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I am a software developer in the U.S. pursuing a position with a new employer. As part of the interview process, I was asked to make some minor modifications on a piece of code the employer provided. Per the employer:

[Applicants] don’t need to know a lot about much to put it together, but how they compose the solution will help us understand their ability in a way that talking really can’t.

I completed the changes to the code and published them as requested. This code is shared publicly, so other applicants can easily view the work that I have done, just as I can view theirs. I took a look at one of the applicants' code who published their changes over a week after I published mine, and I noticed the code looked incredibly familiar. I reviewed all of the changes by this other applicant and compared them to mine, and aside from some very minor differences**, the code is essentially identical. It is incredibly unlikely that the changes would have been so similar had this other applicant not reviewed my code and copied it.

My question is, is it my place to bring this to the employer's attention? I am uncomfortable knowing that someone has copied my work and is using it as their own, but I am worried that contacting them about this would have undesirable consequences. I have only been in contact with the recruiter for this employer, and I am unsure if the other applicant is also working with this recruiter.


** The only differences in the code were in the comments, variable names and formatting; all of the logic is identical.

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    What would you expect to accomplish by contacting them? What is your goal? Do you think they will notice the similarities on their own? – dwizum May 17 '18 at 20:16
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    My goal is to get a job with this employer, and avoid competing for the position with someone who is claiming my work to be theirs. The code is similar enough that they would notice it if they looked at them together. This was a simple request by the employer, and is likely just one step to see if you get another interview. I imagine that additional interviews would likely filter this candidate out if they copied my work due to lack of knowledge. – Wrokar May 17 '18 at 20:28
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    "This code is shared publicly, so other applicants can easily view the work that I have done, just as I can view theirs." What an idiotic practice - this is literally inviting exactly what you are experiencing right now – HorusKol May 18 '18 at 1:31
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    If not 100% copying, it encourages late submission in order to cherry-pick the best parts of others solutions. – Mawg May 18 '18 at 11:09
  • If your code didn't land the job, then I highly doubt it would work the same for this other individual. – Dan May 18 '18 at 12:17
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is it my place to bring this to the employer's attention?

I think that it would be quite obvious for the employer this sort of plagiarism that other candidate made.

The fact that you posted it a week before, and that the logic and style is basically the same speaks for itself. It is highly likely that they will find this on their own, without you having to point it out.

However, I also think you are in full rights to notify the employer about this, so they can take it into consideration (although if it were me I would refrain from doing so). If you do, try not to phrasing it like it was undoubtedly plagiarism, instead give it the benefit of doubt, something like:

Greetings employer. It caught my attention that the code other applicants posted is highly similar to the one I posted a week ago. I hope this is not a problem, but just wanted to mention this to you so you may take it into consideration.

Again, I think this will be obvious for them, so no need to purposely point fingers to something that will be evident and negatively affect their applications.

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    I would additionally suggest the OP avoid modifying the original submission as, if there is only a modification timestamp and no history, any changes may make it appear as if the OP plagiarized. – Eric May 18 '18 at 15:01
  • That's a good suggestion, @Eric – DarkCygnus May 18 '18 at 15:01
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I would not mention this until you were actually hired, then you can suggest they improve their applicant process by showing this example. If someone truly copied your example code, he'll likely hang himself in other areas of an interview, so don't sweat it too much.

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