I had an interview a few months back where the interviewer created a small sample project and asked me to finish it. It wasn't much more than a skeleton for a REST API with an unstyled UI and one unit test, and my job was to flesh it out into something functional.

I didn't end up getting that job, but I'm still proud of the finished project. It's probably the best code sample I have, as it shows my skills in many areas in the stack and in languages/frameworks I enjoy using and would like to find work in. (The rest of my work is proprietary and therefore cannot be used as portfolio pieces.)

I'd like to put it in my portfolio and use it in future interviews, but I'm worried because the first few git commits are from that interviewer (using his company email address), and it's generally obvious that it was created for an interview. (However, the project itself is very generic and doesn't reveal anything about the company.) I don't want to pretend that I created this completely from scratch, but I also don't think it's a good idea to leave identifying information about the company in the git log.

What do you think? Can I use the project as-is as long as I remove company-identifying information (or does that matter)? Can I mention that I was given skeleton code or do I not have to? Is this a good idea at all?

  • Have you asked the original interviewer? Failing that, does the project have a license? But, really, what mindset do you have that your first instinct is to ask stranger son the internet, rather than the one person on earth who knows the answer (the interviewer)? I just can't understand thinking like that :-( Feb 13 '18 at 7:06
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    The core question is a legal one and hard to answer, but in practice isn't this simply where you replace the core framework with something similar to make it "original" and keep mum about the original source? Is there any reason to think the skeleton code has value?
    – Lilienthal
    Feb 13 '18 at 7:20
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    @Mawg As a person, I often struggle to understand what's appropriate to ask and what isn't. (Because sometimes even ASKING is inappropriate for various reasons.) This is why I test the question with "strangers on the internet" before asking the interviewer. I'm trying to figure out if there's a general social rule that makes contacting the interviewer to ask about this a poor choice, so that I don't ask something inappropriate and end up burning a bridge. Hope this clears up your confusion. Feb 13 '18 at 8:27
  • @Lilienthal The value in the skeleton code is that I didn't have to make my own decisions about which frameworks to use, and I didn't have to do the often frustrating (to me) basic initialization of an empty project using those frameworks. I was essentially able to hit the ground running, I guess, which is one reason I've had a really hard time starting up my own side projects. Perhaps I should just start a new project using similar concepts instead of using this exact code sample. Feb 13 '18 at 8:34
  • Ok, that's a reasonable explanation, and I see your point (+0). In this case, though ... what's the worst that could happen? Feb 13 '18 at 8:38


Sharing the "answer" to a company's programming test isn't very considerate. They're probably still using it. It you wanted to come work with me you'd have to write a program to solve a certain problem. I would then be irritated if you shared the problem and your solutions in a Googleable place, because it dilutes the value of that test from 'can code' to 'can Google'.

You can ask and you probably would get away with posting it without asking. But is it that hard to write something of your own you can be proud of?

  • You bring up a good point that the company may still be using the test, so thanks for bringing that to light. However, I wouldn't say that this was a "problem with an answer" sort of project, it was more of a "here's a very basic idea, add whatever you'd like" sort of project. I've seen all of the other interviewees' solutions since the entire thing is on a public repo, so the "solutions" are already Googleable. This is why I asked. But your last sentence is what I really wanted to know; what it reflected of me. (Sorry about all the edits, formatting wasn't cooperating.) Feb 13 '18 at 8:18
  • "But is it that hard to write something of your own you can be proud of?" On the other hand, is it really that hard for an interviewer to come up with a different programming test? It was several months ago. It is part of the interviewer's job to come up questions they can judge people on -- to use the same one month after month, year after year, and expect it to be unsearchable is irresponsible. Feb 13 '18 at 8:25
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    @雰囲気読めない人, actually consistent interview questions is an important part of a fair interviewing process. My employer works very hard to make sure that we ask consistent questions in our programming interviews to make sure we have a fair comparison point for two programmers. If we give them different problems, how do we compare their results. So while it may not be hard to come up with another question, it may not be the best practice for the overall interviewing process.
    – cdkMoose
    Feb 13 '18 at 14:42
  • @cdkMoose I agree that it is important for hiring for a certain position at a certain time -- however, using the same questions over a long period of time is not important. Is it really important to compare the results of the interviews of people hired years apart? Services like glass door actually encourage interviewees to give away interview questions for companies they interviewed at -- there is no reasonable expectation that the information will remain private. Feb 14 '18 at 1:05
  • @雰囲気読めない人 , over years, yes, but this is a couple months. I think this is too soon
    – cdkMoose
    Feb 14 '18 at 1:11

If there were no instructions to not share the code, and no licence on the code itself, then so long as you remove any company-specific items/information, then I would say that it is fine. I would avoid saying that it was for an interview for **** company in the repository or on a portfolio site linking to the repository, but rather just give a brief description on what the project does.

However, if you are contacted by the company asking you to take it down, I would recommend just going along with their request, even if there were no legal implications along with the request, just as a professional courtesy.


As an alternative to the core question, could you take all the code which you wrote and put it on top of an original / public domain framework?

You mentioned that:

It wasn't much more than a skeleton for a REST API with an unstyled UI and one unit test, and my job was to flesh it out into something functional.

So I'm inferring that it shouldn't be too difficult to start a new repo, with a new "skeleton" that you either write yourself or take from somewhere that's freely available for personal use, and then apply the code you wrote on top of that, potentially changing a few lines or variable names.

That way, you get the best of both worlds - you get to show off the code you're proud of (the stuff you wrote yourself), and you don't have to worry about any accusations of "stealing" or complications arising from efforts to get permission to use the sample code the interviewer provided.

  • Thank you, this is a great idea! I forgot to mention that part of the reason I was asking was because I'm in a time pinch, so this is a great way to make sure it's all my own work while still making sure I get things done in time. Feb 14 '18 at 3:59

Go ahead. To keep it simple, just create a new repo and dump your code into it, so that you're not forking off some random company's codebase.

You can, if you like "Solution to Company X Interview 2018", or you can call it "Bob", but if you call it the former then you probably shouldn't use it in your protfolio. If you give it some reasonable project name "Random Rest Example" then you can.

  • Yes, this is probably the best thing to do if I want to use the code. Thank you for your idea! Feb 14 '18 at 4:01

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