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A lot of companies I interview for ask for a coding task to be completed within a limited time, such as building a small program/web application.

HR typically sends me an email with the challenge, and expects a reply email in the following 2-3 hours. Most of the time, HR can only administer the task during working hours, which happen to be same as mine.

This is a problem because my weekly deliverables at my current job are set and are pretty tightly packed, so taking a day off would be in an extreme situation for me.

Spread across a few days, I will usually squeeze some hours, reach home early, and give the interview, but by the time I get home from work, I am dead tired. I can whip up some basic code, but that is not my best shot.

Once or twice I have told HR that I can do it on a Saturday, but without blinking an eyelid they'd jump up and say 'only on weekdays'.

What alternatives do I have for performing time-limited code challenges for interviews when I am unable to take the time off work for them, and they can only be given during business hours?

  • @JoeStrazzere that is probably the only way and what I have tried with no success. I thought I could ask here and see if someone has an advice/tip to offer about this or counter proposing something to the HR – happybuddha Jun 20 '13 at 20:18
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    Is taking a half-day at work (or the entire day off) not an option? – Clockwork-Muse Jun 20 '13 at 20:31
  • Do it first thing in the morning and go in late? Take time off from work? (I've never heard of one of these being structured that way, as opposed to "return it within a day" (or two). – Monica Cellio Jun 20 '13 at 21:02
  • @MonicaCellio, I am sure you haven't interviewed at a technical position with this giant firm that I had my most recent experience with. Clockwork, yes, that is an option but most of the month, my weekly deliverables are set which are pretty tightly packed. So taking a day off would be in an extreme situation for me. – happybuddha Jun 20 '13 at 21:25
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    My refusal to copy code from google searches can be one reason I am not able to perform well. <-- what? I use code from google searches all the time at my job. – enderland Jun 21 '13 at 2:07
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This suggestion will depend on the capabilities of the email software you and the company that you're interviewing with. For instance, Microsoft Outlook supports a receipt. You could request that the company employee sends you the coding challenge with a receipt requested and the stipulation that you'll open the message within the next day or during the weekend. The time stamps on the receipt and your email with the solution should provide proof that you didn't take longer than the allowed time.

  • You think I didnt propose this ? Well, I guess, I just have to either take a day off or do such assignments before I go to work. – happybuddha Jun 21 '13 at 0:48
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    This answer will not work 99.9% of the time because read receipts are unreliable when sent to those not using Outlook on the same exchange server. – enderland Jun 21 '13 at 2:12
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    @happybuddha we only know what you tell us. If you didn't tell us you tried proposing that then we have no way of knowing it. Just for future reference. – Rhys Jun 21 '13 at 8:56
  • @enderland, I didn't know that! Thanks for letting me know. – mkennedy Jun 21 '13 at 15:49
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    I think some email programs allow for delayed delivery too. Depending on what email program the HR person is using, and their technical knowledge, perhaps you could ask them to send a delayed email message, and help walk them through the process if they need it. – Rachel Jun 22 '13 at 14:13
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Once or twice I have told the HRs that I can do it on a Saturday, but without blinking an eyelid they'd jump up and say 'only on weekdays'. Somehow, I cant drive this home to their heads.

I'm sure they understand it quite well. You may be okay with working on weekends, but for the people involved in recruiting you, this is their job. They go home at night and on weekends just like you do and like to have their free time to themselves. Unless you're an incredibly desirable candidate that's being courted because the company knows it wants you to work for them, it's unreasonable to expect them to bend over backward for you.

Finding a new job requires some investment on your part. If that means you have to take a few hours off during business hours to participate in the process, the cost of that time off is your investment. It's up to you to evaluate whether the potential return the company will give you if they hire you is worth what you invested. (See this semi-related answer.)

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