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HackerRank CEO, Vivek R

Nothing quite compares to U, and nothing compares to tech recruiting. To say it's a competitive landscape is a major understatement, and HackerRank is doing all they can to make the process as efficient as possible. To learn more about what's going on, the boys interviewed HackerRank CEO Vivek Ravisankar. Dude's smart, and surprisingly hilarious.

Enjoy this Talroo Exclusive.


Intro: Hide your kids, lock the doors. You're listening to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheesman are here to punch the recruiting industry right where hurts. Complete with breaking news, brash opinion and loads of snot. Bottle up, boys and girls, it's time for the Chad and Cheese podcast.

Joel: Bow-wow-wow-yippee-yo-yippe-yay.

Chad: Here it is.

Joel: Welcome to the Chad and Cheese podcast. This is Joel Cheeseman, your cohost.

Chad: And this is Chad Sowash. Welcome.

Joel: Welcome. On today's show, we have the long line of people smarter than us gets longer and longer. We have co-founder and CEO of HackerRank, Vivek Ravisankar, I probably said that incorrectly, with us today. Vivek, how you doing man?

Vivek: I'm good, how's it going?

Joel: How badly did I butcher your last name?

Vivek: Yeah, I think you should have probably said, "Vivek R." I think that might've been better.

Joel: How about Vivek Ravi?

Vivek: Yeah.

Joel: Oh, well anyway, Vivek, from now on, for those who don't know, and the list is probably small, but for those who don't know, give us just a brief intro of you and a maybe slightly longer rendition of what HackerRank does.

Vivek: Yeah, sure. I'm the Vivek Ravisankar. Like how you guys say?

Joel: I was super close.

Vivek: Yeah, absolutely. I wish I could take that back.

Joel: Asshole.

Vivek: I'm one of the founders and CEO of HackerRank, I was a developer prior to this at Amazon. I used to do a lot of technical interviews, which is where I found there was a lot of inefficiencies in the way that we do our recruiting process. Started the company, this is our seventh year, maybe sixth year, after we went live. Seventh year, totally, since we launched HackerRank. We have about 1,500 customers using the product, assessed over 6 million developers, 250 people. London, Bangalore, Mountain View, and growing quickly. And here I am in a podcast, which hopefully you guys have promised that it will increase our revenue, so I will be tracking that.

Joel: And for listeners out there, Vivek has a team of about 30 PR people supporting his podcast interview and he actually has a scouting report on the Chad and Cheese podcast, which basically says, "these guys are assholes. Watch your back." Basically.

Vivek: Just a correction. I just hired one person today, so it's 31.

Joel: So it's 31, nice. touche.

Chad: As he sipped his tea, somebody actually dabs his lip. So let's jump right into it: HackerRank. We've talked about it on a podcast for a while now and I think it's amazingly smart for all companies who touch the technical side of the house. You have 1,500 companies global, is that global? What percentage of that is here domestic in the U.S.?

Vivek: Yeah, 1,500 is global. I would say about 70-ish percent is in North America. The remaining is in India and Asia Pacific.

Chad: Okay, so now the 6 million developers, which is a shit ton of people, can you give us kind of the same breakdown of the 6 million. How much from here domestically versus India, et cetera?

Vivek: Yeah, so that one is a slightly different combination. It's about 40% to 45% is in India, while 30% is in North America, and the remaining is in India. Why you would've guessed the population of these countries are higher and the population of developers in India is definitely more than U.S.

Joel: Yeah. Curious about your take on the world, cause you have a really unique view on the world from where you sit. What is the economy like in terms of technical talent? Where's the growth? Where is there a huge need? Just sort of give us your state of the union in regards to a tech talent around the world.

Vivek: Yeah, absolutely. So I think there are two big shifts that are happening in the market. One is every company's becoming a software company. It's no longer a retail store. The first thing that you're going to look to figure out if you're going to buy or not is download the app and see if the product is available in that store versus going. So it's no longer retail, it's tech. It's no longer financial services or banks. I've had people switch banks because their app was buggy. I mean, you would never have this reason 10 years back. So it's no longer financial services, it's also tech.

Vivek: On your cars, people ask about, "Hey, when is autopilot going come or does this have a Apple play?" Those things become important criteria now, just not there 10 years back. So it's no longer automotive, but it's also tech. So there's a giant change that's actually happening in the world. And by the way, like only 3% of companies are classified according to the SIC codes as tech companies. The remaining 97% are in all of these different industries that I mentioned, but pretty much everything is a tech company. So that's a gigantic shift in terms of the number of companies who are looking to hire developers, and they come in and transform themselves.

Vivek: That's on the demand, and if you look at supply, which is the developers themselves, it's just getting easier for you to learn how to code and build things. One is internet is ubiquitous. You could just say, get a Mac and connect to the wifi and that's it. You could now go ahead and start to learn how to code. There are not many boot camps that have actually come up in the last few years which teach you how to code, and people are starting to realize that developer, a Javas developer is more lucrative, so more and more people are studying computer science in your college.

Vivek: And what this has led to is over 70% of the developers who call themselves developers right now are self-taught, which means your resumes are not going to look really pretty. It's not going to look how I went to this prettier school, I did X school and I got four GPA. It's just going to say, "Hey, I did a bunch of these projects and I learned on my own." So these two are giant shifts. If you just think about it from a supply and demand perspective, supply meaning the developers and demand being the companies. There's just a huge number of companies that can hire developers and the configuration of the composition of the supplier, the developers have also completely changed to being self-taught and learn-on-your-own. So, how do you match the two? And that's kind of what we do.

Joel: So that being said, what are the different ways you actually work with companies with HackerRank? I would assume testing. Is there training? What's kind of like the portfolio that companies are getting into to try to help pretty much fill that skill gap?

Vivek: Yeah, that's a good question. I think the way we have fundamentally changed, and we operate a lot in the recruiting space and there's definitely an opportunity for us to operate in branding, employment branding, and attracting talent. As well as, once that employee joins the company, how do you up skill this person to continue to learn more and more skills? So there's definitely opportunity for us to expand across the board. But right now our major focus is just on recruiting. And the fundamental shifts that we've been able to make is people used to look at resumes as your first level of screen. So, that used to be the first step by default. Okay, you apply to a job. I'm going to look at a resume, I'm going to do some keywords, and if those keywords match with the job description, and if I know the school, and you have good GPA, I'm going to pass it on to the hiring manager to conduct further interviews. So then the hiring manager has his or her own biases, and it's just like a long denominator process.

Vivek: We just cut off the entire idea of resume screening right at the start. So, a majority of our customers don't even look at resumes, they actually create a coding challenge or a real world challenge that is relevant to the role that you're looking to hire for. So if you're a full stack engineer, I'm going to create a full stack engineer code challenge. If you're hiring a data scientist, I'm going to create a data science coding challenge and so on.

Vivek: And now as a developer, my first step is for me to showcase my skills. How good am I each of these different roles? And then you get a scorecard and these are the skills that you're looking for, these are the candidates trends and this that these are the areas the person needs to get better or you can continue to interview or prove more into the process, and that eliminates so much bias, and that actually sort of expands your talent pool much beyond what you originally thought, where it was a, super constrained view of the world. So that's like a big, big shift, which is kind of like the reason why we are growing in companies that are adopting us pretty fast.

Joel: Okay. So identification is really your big key right now, is being able to identify individuals who actually meet the skill sets, companies need to be able to code in their organization. The hardest part, I think right now is that it's almost like many companies are robbing from Peter to pay Paul just because there's not enough talent there in the first place. How much time is it going to take for you guys to get into the upscaling or the teaching of coding?

Vivek: Yeah. So there are two parts here. One is, is there a talent shortage? And the second one, is what do we need to do to up skill people once you joined the company and how do you get better at it?

Joel: Yeah. Well, what's your runway in to be able to get there? Is really my question.

Vivek: I actually don't think there's talent shortage and I know it's like a controversial opinion about this. And I think talent shortage is a myth. So we actually did a recent blog post, which got covered by a bunch of publications like CNBC and others; we had over a million students attempt our assessments and challenges over the last year, across different colleges, across the globe, we assessed all of these different students across different dimensions. What skills do they have? What are they good at? What schools are good and what kinds of skills? And you'd be surprised. And one of the most interesting stats that we found when we were doing this research is the Ivy league schools, and the top 10 schools done by U.S. News or some publication, if you put those two together, only 9% of CS students graduate from that list, and all you and if you sought the schools based on skills, okay, this is not sorted based on Ivy league or your, Whatever, how many patents you submitted, by like just on raw industry skills that you need, which is kind of like what we assessed.

Vivek: It was exactly one Ivy league school that was in our top five, but it's unfortunate that every company, or like most companies, are just focusing on these 9% or these 10% of the student population and just completely missing out on the 90%. And by definition, Ivy league schools are one of our ex-top five. And even if you don't seem open, your numbers are super aggressive, okay fine. Let's say it's not 9%, let's say it's 20% like double it, or slightly bit more than double, you're still missing out on 80% of talented people. And this is just in the university section. Now, if you start to expand this across the horizon, across professionals and others, so by definition, you're missing out on all these great talented people because the fundamental unit of how you approach recruiting is based on resumes and profiles. So I actually think the talent shortage is a myth, and the more you're willing to open up your aperture to identifying candidates beyond the top 10, top 20, and the companies that you look at, the more success that you're going to have, and that's what we are enabling.

Chad: It's commercial time. Talroo is focused on predicting, optimizing, and delivering talent directly to your email or ATS.

Joel: So, it's totally data-driven talent attraction, which means the Talroo platform enables recruiters to reach the right talent at the right time and at the right price.

Chad: Guess what the best part is?

Joel: Let me take a shot here. You only pay for the candidates Talroo delivers.

Chad: Holy shit. Okay, so you've heard this before. So, if you're out there listening in podcast land and you are attracting the wrong candidates, and we know you are, or you feel like you're in a recruiting hamster wheel and there's just nowhere to go, right? You can go to Again, that's, and learn how Talroo can get you better candidates for less cash.

Joel: Or, just go to and click on the Talroo logo. I'm all about the simple.

Chad: You are a simple man.

Chad: It's show time.

Joel: So you guys put out a blog post fairly recently about the best colleges for tech talent. Tell us about some of the other alternatives to Ivy league schools, and I also think, it sounds like you have a fairly strong opinion in regards to how important a degree is anyway. It's more about things you've done, your portfolio. Talk about that crossover between the college education, where to get a degree, versus do you really need one.

Vivek: Yeah, that's a good question. I think there are two parts to it. One is do you need a degree for for you to get a job? And second, does college education actually correlate to industry, to success in professional? I think the rate at which technology improvements are happening is such a rapid pace that I feel university, the curriculum, the things that they actually teach, is still 10 years behind. There's a new JavaScript framework that gets launched, I don't know, every six months or every year, there's a new language that people just stop to work on.

Vivek: Now, Go is the most hard language and everybody's trying to be backing services on Go, and I don't think universities are teaching Go, they're still stuck in trying to teach people how to do C, C plus plus, which is good. But you've not progressed further. So, there's that one big dissonance between what you get taught in schools versus what the industry or the companies are looking for. And which sort of makes of, by definition, the college degree not super valuable, except for the brand and pedigree that the university has been able to accumulate over the last few years. More like decades, not few years.

Vivek: And the second part about it is, if you think about it, if you want to hire right there a musician and, if you take any other profession, or if you want to hire somebody for your restaurant, you don't have to get a resume. You don't say, "okay, you are a good cook." I mean, like what else would you see on a resume if you want to get hired in a restaurant. But the first thing that you say is, "show me if you're a good cook or not." Or for any of the profession, if you want to hire somebody for content, or PR or just writing, I'm going to say, "Hey, show me your write examples." But unfortunately, and this is the biggest irony for developers, which you would assume that it's the most technical of professions across any other fields. It's still stuck on resumes, so you have to be able to showcase your skills, which is far, far more valuable than saying, "Hey, I have a four year college degree."

Vivek: If I had to guess, right? I think, well firstly, the importance of college degrees is starting to go down every year. I don't know if you saw the news, maybe six months back or nine months back, Apple and Google have dropped all college requirements on their website, on their career space. So you no longer need to have a college degree. So, and by the way, that will just trigger the rest of the company and the rest of the industry to fall as well. So, the requirement of college degrees starting to drop year over year, coupled with the fact that you can learn what industry wants online versus going to school, so I think the next 15 to 20 years, I think there'll be a very small percentage will actually want to study computer science in college. And I mean less than 20% of what is happening right now.

Chad: What it sounds like, and we know with the gig economy, that a HackerRank and knows the skills of the individuals who are obviously members or users of HackerRank; do you see HackerRank becoming a marketplace for individuals with these types of skillsets, so that instead of somebody hiring an FTE, they're just going in, it's all project based and you're actually going and hitting up a portfolio, or a tribe, of individuals to be able to tackle this project?

Vivek: Yeah, it's a good question. I think it's going to be progressive for us. I think the first step would be for us to sort of create a developer resume, and that resumes based on skills. So we will know, hey, if you have to get a job as a front end engineer at Airbnb, here are the skills that actually matter to them because we know what skill they're recruiting for, and we have those skills, we will actually recommend you to the right job at Airbnb. So that's sort of the first level of progression where we can completely transform a market based for FTE so to speak, to recommend developers from our developer community to match to these companies.

Vivek: The second step would be, okay, so now I want to spin Up a team and this is a common challenge. If you go to a large company and they want to work on a new project and say, "Hey, I need to spin up a team that has eight people, two front end, two backend, one engineering manager, one principal engineer, and a couple of dev ops people, and one machine learning it. So it's a typical composition, if you have to spin up a team, and if you have to start from scratch right now, okay, I have the idea to spin up a team, it's going to take you six months to get all these people together and then they should work really well together. And by the time you actually launch the project, it's going to take you 18 months.

Vivek: So, if you have a really great idea right now, from the inception of the idea, to building a team, to making sure that they work together well, and you'd have some nutrition, or you have to make some changes to actually getting the product line, you're taking 80 months, that's a really long time. So how can you compress that? One is, of course, you can make your hiring process efficient, and in fact, hiring is just kind of what we're doing. The other way is if we have these aggregation of skills of developers and millions of developers across the globe, and we can say, "Hey, by the way, there are a bunch of people who are looking for part time, or can build you the prototype, and then they want to go on other projects." You can spin up a team, okay, you have the idea today, you could spin up a team of eight people by next Tuesday and get started. That's massive improvement in the way that you can think about how it's going to impact your top line, and just economics, and that is the next level. But in order for us to do all of these things, there's a foundation of skill infrastructure that needs to be laid out, which companies need to buy into, which developers need to buy into, and to start it with recruiting in that.

Joel: Gotcha. So what types of partnerships are you guys pulling together with universities? Are you doing anything to be able to test their students to see if they're actually at the level that some of your companies are ready for? Just to be able to ensure, again, they have the skills necessary to get back, or to get into the actual market, and make a dent into some of these companies.

Vivek: We have a developer portal, or developer community, where you can go ahead and sign up and practice these challenges; get on the leader boards and these challenges mimic typically what companies look for in their interviews, what companies different in different skills, so it's a free for all. Specifically, we don't have super strong partnerships with certain number of universities, but what we've seen is once a few students in the school start to use the product, it just spreads like wildfire, and everybody starts to sign up and practice all these challenges, and it will always be free for developers. We never want to charge developers for them to come and practice, and hone your skills, so they can understand where they are, what does it take to get a job at one of these companies.

Joel: Vivek, also in regards to competition, I'm sure you're aware, Google recently launched Byteboard, which is a bit of a competitor, and I'm sure you're aware that Github is now owned by Microsoft, which also has LinkedIn. Talk about the competitive landscape from that perspective. Does Google keep you up at night or not so much?

Vivek: So does Google keep me up at night? I mean, well Google is in every industry, so I don't think, I mean, they're doing from autonomous driving to, of course, the surge, to phones, to knowledge recruiting now in jobs and all of those things. So we've not seen much come from Google. In terms of from competitors and others. And it's also not straightforward, for any company for that matter, to come and get the level of depth that we have, in terms of understanding what skills do companies need, what kind of assessments can you actually build and what do developers need. The second part about it is kind of developer trust; so, ultimately developers, and we care about this a lot, we have a core metric called developer love, which we call DLI, developer love index, which we measured super rigorously.

Vivek: Like after every assessment, every challenge. What comments do developers give, what's the rating that they give, what's the score that they have? I literally go through every feedback that a developer gives. Actually, that's what keeps me up at night, not Google, and making sure that we are constantly improving. So I think there's a developer trust that we have built, which is going to take years for you to go ahead and build that, which Google doesn't have, which Github has by the way. So I don't think, I mean, I view that as a positive, which is, Hey, if Google is coming, that's good. I mean, then they're coming because they believe that there's a big market opportunity. I mean, if Google Byteboard can only generate, I don't know, 10 million or a hundred million, that's kind of peanuts for Google.

Vivek: They would probably invest their money and time in some of their projects. They assume that it's a big industry, okay, great, game on, let's make it happen. Except that, don't just screw it up with our SEO results. When we try and do it, as long as do it, I'm good with that. On GitHub, yeah it's very, very testy. I know Nat Friedman, the CEO of Github, I've met him a couple times. Fantastic guy, great person. We're trying to see if there are partnerships that we can actually work with or put on Github, but I think the strength of Github, or jeez, if you look at the things that they're actually launching, it's more on developer productivity, developer workflows. How do you help developers to work efficiently? Productivity versus helping them more on recruiting? It's very tangential. So, I think I see potential for partnerships. I don't think they'll make the real competitor. That's what I would say. Basically, I'm just saying we're the best. That's what I was trying to say.

Chad: Yes, and please Google, don't fuck with our search engine results, thank you. [crosstalk 00:23:36] So, we talk about competition, which is awesome, but also talking about partnerships. Are you partnering any applicant tracking systems now? So that when somebody is applying for a software developer position, that they don't have to just slap a resume into the system, they can go through a HackerRank test instead? Are you doing anything with applicant tracking systems?

Vivek: Yeah, absolutely. We're partnered with every ATS except for Google Hire. So, don't ask me why

Chad: He's got jokes.

Joel: He has jokes.

Vivek: So, if you think about the stack we have on the sort of smaller sized companies, you have Greenhouse, Lever, which we have very, very strong partnerships with, I don't know if you've interviewed Sarah, the CEO of Lever, and Daniel from Greenhouse. They're just great folks to talk to, although, don't have both of them in the same podcast, they're competitors. But, so no, I think we partner with them, and then, I can see go a little upstream, you have SmartRecruiters, Jobvite, which we also partnered very, very closely with. And then as you go further upstream you have iCIMS, Workday, Faststream, Taleo. So we actually partnered all the ATS systems that I just mentioned, we work with this very strong interoperability two way, where you can send an invitation to a candidate through the applicant tracking system. And once that candidate completes a challenge, it reports and the scores fall back into the tracking system, so that it's just very, very clean. We have pretty strong partnership and it's essentially, if you want to get into the recording workflow.

Joel: Last year, you guys raised $30 million. It was a series C, it looks like you raised around close to $60 million total. What are you guys doing with the money? And when are you going public?

Vivek: Yeah, the first thing is the thirty people that I've hired in my PR, sorry, 31, I need to pay them. They're very expensive, as you probably know. So, that is where most of the money's going. Public, I'm thinking just anytime tomorrow, or day after, I mean we're just trying to figure out what's the right time to go public, so sometime tomorrow.

Joel: I need the joke drum for this cat.

Vivek: Look, I think it's a long way to go for us to get to figure out, if in a way we can go public, in honest, but my goal is to build a large independent company because the market opportunity is big, and in general, there's always going to be more and more problems that you can solve the recruiting. I think that's the most exciting thing about building this company that I've seen, and we've done lots of exciting things, but one of the most exciting things is unlike kind of consumer type companies.

Vivek: For example, if you are trying to build, I don't know, a food delivery company in Mountain View, or San Jose, or wherever, if one person in Mountain View, or the city, has a problem, it's not necessarily that everybody in Mountain View will have the problem. But when you're trying to build this enterprise company, if a financial services industry company has a problem, you can pretty much assume that every company obviously have that problem. So you actually know you can measure: what kind of problem? Who has this problem? Who you actually go and talk to? Who would actually be able to give you a solution to the problem? And once you get into the company, you can actually see, oh wow, they're so many other problems that we can go and solve in this organization. So, just sort of managing, hiring people, upskilling them, making sure your employment brand is good and making sure you're constantly getting better, it's just like four number problem. So once you have a sort of wedge inside a company, you can just to keep going on. So that's my goal to build a very large independent company because they got opportunity here.

Joel: All right, Vivek, we'll let you out on this. Curious, you said branding earlier, and I know a lot of companies feel a ping pong table and a coffee machine are enough to attract top talent in tech. But what things are you seeing in terms of what employees want from an employer? And particularly, what are your thoughts on Gen Z, the up and coming generation?

Vivek: Yeah. You know Gen Z is coming and I was, the whatever the meme of winter is coming, kind of a thing. If you want them, Millennials are hard. I'm a millennial, so I think I can make fun of myself. So, Millennials are hard to manage. I think the big change, and we actually did a research report on this, it's actually on our website,, this is my blog by the way to our blog posts, and one of the most interesting things that changed was they care about the type of projects that they are going to work on and their professional growth more than anything else. So we are helping companies craft a message and story. Hey, just don't do these candid job descriptions that you always have. Would you copy from one company to another?

Vivek: We just say, "Oh, I need three plus years of experience, you need to be proficient in ABC." Talk to them about the kind of challenges that this person will solve once he or she comes and joins the company, and that is a high order bid to solve, or suggest, candid job description; so, that's one big thing. The other part of it was in terms of how much the value, the compensation and perks. Just kind of like what you were alluding to in terms of ping pong tables and others, it's actually less competitive previous generation, less or equal, on par, which was surprising. You would have expected, Hey, people would just want to make more and more money. You know they want more professional growth and just interesting problems to solve.

Joel: Those crazy kids. Well Vivek, we appreciate your time today for-

Chad: Thanks for stopping by.

Joel: For those listeners who want to learn more about you and/or HackerRank. Where do you send them?

Vivek: Our Twitter @HackerRank, and my Twitter is rvivek, and I'm not making fun of you, it's really rvivek, that's the handle that I got. And yeah, so, feel free to email me, contact us. I'm also the Vivek at HackerRank, so feel free to send me a note.

Joel: Excellent. You're totally making fun of me and...

Chad: We out!

Joel: We out.

Ema: Hi, I'm Ema. Thanks for listening to my dad, the Chad, and his buddy, Cheese. This has been the Chad and Cheese podcast. Be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Google Play or wherever you get your podcasts, so you don't miss a single show. Be sure to check out our sponsors, because their money goes to my college fund. For more visit

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