T.L.D.R.: I have been excluded after a second programming exercise where i was asked to provide a correct, efficient solution without using compilers or documentation, and without having the chance to actually discuss the solution given. I want to give a feedback on how unfair I think this process is, should I? what should I say?


I have just been through a recruiting process, unsuccessfully.

The process has started with an automated programming test, where from start I was given several hours to complete a quite challenging exercise, with two chances to submit a solution that was evaluated on the fly.

All in all a quite satisfactory exercise, which I successfully executed. I could compile, read standard documentation and not much else, but it was a positive experience.

After the exercise I had been set an "interview" about a week later. In this "interview", I had been called using a video-conference application, asked to share my screen and given one more smaller programming exercise, this time I was asked to submit a solution via email without any chance to compile it or check any documentation. After submitting the solution (twice, because after the first time it was asked to me to improve it in a way), I have been dismissed saying that I would be contacted again the day after with the following steps. But I never got the the following steps, since apparently my solutions were not considered good enough, or so they said in the following email. No chance to discuss my reasoning or anything about those solutions has been given to me.

Now, I am obviously upset about the outcome, but what I am more upset about is the process itself. I am not particularly fond of programming questions, but with the right tools (the same I would use every day on the job, nothing more, probably something less), I can successfully complete them. But being evaluated on a programming question open-loop, without any chance to verify independently my solution and with the correctness and efficiency of the solution, and not the reasoning behind it, as main evaluation points, I think it is unfair, and useless. Is there anything wrong in this?

The subsequent email mentions the possibility to provide feedback, and I would like to provide one. Should I do it? What should I say to provide a useful feedback without looking like just an upset excluded candidate?

  • 2
    What exactly do you expect to gain from giving said feedback? If it's a 2nd try, it's almost guaranteed to not happen.
    – Aida Paul
    Jul 7, 2020 at 8:09
  • @TymoteuszPaul It would be nice but I don't expect a second chance, especially not if it is like the first one. I don't actually expect nothing for myself, I would see this as an honest, probably useless feedback for them.
    – bracco23
    Jul 7, 2020 at 8:15
  • 1
    @IgorG It is definitely possible, but in that light i would expect to have the chance to explain my understanding, to be evaluated only on the correctness and not on the performance, or both. Of the two solutions i submitted, one is surely less efficient but I expect it to be correct in almost every case, the other is using a different algorithm which should be more efficient but I am not sure is correct is every case,
    – bracco23
    Jul 7, 2020 at 9:49
  • 1
    I would just leave a negative review on glassdoor and move on. Jul 7, 2020 at 9:57
  • 4
    You assume that the second test was about programming skills: it probably wasn't. You also assume that you got declined because you "failed "this test.That's probably not what happened either. People get rejected for many reasons many of which are not technical. One of the most common ones is: "Another candidate was more suited to the job". Let it go
    – Hilmar
    Jul 7, 2020 at 11:09

5 Answers 5


should I? what should I say?

No, there is no point to providing feedback. Best to just move forwards and focus on where you're heading, not the minor setbacks on the way.


It's not worth it.

The recruitment process, as you've described, appears ill-conceived. If your application was successful you would presumably not be expected to work without a compiler or IDE. To assess your suitability for the role based on these artificial parameters (and without further discussion of the exercise) is absurd. They risk letting excellent candidates slip through the net.

Their recruitment process is going to help select the people who will be working with them every day. If they don't care sufficiently to ensure it is capable of identifying the best candidates (and not incorrectly eliminating strong candidates), why would you expect them to take your suggestions on board?

I'd add 2 quick things to this:

  • All of the above is working on the assumption that they didn't see something while watching you work that made them feel you weren't a suitable candidate. I know when I ask people to code in interviews, I'm often more interested in their thought process, the approach they take and how they write/structure* their code than the result. (*If somebody takes care writing well structured code, using suitable design patterns, adhering to the SOLID principles and adding comments when they know the file will be deleted in 30 mins, that suggests somebody who takes pride in their work and is passionate about good code).
  • If asked to do a coding exercise in front of somebody, ALWAYS verbalise your thought process. This will help them understand how you think and also the options your have considered (and dismissed) before deciding upon your chosen course of action. In addition, if you have misunderstood their requirement, this will become clear to them and allow them the opportunity to correct you (it would be a real shame if you missed the cut because they thought your solution was poor when, in actual fact, the problem was that they hadn't communicated it effectively in the first instance). Finally, if the problem is difficult or complex, seeing somebody looking at a laptop screen for a long time without typing anything can give the impression the candidate is lost or stumped - if they hear you considering your options, mulling over the boundaries imposed by the requirements etc. they know you are giving the problem due consideration instead of just diving in.
  • Thanks for comments, i do think some could have helped giving me a better impression, even if I'm not sure there was the ground for this kind of interaction, at least that is not the feeling I had from the whole setup.
    – bracco23
    Jul 7, 2020 at 12:04
  • This is so true. The recruitment process is a process of elimination. They bring in "X" qualified candidates, and eliminate all but the one they decide on. One thing I once did was to give a candidate a number of technical questions I knew he couldn't answer. It wasn't about his skill as a coder, it was about admitting when you don't know the answer. It was for a major newspaper, and any mistakes would have ended up in print. As you said, it's about observing the thought process. We wanted someone who would ask for help if the got stuck, and not risk an error immortalized in print. Jul 7, 2020 at 13:52
  • 100%. Would much rather somebody said "I don't know" than take a wild stab in the dark or, worse, try to pretend they know but the answer isn't coming to them.
    – amcdermott
    Jul 7, 2020 at 17:24

The last thing any company wants is feedback from someone they rejected, pointing out the flaws in their process. The only thing you would achieve is being blacklisted at that company, and at any company people from the original company move on to.

It's petty, unprofessional, and possibly fattening.

Seriously, we had someone do something like that once, and they have been the subject of stories for years.

You don't want to be the subject of stories that start with: "Hey, one time we had this guy who actually....."

Don't do it. They don't want you, and you wouldn't be happy with a company who ran things that way. Move on and find a good fit.

  • I agree it doesn't sound good, but I also think the difference between "that guy who got sour because he was excluded" and "that guy who was not a good fit but had a point" can be made, if the right wording and sound reasoning is used. But, in the end, I'm pretty sure it would just end up being trashed anyway, so I won't bother.
    – bracco23
    Jul 7, 2020 at 13:50
  • 1
    @bracco23 there is NEVER the right wording, that's my point. The quickest way to make an enemy is to tell someone they're wrong. People never react well to that. It's an unnecessary risk for zero reward. You can only hurt yourself. Even if you get the rare person who would take your advice, it would benefit only them, not you. Worse, even if they take it, they may still resent you. Jul 7, 2020 at 13:55

What's happening here? You're upset.

What do you want to do about it? Write a feedback.

Who needs this feedback, the company or you? It's a part of your coping process, you're the one who needs it.

Solution: Talk about your feedback with someone, eg. publish it on a dedicated site (like Glassdoor). In fact, by posting here you're already doing it, just wrong site : ) Don't send your feedback to them.

  • They did reply, timely too, and they also explicitly stated the possibility for me to send a feedback in their reply. Obviously, one thing is saying I can give them a feedback, another is me actually giving them one, which is the reason for this question.
    – bracco23
    Jul 7, 2020 at 14:57
  • @bracco23 I meant this part: "saying that I would be contacted again the day after with the following steps. This never occurred"
    – Agent_L
    Jul 7, 2020 at 15:02
  • 1
    yeah, my mistake there, I should have written it better. I did receive the email the day after, with the rejection. The "never occurred" part referred not to being contacted, but to the following steps. I'll make it more clear.
    – bracco23
    Jul 7, 2020 at 15:04

When the interview process is broken to the point that you probably wouldn't take the job anyway, why bother?

Asking developers to code without compiler, IDE, documentation and all the other customary tools of the trade shows either a profound lack of understanding of how we work, or a desire to be exclusionary in that you can be rejected without providing solid reasons why. Both are red flags.

(I've experienced similar - being asked to do a coding task with pencil and paper in a silent room with no machine, which was "marked" out of my sight)

  • While I agree about the pencil and paper, coding without an IDE, compiler, or documentation isn't out of the question. We lost some critical data in an Excel sheet, I had to hack the XML with notepad because we didn't have any tools to work with XML (new company bought us, and we were in transition without many tools). If you can work under those conditions, you can do anything. Jul 7, 2020 at 13:42
  • @Old_Lamplighter I do expect to not be able to produce the most perfect, efficient and elegant code without some tools I could otherwise use though, and that is something I find reasonable.
    – bracco23
    Jul 7, 2020 at 13:55
  • @bracco23 It's often about crisis situations. What would you do if your tools crapped out, for example? Could you write a code snippet and send it over your text if you needed to? Jul 7, 2020 at 14:06

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