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The Rare Find: Reinventing Recruiting

Trying to spot talent, companies like Google and Facebook are reading résumés differently—and sometimes ignoring them entirely

In late 2006, 22-year-old Adam D’Angelo confronted a serious problem. Facebook, then a small Silicon Valley startup, had picked him to be its chief technology officer. He was bursting with ideas about how to make the social-networking site bigger, faster, and more appealing. To make those dreams come true, Facebook relied on a couple dozen scruffy young engineers, crammed together in a graffiti-covered office. Reinforcements were desperately needed. D’Angelo and his colleagues refused to settle for any available programmer, fearing that lax standards would destroy the company’s innovative culture. Facebook was scrambling to master on-campus recruiting and to lure stars from Google and Microsoft, but those old-fashioned hiring channels weren’t paying off fast enough. Something quicker and more nimble was needed.

D’Angelo proposed that Facebook publish gnarly programming challenges and invite engineers anywhere to solve them. These wouldn’t be the superficial brainteasers that some companies used, like estimating the number of piano tuners in Chicago. Instead, Facebook’s website would issue multi-hour tests of coding prowess. With a bit of wit, these puzzles would find and deliver the right kind of people to the California startup.