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Programming Candidate - Question of Professionalism

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Hi there,

I can scarcely believe it, but I think I'm about to land my first job in the industry.

Last Tuesday, in response to one of my employment inquiries, I was issued a programming test with a one-week deadline. I turned it in this morning and about an hour later received a very positive response. This company would like me to come in for an interview and a written test --- and they want me to talk through my solution on the test, because, as it is implied, they are perhaps a little suspicious that I might have cheated. How flattering! Really, I couldn't blame them; I have an English degree, no experience in a related industry, and I first opened a C++ book only four months ago!

However, another aspect of this situation presents a bit of an ethical problem for me.

For a couple of different reasons, this particular company would not be my first choice (admittedly, in my position, it's astounding to think I might HAVE a choice). I've got at least one other good lead right now, and it seems that in pursuing those jobs it would behoove me to show them my solution to this test. Afterall, it is definitely a much cleaner, clearer, and more efficient bit of code than what I originally sent around as a demo.

Would it be considered unprofessional for me to share this work with other prospective employers? What about asking permission from the first company? Or would that just be weird?

Thanks for your guidance.

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Original post by biyangdo
it seems that in pursuing those jobs it would behoove me to show them my solution to this test. Afterall, it is definitely a much cleaner, clearer, and more efficient bit of code than what I originally sent around as a demo.
Would it be considered unprofessional for me to share this work with other prospective employers?

You were not paid to write that code, so it is yours to do with as you wish. But in what way are you envisioning sharing this to other employers? As an example of code you wrote in response to a programming test from another company? Or as an example of code you wrote in a week to solve a particular problem (which, when you say what the problem was, will likely sound like a programming test from another company)?

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I would say that if the coding test is openly in the public eye then there should be no problem -- some companies post their programming quizzes right alongside their job postings.

However, since there was a time limit, I presume that's not the case. For my own ends, I've not shared this type of thing with a rival company, as it seems inappropriate. I have, however, talked about it during interviews with rival companies working from my memory of the problem and my solution. I feel that with that approach you maintain a safe 10,000 foot overview and don't get into details that may be considered somewhat of a competitive advantage.

As for your conundrum of possibly receiving an offer from the less-desirable studio, I've always found that being up-front is the best strategy. If they make you an offer, and you've got an interview scheduled (or a very strong indication that one will be) for another opportunity, let them know that you won't have a solid answer until you know whether or not the other position will be moving forward.

If you've got two offers on the table, then you're in a very enviable position -- not only will you have choice of work environment, but you are in a strong bargaining position. Last time I had two offers on the table, one industry job and one non-industry, the non-industry job bumped their offer up 20k/year in order to sway my decision (they were already was offering a 15K premium). Needless to say they ended up winning me over, and I was sitting on 40K/year more than my previous job. Your mileage may vary of course, but you'd certainly be holding a stronger hand of both studios make an offer.

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Original post by Tom Sloper
But in what way are you envisioning sharing this to other employers? As an example of code you wrote in response to a programming test from another company? Or as an example of code you wrote in a week to solve a particular problem (which, when you say what the problem was, will likely sound like a programming test from another company)?


Right. Whether I say so or not, it would be pretty obvious why I wrote what I was handing them. If I do decide to share it, I figure I might as well be up front about the situation. Would that go over badly with people? If so, then there's no reason to give this issue a second thought.

Thanks for the quick and thoughtful responses!

EDIT: @Tom Sloper: Wow, you made Mechwarrior? Awesome. Thank you.

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