With a scarcity of programmers for hire, employers in need have turned to "challenge-based" hiring platforms like HackerRankX, which weed out candidates with coding challenges. Now after receiving $9.2M in series B funding, HackerRank thinks it can gamify the hacker-hiring process on a grand scale—becoming a LinkedIn-style hub for programmers in the process.
Is this the future of talent-finding, or just a gimmick?
The idea for a LinkedIn-style network comes from the company’s experience with the HackerRankX enterprise tool. With HackerRankX, companies can create custom programming challenges for their clients, replacing the inefficient first-round phone interview by screening for applicants with the right skills. Evernote’s Coding Challenge, for example, is powered by HackerRank’s tech.
“Companies save anywhere from 70 to 80 recruiting hours with every hire they make,” says HackerRank founder Vivek Ravinsakar. “So if they make 10 hires, that’s like giving back a thousand hours to the company.”
Ravinsakar thinks this isn’t just how companies can reach out to skilled programmers—it’s how companies should be talking to skilled programmers.
“Active programmers don’t move around with resumes. A developer will ask you, ‘What’s your GitHub profile’ or ‘What’s your StackOverflow profile’—and in a year from now, HackerRank will be like that,” Ravinsakar says. “The value of resumes is starting to go down. I feel like it will almost be dead in five to 10 years.”
Where GitHub and StackOverflow represent particular projects and code snippets, HackerRank wants its programmer profiles to display raw coding and problem-solving skills. As HackerRank was already a social platform with programming challenges, they’ve built up a large library of challenges already. And since challenge winners are allowed to propose their own challenges, which HackerRank internally fine-tunes, the library keeps growing. Ravinsakar figures that 70% of HackerRank’s programming challenges are crowdsourced.
“HackerRank is an intersection of programming and recruiting—something that programmers really love, which is solving challenges, and something companies love, because they’re able to objectively measure who’s really good,” Ravinsakar says.
Programmers might be suspicious of such a magic bullet method of mining for programming talent. After all, there are many expertise domains—but HackerRank, a sort of digital coding jam studio with a high-score leaderboard, aims to have challenges for many corners of computer science, from machine learning to artificial intelligence.
Ravinsakar admits that the challenges can rely on niche knowledge and skilled programmers without it can be eliminated.
“The weakness is when you focus too much on a particular piece or particular type—like if you made a challenge really math-intensive or had an obscure theory, like graph theory. Even a really smart programmer can get knocked out,” Ravinsakar says. “We have to figure out a way that is really representative of a good programmer in a company and keep iterating on challenges until we end up with a really good conversion.”
Like every startup, HackerRank itself is an iteration of an idea—in this case, as an advisory service for programmers applying to big tech gigs. But since many of their customers were broke students, HackerRank stumbled for two years until it pivoted over a year ago to focus on HackerRankX. The recruiting tool still isn’t profitable enough to sustain the company. But the programmer profile space is too ripe for Ravinsakar to pass up, and much of that $9.2M of investment will go to growth, aiming to double HackerRank’s 50-person team by the end of the year.
The list of companies using HackerRankX is an endorsement in itself, including Square, Evernote, Palantir, Quora, FireEye, Adobe, and even the VC firm Andreessen Horowitz.