In 2017 I applied for an iOS programmer position with a company, they sent a code test and a survey about different IT technology (most not relate direct with iOS).

The code test had three questions like below and stated that any programming language could be used and requested I send the source code for my answers.

The Test questions (I forget the exact numbers in the questions but that's not really important):

  1. Calculate element 35 of Fibonacci series start with 0; 1;…

  2. Create program for print all node of binary tree at depth n

  3. Calculate number of all possible dice roll pattern for game have 705 exact steps, game use 1 dice have 6 sides

Two days after I finish and send my answers, they reply to me that they do not know how open the code files (I send .c files) and want PDF file instead.

I was surprised that a software company that hires programmers did not know how to use text editor or word processor for opening the source code files? But sent the PDF anyway as requested.

Does this indicate that the company has serious issues?

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    A PDF is not a viable way for the people who should be reviewing the code to do so; therefore it indicates a serious problem with the company's hiring flow. They're probably not ready to be hiring a programmer, and trying to deal with them is likely to be a waste of time. At best write back and explain that a .c (or whatever) language file (or archive or repo of such) is the format in which their technical staff will need the result. If they still object, explain that you while you would be happy to speak to someone technical, you refuse to waste any more time with a broken process. Nov 6, 2018 at 18:59
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    @gnasher729 typically submitted code would be built and tested for functionality, not just looked at. Does your compiler parse PDF's? Sure, it's possible to cut and paste, or script some extraction thing, but it's an absurdly pointless extra step for both the candidate and the reviewers, forced by a broken idea of hiring process counterproductively inserting itself in the middle. A company that won't quickly move to a direct technical conversation is one that is wasting everyone's time. Nov 6, 2018 at 22:16
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    @chrisstatton. The compiler can’t judge the things that I look for.
    – gnasher729
    Nov 7, 2018 at 7:48
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    @gnasher729 yes, but loading the code into a dev environment makes your job easier. Syntax and error highlighting, correct formatting, etc. When you review code, wouldn't you rather look at a nice display than a pdf? And what sense does it make for HR to look at code, whether it's a pdf or a .c file? It's going to look like complete gibberish. HR should simply pass the requested files along to someone who is competent to examine them. As it stands now, HR is making your job harder.
    – DaveG
    Nov 7, 2018 at 21:45
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    @gnasher729 If you submit code that I don't understand by reading it from a sheet of paper then you failed already then you will never hire someone that think differently from you (and you can miss some good candidates that are better than you)
    – Gianluca
    Nov 8, 2018 at 8:06

4 Answers 4


You probably dealt with a HR employee who wanted to print out the candidates CVs and code to discuss and select in a meeting with the manager and/or tech lead, or something like that.

It's a bit silly, but not necessarily indicative of the overall quality of the company. Perhaps this company doesn't hire a lot of programmers, or the person was new.

You can discuss "what was that PDF thing about?" if you get to the interview stage, but personally I would just leave it.


The quality of the HR people has very little to do with the quality of the company. The HR person probably had no idea what they were looking at. Yes, you know more about using computers than some HR person. I would hope so because you are looking for a software job. In cases like that, you give them what they want so they can pass it to the manager. HR generally is of limited value but they are gate keepers. You have to get past them to get to somebody that actually makes the decision.

Now, if the hiring manager does not know what to do with a C file, I would think twice about working there. If management knows their limitations and is willing to listen to people that know more than them in the software area, it could be fine. It could also be particularly unpleasant if they think they know everything or dismiss software as something to pass off to lowly, disposable computer people.

  • 4
    Except the fact that HR is getting something that would only be meaningful to a programmer, and then asking for a different format that will be harder for a programmer to use, does indicate a structural problem. HR should just be saying "yeah, the part that makes sense to me looks reasonable, I'll forward everything". It's not like they are going to look at the pdf and make a decision.
    – DaveG
    Nov 6, 2018 at 18:37
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    @JMac If they are structured in a way that deliberately makes the interview process less efficient, to me that's a structural problem.
    – DaveG
    Nov 6, 2018 at 18:59
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    @JMac I'm not worried about the applicant efficiency. If the test is actually going to be looked at by a programmer, it's more efficient for the hiring company to get actual source, rather than a pdf. If I'm reviewing an applicant and I get a .c file, I can open it up in a dev environment (or even just Notepad++) and get syntax highlighting, etc. Easier than squinting at a pdf.
    – DaveG
    Nov 6, 2018 at 20:35
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    The HR department may not be representative of the technical side; but a company with that permits a counterproductive HR department to annoy both its engineers and its candidates is quite likely to be a company burdened by many other sorts of counterproductive administration as well. Nov 6, 2018 at 22:20
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    @user1683793 both malice and stupidity are indicative of structural problems.
    – jcm
    Nov 8, 2018 at 8:14

I would probably just print the whole lot out to a PDF, and send that. Follow up with a call or an email.

Maybe HR can use the PDF file and the hiring manager can use the .c files you have already sent them. If you get an interview, take a printed copy with you in case you have to refer to it.


IMHO this means HR is really unskilled and unprofessional. In my experience, it means also the rest of the company is the same. So just go ahead and see what happens. You are now warned that most likely the company is not very professional. But you can see if it fits your interest or not. Up to you :)

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