[Baypiggies] Salary Ranges

Don Bennett dpb at donbennett.org
Wed Feb 17 21:01:45 CET 2010

After failing to get a Python solution to pass the Puzzlebot, and
switched to C++ and received a 'pass' with the same algorithm; I
haven't gone back to any of my other solutions to see if I can get a
passing solution in Python...


On Wed, Feb 17, 2010 at 8:33 AM, Roderick Llewellyn
<roderick at sanfransystems.com> wrote:
> I applied to one job (Calypso Technology, in the financial communications
> space), for which I had very good qualifications IMHO. They had a typical
> automated form, which required about 30-40 minutes of cutting and pasting
> from my resume, as it had separate entry fields for each job, each employer,
> dates, etc (rather than just pasting my entire resume), and also asked for
> skills ratings for various technologies. They had the requirement of filling
> in a numerical desired salary (you could not proceed without doing so). I
> entered $100,000, not believing in low-balling either. At 9:34 in the
> morning, moments after submitting the form, I got an automated reply
> acknowledging my submssion. At 9:37 -- three minutes later -- I got a
> rejection notice from the same mailing address. Obviously no human looked at
> my qualifications. I was rejected by a computer program that said "IF
> desired_salary > tiny_amount_we_want_to_pay THEN Reject(candidate)".  The
> good news is it took only 3 minutes instead of waiting around for weeks and
> never hearing back from the employer, which is more typical American
> practice. Should I have "low-balled" the salary requirement? Tried to
> out-guess their program?
> Just for fun, here's another horror story. I was contacted by Facebook (thru
> LinkedIn), by an internal recruiter, someone named Yancy Rivera. (I don't
> mind naming names!). After some discussion, it sounded like I qualified for
> the position, so he told me the next step was to go on their engineering
> page and solve one of two "puzzles" held therein. These puzzles are computer
> programs you must write in any of several languages. I chose Python (doh!)
> In case anybody is familiar with these, I picked the "User Bin Crash"
> problem. It's a typical NP-complete type problem.You prepare your program
> and submit it to its "Puzzlebot" which every 4 hours runs your program and
> presents it with various test cases. If your program doesn't pass, the bot
> gives you a rejection email. You are told nothing else; you are not given
> test data, you are not given exceptions, you are not even told that your
> program took too long to run. Is this a realistic debugging scenario?
> Now my mistake was not doing what every modern programmer would have done:
> cheated. I should have just downloaded a solution off the web. Maybe that
> was the real test. After all, few companies actually want you to do any real
> programming these days, they want you to download free software and tweak
> its XML configuration parameters. Anyway, after many submissions, I was
> still unable to pass their bot, tho my program passed every test case I
> threw at it. So I finally broke down and downloaded a Python solution off
> the web that supposedly passed Puzzlebot. I analyzed this solution and
> discovered a flaw! If your test case contained a large prime number, it
> would blow memory and could take a very long time. Sure enough, when I gave
> it the largest prime < 1 billion (there's a table on the web, of course),
> the "working" solution failed by blowing memory but it passed my solution
> handily. However, for many cases, the "working" solution was somewhat faster
> than mine. Almost certainly that was why my solution did not pass Puzzlebot.
> So I wrote to the recruiter explaining this, saying that "this is the
> problem with using a machine to judge a man". With my mind, I was able to
> analyze a supposedly working solution, one that had passed Puzzlebot,
> discovering a major flaw. Letting Puzzlebot decide who gets hired would not
> have brought in the most analytical mind, merely one good at fooling a
> machine. He promised to contact Engineering and, at long last, actually run
> my resume past a technical person. About 15 minutes later I got a "thanks
> but no thanks" from them. After 20 hours of programming, they spent a
> quarter of an hour of their technical people's time on me. Maybe much less.
> Needless to say, I won't be using Facebook anymore!
> Have fun,
> Rod Llewellyn
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