidate Experience

Aside from the issue of cheating and plagiarism, another significant concern for companies using HackerRank for coding interviews is the poor candidate experience. Candidates can become discouraged and frustrated when faced with a generic or irrelevant question, or when they feel like their work is not valued or appreciated.

Furthermore, the use of HackerRank challenges as a screening tool can be seen as a lazy approach to recruitment, giving candidates the impression that the company is not invested in creating a positive experience for them.

Here are a few ways to improve the candidate experience:

  • Have a recruiter talk to the applicant before they are sent the coding challenge.
  • Tell the candidate that their submission will be used in future rounds of the interview process to create continuity throughout the interview.
  • Create a question that is more interesting and relevant to the job.
  • Provide feedback to your candidates, even if they don’t pass to the next step, to let them know that you value their time and effort.

Problem 3: Real-World Interview Process

One of the most significant criticisms of HackerRank is that its assessment questions are often unrealistic and do not reflect the real-world challenges that engineers face in their jobs. Specifically, many of the data structures and algorithm questions used in HackerRank interviews are not directly relevant to the job of an engineer, especially for more senior roles.

Here are a few alternatives to avoid this issue:

  • Create a question that is more relevant to the role and your company.
  • Remove unnecessary time constraints or anxieties that do not emulate the real working environment.
  • Include elements that involve reading code or have a discussion about their decisions in a live interview after they've done the assessment.
  • Create a well-scoped question that is just difficult enough where the applicant can learn something throughout the process, but not too difficult that the applicant will spend days on it.
Here's our plug! Consider using Hatchways, which helps companies develop real-world, customizable assessments that provide a superior candidate experience, while helping companies make better hiring decisions.

In conclusion, while HackerRank remains a popular platform for coding interviews, there is a growing trend among candidates preferring more real-world interviewing processes. Consider customizing your questions and thoughtfully facilitating them in an environment that is closer to what the applicant would be doing day to day to improve the candidate experience. Ultimately, this approach can lead to better hiring decisions, a stronger pool of candidates, and a more successful outcome for both the company and the candidate.