AI Is Changing How Companies Hire Software Developers With Vivek Ravisankar of HackerRank

Are you ready to step into a world where AI is revolutionizing talent acquisition? Together with HackerRank’s founder and CEO Vivek Ravisankar, we’ll help you navigate this new landscape where skills, not pedigree, are king. We’ll expose you to a world where candidates from various backgrounds are landing their dream jobs, and where hiring bias is being greatly reduced. We will also delve into the potential this revolution holds for the future of programming and assessments.

But the power of AI extends beyond just talent acquisition. Join us as we venture into the realm of software development, and see how AI is lowering barriers, assisting in debugging and prototype creation, and even helping developers overcome writer’s block. We’ll also address the elephant in the room – the potential unintended consequences of AI, and how it could impact the roles of recruiters and hiring managers. So buckle up, and prepare for a learning moment on how to hire software developers.

Listening Time: 23 minutes

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Vivek Ravisankar
Co-Founder & CEO HackerRank Follow

AI Is Changing How Companies Hire Software Developers With Vivek Ravisankar of HackerRank

William Tincup: [00:00:00] This is William Tincup and you’re listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Today we have Vivec on from hacker rank, and our topic is fantastic. It’s how AI is changing, how companies hire software developers. I’ve actually wondered about this while all the chat G P T stuff has been going on, so it’s fascinating or it’s actually gonna be phenomenal.

We’ll talk to an expert in what they see cuz Hacker rank sees all this stuff on the back end. So Vivek, would you do us a favor? And [00:01:00] introduce yourself. And for those that don’t know, HackerRank.

Vivek Ravisankar: Sure. Thank you William. Good to be on the podcast again. Sure.

William Tincup: Hello? Yeah. Yeah. Sure. I’m sorry, I was just agreeing with you.

Vivek Ravisankar: Yeah. Yeah. I’m the Vike, I’m one of the founders and CEO of HackerRank. For those of you’re not familiar with hacker rank we. Enable developers to get hired and upskilled on skills over pedigree. So we build products across the lifecycle journey of a developer from in helping you prepare for a job helping you get hired and helping you continue to upskill yourself once you join the organization.

All on the notion of skill over pedigree. We have 3000 customers. We use our product for hiring and upskilling use cases. We have 22 million developers in our community who use it for practicing before they actually get to a job. And we are about 350 people across America, India, and London. And.

Yeah, AI is gonna [00:02:00] change everything.

William Tincup: So one of the things that I love that y’all do is, you’ve said it twice, skills over pedigree. It also it, it helps reduce bias, right? There’s always gonna be some level of hiring bias that’s there that we’re either aware of or not. But skills based, it kinda levels the playing field.

I know that you’ve been really interested in that in the past. Just tell us a little bit about how you’ve seen, how skills. Make things more equal for folks? Yeah. So

Vivek Ravisankar: before starting Hacker Rank, I worked at Amazon as a developer in the Kindle team, and I used to do a lot of technical interviews, and that’s when I realized it’s, there wasn’t a great correlation between resumes and skills.

Which means I had interviewed people. Who were really good on paper, but completely bombing the interview and vice versa. And that was the inspiration for us to go ahead and start the company. And we started the company with a basic idea around enabling the screening process in the hiring screening stage of the hiring process to be based on skills [00:03:00] where instead of looking at a resume, you can give them a code challenge.

They can take the code challenge and based on how well they solve, you can them in the next steps or not. And that just opened the floodgates for just like our traction adoption because it was a huge productivity boost for hiring managers. Recruiters could actually open up the net to a wider section of population, and more importantly, it allowed developers, regardless of your background to be able to get a shot, you’re able to give a shot and get the dream job that you would like.

So that’s how it all, that’s how it all started. And then we realized like it’s not just about the screening stage. Like every stage of the hiring process can be really reinvented fundamentally on skills. That was, that’s what got us to think about interviewing, upskilling, learning everything on skills.

And it’s pretty, pretty profound. I think there’s like an old adage of talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not, and skills are nice. Leveling field for that.

William Tincup: That I love that talent is every EV [00:04:00] is everywhere. Opportunity is not That is wonderful. So what have you seen with, I mean you, you’ve been studying large language models and AI for a long time now, but what are you seeing in how it changes how hiring managers are looking at developers or even how developers are approaching, the hiring process?

Vivek Ravisankar: Yeah, no ai. AI has been there for a while, but I think chat G B D was a very powerful moment in ai and it’s very interesting cuz the underlying technology transformers was invented by Google and they shared the paper about three, four years back. But nobody really gave it a lot of attention.

Like maybe, or like a small cohort of people gave it a lot of attention. But actually PD just exposed the power of AI to millions of users across the globe. And so that was like a real powerful AI moment. And now you th there’s again, like an old quote of every company is a software company, and today I think that’s getting replaced by, every company’s an AI company, so everyone is trying to, [00:05:00] Reinvent themselves on things that he could do with AI within the application.

And specifically when it comes to hacker, I think we’re in a very interesting moment of in time for Hacker. Cause there are like two ways of how you could think about the implications of ai. One is around how do you make your hiring process more productive, more efficient by getting intelligent signals and things from ai.

The other is around what is going to be the future of programming in itself, right? And how AI assisted tools going to fundamentally change the way that you think about code. That that you think about building software. And we believe AI copilot is going to be the norm of how you’re actually gonna build software in the future.

So in our vantage point, we’re really innovating on both of those axi of. Hey, if this is gonna be the future of programming, how does the future of learning, future of assessments, future of interviews, future of upskilling, [00:06:00] all of those things change. So that’s one dimension. And the other dimension is agenda improvement in productivity across the board on all of our products and applications.

Yes, it’s a very exciting time to be working on this. And

William Tincup: so do you think if one’s ahead of the other, do you think recruiters and hiring managers are ahead of software the developers? Or do you think the developers are ahead it’s two-sided as you said, and both of ’em are gonna advance in their own kind of unique ways, but are the software developers seeing this as an opportunity and saying, you know what, let’s get in front of this.

And or recruiters seeing it as an opportunity to vet. And even go deeper into qualifying candidates.

Vivek Ravisankar: I don’t know if it’s like ahead or behind, I think. I’d say developers are certainty. I think we ran a report, we ran a survey to all of our developers in our community. 82% plus said, Hey, we’re really.

Embracing AI in our day to day job, which is pretty stunning in terms of wow, the [00:07:00] level of penetration. So they’re either using a co-pilot or they’re using chat to ask questions. They’re doing something and it’s pretty stunning how quickly it’s penetrated across the developer population. So certainly the way that you’re gonna build software and the future of programming is gonna change quite a bit with AI assistance.

It’s also, I believe, going to lower the barrier to entry. For developers to for more people to become developers. And I think you generally see the trend over time of the barrier to entry getting lower and lower because, to learn assembly language, the language in itself was cryptic and and then it went into a better, higher abstraction language of C Then it became a better, higher abstraction language to Python.

The ides got more powerful, cloud became easier to go ahead and deploy the things that you’d like. So in general, We have innovated across a lot of technological areas to lower the barrier to entry for more people to become developers. And today they’re like close to a hundred million developers in the [00:08:00] world, which by the way is still a small fraction of the 4 billion or so white collar professionals.

So there’s still like a tremendous amount of white space, and I think AI is gonna act as a pretty large accelerant on that. And then when it comes to recruiting and hiring managers I think the way that you think about recruiting, the way that you think about hiring is also going to fundamentally change.

Like, how do I, how does AI make a lot of these things more productive? Can you predict based on certain signals whether this is, this person is gonna get a job or not in my company? And if that’s the case, can I do something different? There’s a lot of really cool activities or things that, that we can do.

Through, through in AI to improve the productivity.

William Tincup: I love that. Let’s tackle a couple of these as we, do you see the AI assistance helping recruiters or even hiring managers with ask this question? Because, so I think sometimes, especially in technical recruiting the hiring managers are probably really skilled, but the recruiters themselves might not be as technically savvy as the people that they’re hiring.[00:09:00]

Do you see AI playing a part in helping them, give a better interview, actually give a better candidate experience as. Better questions, more direct questions, et cetera.

Vivek Ravisankar: Yeah, I think that is a really good book. I’m forgetting the name of the author, but it’s called Deep Medicine and essentially the book talks about the impact of AI in the field of medicine and healthcare.

And one of the chapters had this anecdote or story that stuck with me. There are a lot of interesting anecdotes that stuck with me, but one of them was, Around how the job of a doctor has become less about building and cultivating a relationship with a patient, but more like you need to check all of these boxes because you just don’t have time.

Talk with the patient to even understand what’s going on in their lives. Because candidly, a lot of the work this might be controversial, but I’m just like quoting the book. So a lot of the work that doctors do right now can be really automated. And the reason [00:10:00] why you actually go and visit a doctor is for the human connect human touch.

Which, which is starting to decline because you’re just like, busy updating a lot of different systems, making sure that things are up to date. I was reading that there’s a very strong parallel, you can even think about it in the recruiting industry where recruiters and hiring managers are bogged on by so many of these tasks.

Maybe they are like a lot of these schlep tasks that you need to work through coordination, updating feedback and writing notes and a lot of those schlep tasks. That you just miss out on the core thing of building and cultivating a relationship with a candidate, determining if you and the candidate are gonna work together well, or answering the question, being super present at the moment.

So I think a lot of the things that we’re going to see AI do is gonna be able to do a lot of those, quote unquote grunt work or the sharp tasks that recruiters and hiring managers are already doing right now. Going to free them up. With that [00:11:00] and restore or enhance the connection between the recruiters, hiring managers with their candidates, and that’s actually going to build a stronger and more powerful candidate experience overall.

William Tincup: And because again you’re getting AI as play. Again, it could be AI as a combination of machine learning and other types of things, but it’s getting rid of that low value task. Like we saw it really early on with like scheduling. Where, you, you can remember the times when you had to go back and forth over email Yeah.

And time zones and it would take like hours of your life to just schedule a meeting with a candidate. And now, now a bot does that in seconds and it’s all set up. So it’s like those lower value task. You’d be taken away from recruiters and hiring managers, which is fantastic.

And also think some of the lower value stuff for candidates as well. If we were to talk about their experience and some of that stuff, they don’t have to go through some of the painful things that they used to because of AI as well. How are you [00:12:00] seeing it with hacking? Like how are you seeing it with your own customers?

Not with specific names or anything like that, but just how are you seeing them deploy AI and and on the back end. And again, either they’re getting better and hiring software developers, they’re just getting faster, either higher quality, like something’s happening and AI is helping that.

I just wanted to kinda get your take on that.

Vivek Ravisankar: Yeah, I think I think the sentiment is the same as everyone in general, that isn’t specifically maybe the higher level sentiment is the same and we can d dive deeper into it, which is right. They’re both excited and scared, I guess that’s probably the sentiment that everyone shares.

Yeah. About, yeah. Right now,

The tech the large tech companies are trying really hard to fight for regulation, which is very refreshing to see, you don’t want to be a monopoly on this because, AI in the hands of a bad actor can be pretty destructive. But I [00:13:00] think like in general is both excitement and fear excitement around wow, this brings in like a lot of new possibilities.

To optimize the hiring process better, to be more customized journey maps for people who wanna upskill. Maybe it’s going to result in more developers in the future, and fear in terms of what’s gonna be the level of plagiarism and proctoring. Can I, how much more can I trust the signals that I actually get?

What if an AI is actually solving most of these challenges? It’s a fine line between embracing AI in the new world as well as making sure that you retain the integrity of the score of the assessment signals that you’re actually giving about a candidate. And that’s usually the conversations that we’re having with our customers.

William Tincup: It’s funny that you mention that cuz I’ve gotten the exhilarated and overwhelmed privately or personally exhilarated from recruiters and the hiring managers. Like the opportunities are boundless, but the overwhelming thing is [00:14:00] okay, but now how do we suss out? The pretenders from the folks that aren’t pretenders.

Like how do we set, how does, did it just make our jobs harder? Yeah. Is kinda what I get personally from recruiters and hiring managers and sourcer as well. It’s did this just, did all of this just make my job harder? And I think that’s the kind, the fear that you hear and y’all are getting as well is okay, is we all recognize this is a wonderful thing.

However, was it unintended or is it an un unintended consequence of okay, your job just got harder because now there’s more noise.

Vivek Ravisankar: Yeah. Agree. Completely agree. Yeah.

William Tincup: So where do you, as you look at software developers, and I love that you’re, lowering the barrier to entry through the years you went through a really nice architecture of just showing people, Hey, look, right now, my 13 year old’s learning scratch, drag, and drop it’s much easier than c plus.

So it’s gonna get easier. And I think you said AI is gonna make the development of people’s. Lower the barrier to entry for [00:15:00] people so that more people can become developers.

Vivek Ravisankar: Yeah. I think, if you just think about if you just think about like the areas where you get stuck, it’s usually when you’re starting belong to code.

Things are, you get a com compilation error and compilation errors initially are not the most easiest to right. Understand, it has a bunch of, yeah. The formatting sometimes is not very user, it’s not very intuitive. Line number column this file has an exception trace, it’s not super friendly and you could like probably copy that at a message based on Google.

Somebody would’ve actually asked the same question, stack overflow. You gotta wait through the answers to determine which one is right. Maybe your configuration of your machine is different from the person who gave the answer. You’re gonna try [00:16:00] back, you might not succeed. Maybe you succeed but you may not, and you’ve gotta like, work through it.

And maybe just gonna be like, oh I’m just gonna give up, or I’ll just come back later to work on this. But now imagine and who knows, like how many people just ended up doing something else than for that moment. But today, just imagine you have an AI assistant next to you and you say, Hey, I have, can you please help me debug, and gives you in the most, in, in the clearest pointed answer, like, how a developer sitting next to you would’ve given the answer.

That just like unlocked me. Yes. I can now go ahead and solve it. I’m, now, I’ve unlocked a new level in my programming abilities.

William Tincup: It’s like what they call

Vivek Ravisankar: riders. You get more confidence. Yeah. And now you like take on a bigger problem and that’s how you create a new programming. Just create a new developer.

That’s just like one example of how Deep think can just enable you to have, create a programmer almost who wouldn’t have. [00:17:00] Who would it have normally done? And the other thing is the other side of the or the other sort of section of people. People are very creative.

They have a lot of ideas and it’s very hard to translate your ideas into prototypes. And I think AI does, is going to do an amazing job in helping convert your idea into prototypes, which you can just start to use and navigate. And that gives you a lot of confidence for you to continue to work through the prototypes and make that even more powerful, even more stronger.

And you just, again, like you created another set of programmers or developers through that. So I think there’s, there are lots of examples like this that AI is just gonna facilitate and lower the activation energy for somebody to become a developer.

William Tincup: You know what I love is you’re describing kinda writer’s block, but for software developers developers, all the developers I know programmers they all go to a point and they hit a wall and then they either search around on Stack Overflow or gi friends and follow, all that stuff and Hey, I’m hit a wall with this can help.

And there’s plenty of different ways to do that. [00:18:00] But now having kind of an AI assistant go, Hey, Here’s how to, here’s 16 different ways to get past that wall. I love that. I think that’s great for the audience. I did want to ask you about two things before we end, cause I know y’all do a really good job of this, which is with hacker rank it proper and it’s fraud.

And and preventing fraud and ethical ai. So let’s take one of ’em at a time. How do you see kinda the intersection of fraud and what you do with HackerRank and and ai? Do you see it as a tool that you’ll use, deploy to see if if there is fraud in some of these tests or somebody’s taking a test?

Do you see it helping you with fraud? Is it just, like you said, is it exhilarate or overwhelmed? What side of this are you on right now?

Vivek Ravisankar: I’m, I am, it’s a good question. Which side am I on? I think for the day. Some days I’m very excited. Some days I’m super scared. Terrified. Yeah. What’s [00:19:00] gonna happen?

I don’t know. I don’t know if you’ve been looking at it. It’s not just the AI and gt, there’s this thing the land chain, which essentially Yeah. Connects the output of one to, to the input of another. And there’s this person who actually built this program, which looks at all of your receipts.

And then it has a bunch of different bills. So you have United Airlines. Flight ticket, United Airlines, wifi, Comcast, a bunch of things. And essentially he asked. This auto G B T, which essentially similar to line chain, it connects a bunch of different outputs to inputs and then continues to work on, to go ahead and dispute the United wifi bill on the protect of, hey, the wifi didn’t work after the letter,

William Tincup: used it for two hours.

Vivek Ravisankar: Yeah, sent, did not get a response. Continued to send a note. I think it even called on his behalf, and basically just did not stop until United. Somebody from United responded. [00:20:00] And yeah, he got the money back for the wife that he spent. That’s genius. And and probably I also think he did the same thing for the Comcast bill, I think it’s called.

Do Not Pay. It’s a really funny name I think. Do not pay AI or something. When you look at those use cases, you can’t help but think, wow. Imagine if this is in the head of hand of a bad actor. That’s right. Actually really prevent this. It’s not possible to prevent it. It’s like a nuclear bomb kind of a thing.

That’s right. That’s right. It can fundamentally destroy the social fabric of humanity. So when you see examples like these it’s really scary. And then on the other hand, I’m just like, I’m learning a lot of things with chat G B T right now. I think Richard Feynman had this thought of the only way to know whether you really understand a subject is if you can.

Teach a five year old, right? I’m probably not exactly, I’m paraphrasing this quote, but the idea was you gotta know the concepts at the most [00:21:00] atomic level for you to feel confident that, the bigger concept. And there lots of concept that I actually don’t know, and it’s very hard to Google, like for example, what the goal of.

Visa, the credit card company, my bank, the processor, merchant fees. How do all of these things work together? The, those things have been there. What is the role of the cell human organism? What is a protein? What is it like? What is a D n A? What is an r n a? What is mitochondria? How do all of these things like, gel well together?

And then it gives you such a coherent answer. You can ask follow up questions. And then like, how’s money created? What does it mean by fed the printing money? Everybody talks about that. Who decides the interest rate? What happens? I’m sure all of this knowledge is spread across the web, but talking to it, it feels like you’re actually talking to someone.

And you learn, you can ask follow up questions and it’s so coherent and really good that on these days when I actually learn something like this, I’m like amazed. Wow, this is like my own personal tutor and imagine if everybody had access to this. It’s just [00:22:00] gonna be pretty amazing. What’s yeah, it depends upon the day of.

When you catch me, whether I

William Tincup: You’re somewhere vacillating between the two. Yeah. I’m terrified. Or but you know that what’s one, one of the things that you brought up? We’ll just have to carry it over to another show and it’s how this is changing education and training. Yeah. Like it’s fundamentally changing the way that kids are gonna learn.

They’re just not gonna learn the way that we were gonna learn. You’re not gonna go and read a book and then, discuss that’s us out. I could talk to you forever. I absolutely appreciate you coming on the podcast. It’s been such a great show and I love what you do.

And thanks again for coming on.

Vivek Ravisankar: Thank you so much. Really appreciate having me again on your podcast. Hundred percent.

William Tincup: A hundred percent. And thanks for everyone listening. Until next time.

The RecruitingDaily Podcast

William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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