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This has been one of frequently occurring thing with me while interviewing with companies. I am android developer with 6+ years of experience and during course of my career I have given many interviews.

My question is about technical rounds, Usually during which we are tasked to submit a piece of code. I have submitted coding tasks that included bunch of small tricky programming questions or a small working demo that usually takes anywhere between 1-3 hours of effort. But, Sometimes while interviewing with some companies I have been tasked with completing the whole module that takes days worth of effort.

For example in one of the recent interview, Interviewer in the problem definition mentioned to implement a complete flow of creating and capturing image and video using custom camera implementation. After capturing the video and image it needs to be displayed in user feeds and to be uploaded to server. Once the image is uploaded user can upload it to facebook. Other users should be able to view and rate the video posted by you.

This seems like a whole app module or a complete flow in itself. Tasks like this for technical challenges seems unnecessarily long and irrelevant to me and I am confused about how to respond back to them. I don't want to be unprofessional by not responding at all, but what can be the best path to approach this without sounding not interested, unprofessional or doubting their interview process?

  • Can edit this to give an example. A module can be trivial or very complex. You could be misinterpreting the requirement and biting off too much, or it could be something they expect people at the level to be capable of, or the company could have ridiculous expectations. It's impossible to say without more info. – Keith Loughnane May 21 at 9:07
  • @KeithLoughnane updated the question. – nightfury101 May 21 at 10:20
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    Does this answer your question? Being taken advantage of in an interview? – gnat May 21 at 11:38
  • @gnat, No, but that scenario can be a good forewarning of what's going to happen if he submits that work to them. He'll slave over it for a week or two. He'll submit the work. Then, they'll nitpick his work, and ask him for more stuff and more refinements. – Stephan Branczyk May 21 at 12:11
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to implement a complete flow of creating and capturing image and video using custom camera implementation. After capturing the video and image it needs to be displayed in user feeds and to be uploaded to server. Once the image is uploaded user can upload it to facebook. Other users should be able to view and rate the video posted by you.

Are they expecting you to do all the non-Android server work as well? What does glassdoor say about their company?

This sounds to me like they're just expecting you to do one or two weeks of work for free. I wouldn't do it. Instead, you could suggest an alternative way to test you.

For instance, you could offer to do live coding in front of them or with live screen sharing, but with a hard limit of 1 to 2 hours. Or you could ask them to pick functionality that they already have. After all, if they're trying to measure you against a developer they already have (or a developer they already hired in the past), it's best to compare actual work that was done by both of you.

Or you could ask that they pay you for your time, or make a donation in your name to a charity of your choice in exchange for your time.

But even that last one, you have to be careful. You'll need to make them sign a contract and specify that you won't deliver the actual codebase until they've actually paid you in full, or made the donation to your chosen charity in full.

And/or you could simply say "No, please find another way to test me." I've said "No" before and I was still interviewed. And if they're really serious about hiring someone, they may still interview you even if you say "No".

what can be the best path to approach this without sounding not interested, unprofessional or doubting their interview process?

By the way, professionals don't agonize over saying "No" to unreasonable demands.

In fact, politely saying "I'm interested in the job and I'm interested in interviewing with you, but I'm not going to do this homework for you." or simply saying "No" to the wrong clients can be the most professional thing one can do sometimes.

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I wouldn't propose an alternative test; rather I'd just accept or refuse to continue the process.

How you react really depends only on how much interest you have in this specific job.

Interviews are two-way streets and you are judging the company as much as they are judging you. It is clear that this request doesn't expose them in a good light and tells something potentially negative about company's culture. Nonetheless, other aspects of the job might still be interesting. If so, just accept and go on. If you already were in doubt, this might be your deciding factor in letting down this opportunity.

Even if they accept to change the test, this won't change the fact that they proposed it in the first place. This is the important thing that you should evaluate with all the other elements about the company you got.

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If you choose to complete a large project as part of a technical interview and suspect that your interviewers are trying to get free work out of you, one approach you could take is to submit all your code under the GNU GPL or a similar copyleft license, this way they cannot use anything you write internally (unless they violate the GPL).

The point of a technical interview is to demonstrate that you are competent; they should not have a problem with you submitting your code under the GPL. If they do have a problem, that raises a red flag. I've done this with some of my technical interviews and have never had an issue.

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  • That's not how GNU GPL works at all. Not even remotely. – Stephan Branczyk Sep 23 at 5:47
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what can be the best path to approach this without sounding not interested

Well, if you are interested in the job you should already be working on it. Declining a technical assessment will never make you a better candidate than others who are willingly to do it.

You don't have a choice here. They are the buyer, you are the seller. It's your responsibility to prove your value to potential buyers.

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    This is a bad answer, IMHO, because it completely disregards the interviewee's interests. Interviewing is a two-way street. You need to sell yourself on getting hired, yes, but they also need to sell you on the idea of joining them. If they didn't need the help then they wouldn't be hiring at all. Also, declining to do a particular assignment because it seems needlessly complex is not the same as refusing to do any assignment - questioning the validity of the interview process may well show insight and technical knowledge that the employer could find valuable, too. – Steve-O May 21 at 14:29
  • @Steve-O Sorry, interview is all about one side getting the money while the other side paying for it. It's a service, it's a trade. There is no such thing as equal or two-way. There are always other candidates applying. – PhD May 21 at 14:37
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    A trade, by definition, is two way though. As you said, the interviewee gets money, the interviewer gets service. Those are both valuable things which each is offering to the other. – Steve-O May 21 at 14:46
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what can be the best path to approach this without sounding not interested, unprofessional or doubting their interview process?

Doing the task set without any drama.

Any pushback leads to the three things you don't want to happen.

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  • This is a comment rather than an answer. – Alexei May 22 at 13:44

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