Case Study - How Symantec hired 100 developers in a matter of months, with HackerEarth

Every now and then, you hear of a large IT services firm that goes to a college and hires 500 + students. It sounds very impressive, but what is the kind of effort a company has to put in to make that happen? It is a lot of work. From administering tests to thousands of students in multiple batches, to selecting a shortlist, to individually interviewing them; it is a very long and hard affair.

Symantec corporation, the company behind the popular anti-virus software, Norton, hires a significant number of developers every year. They had been doing campus hiring using the typical pen and paper test but last year, they decided to use HackerEarth recruit. They are a particularly special client, as our association with them has also helped us build a better product. Over the course of 6 months, Symantec has conducted over to 2000 tests, over 20 campus hiring events. The end result - they’ve hired a 100 developers within this timeframe.

Anand Watwe, Manager Global Staffing at Symantec, has close to 15 years of experience in staffing and comes from the conventional school of recruiting. He says, "Before HackerEarth recruit, we were using pen and paper tests. We asked programmers objective and subjective questions. It cost our team a lot of time and effort to go through each of these papers to come to a first shortlist. It was logistically very difficult for us; every university we went to with a big bag of question papers. These papers then had to be assessed and segregated - it was a laborious process."

In his experience in the HR industry, Anand describes two kinds of recruiters. He says, "There are those who interview to hire and there are those who interview to reject. These two kind of recruiters have this half empty, half full approach to short listing candidates, which is biased."

With HackerEarth, Anand’s woes have been halved. He says, “There are many pros to using HackerEarth recruit. We’ve saved a lot of time in the hiring process. But what has been even more important has been the quality of candidates that we have been able to unearth using HackerEarth recruit. Some of the candidates that we hired from campuses were in fact, better than our lateral hires. I'm not sure if we could have found such people using the conventional method. And of course, we don’t have to carry that huge bag around anymore!”

The first experience

Adding a new hiring practice into a company's existing framework can be a little turbulent, and it was no different in the case of Symantec. Anand says, "The testing methodology that HackerEarth employed was very different. For example, in the case of a HackerEarth problem, inputs to programming problems are defined and there are time & memory constraints you have to follow while writing the code. In a college environment and even in some scenarios at work, this was not the case - people are not used to write code in this format. So when we took HackerEarth recruit to our first college, the students didn't understand at all and none of them completed the test. The whole exercise was a waste."

However, they provided us with the feedback and we got working on educating test takers on the new format. Anand says, "I asked the team if they could roll out an instruction page with an educational video on how such problems need to be solved. We also sent these resources to the colleges a few days before the test. After this, the going has been quite smooth. There have been quite a few suggestions we keep giving out to the HackerEarth team and it's very good to see them being implemented every now and then."

The benefit

HackerEarth recruit was built with the purpose of helping recruiters save time while assessing a large number of programming candidates. In the close to 2000 tests that they've conducted, they've hired 100 engineers. These 2000 tests have been conducted over 20 campus hiring events. Which means, on an average, 5 hires were made from each campus. For the comparatively smaller hiring volumes of Symantec, this conversion ratio is very high. Furthermore, very few companies are able to hire 100 developers in a matter of 6 months.

But the biggest benefit is the time saved in the hiring process. Take a batch of 100 candidates. Say it takes an average of 10 minutes to assess one test. That is a total of 1000 hours to assess 100 tests. From this, lets say 30 got shortlisted. An average of 40 minutes per interview. For 30 candidates, that’s going to take another 1200 minutes. Add the onboarding time that a recruiter takes, and it works up to close to a total of 2200 hours of work per college, which is about 3 months, 90 days.

With HackerEarth recruit, a lot of this time is saved. Firstly, the 1000 hours taken in assessing the tests is zero. Furthermore, the number of candidates shortlisted will be lesser, because of the availability of an absolute score - say 10 - 15. An outer limit time spent in interviewing these candidates, at the same 40 mins a test, is 600 hours. That’s 25 days. 65 days lesser than the conventional recruitment process.

Lets put this in terms of developer hours. On an average, 4 developers would be involved in assessment, so as to speed up the hiring times. Say each of these developers are costed at 6 lakhs an annum - an hour of their time is worth about INR 208, given they work an 8 hour day. The total cost incurred is a whopping INR 4,58,333, per hiring event. With HackerEarth recruit, the developer cost incurred is 1,24,800 Rs per hiring event. The use of HackerEarth recruit will cost another 10,000 Rs for 100 tests.

  • Total cost of developer hours without HackerEarth recruit - INR 4,58,333 Rs
  • Total cost of developer hours with cost of HackerEarth recruit factored in - INR 1,34,800
  • Savings - INR 3,23,533

This is to one college. Now lets do the math for 20 colleges

  • Total cost of developer hours without HackerEarth recruit - INR 91,66,660
  • Total cost of developer hours with cost of HackerEarth recruit factored in - INR 26,96,000
  • Savings - INR 64,70,660

Now that’s a saving. And we’re not even factoring in the opportunity cost incurred in missing out on a good hire.*

Anand shared that his team at Symantec researched a lot of products before zeroing in on HackerEarth recruit. He says, "There are a lot of products out there with a tonne of features. Many of these features probably will never be used. Paying for them was a waste. We liked HackerEarth as it was a stable and scalable tool, which had all the essentials that we expected out of an assessment tool."

"Furthermore, our rapport with the HackerEarth support team was very good. I still remember after the feedback we gave them for the first time, they were quickly on top of the situation. They have a very quick reaction time."

There is a popular belief that anything that is faster compromises on quality. That is not the case with HackerEarth recruit. The unbiased and absolute assessment methodology has helped Symantec hire 100 top notch developers.

The challenge

When we asked Anand, if he would recommend our product to fellow HR's, he responded with a resounding yes. However, he did tell us of a few challenges that we would face in the process. He says, "Firstly, there is an infrastructure challenge. Not all colleges have the kind of machines and internet connections that are required to run this product flawlessly. While that will change in the coming time, there is a bigger challenge in the lateral hiring space. When I'm assessing candidates who're not on site, there is a chance that they can game the system. Of course, there are attempts to stop that, but if a person has decided to cheat, this kind of products allow enough loopholes to be exploited." That's a problem we're actively trying to solve too.

On a parting note, Anand shared with us that in his 5 years of recruiting at Symantec, he's least stressed this year, because of HackerEarth. That makes all the hours of toil that we put into this product worthwhile.

Do you relate to Anand's views? Give HackerEarth recruit a spin and we'll help you hire faster and better.

*Disclaimer - These numbers were not shared by Symantec, and these numbers have been arrived at by a rough calculation.

About the Author

Raghu Mohan
Raghu is an engineering grad handles Marketing at HackerEarth. Prior to this, he was an editor at When he’s not working, you can find him at the nearest music shop having a jam session.