About LeetCode and the Recruiting Process in Silicon Valley

When browsing through the career posts on Blind, you’ll repeatedly come across certain terms, TC and FAANG being among the most popular, but there’s another term that can be included in this group: LeetCode.

Because LeetCode is mentioned so often within the community, a user jokingly asked if it’s secretly running Blind. The official answer: No. In fact, many of us at TeamBlind didn’t know what LeetCode was until we saw the highest ranking keywords on the platform!

The considerable amount of LeetCode mentions got us curious about what our users have been saying about it. We’ve read through the posts and have taken away a few points that may be interesting to those who are new to LeetCode or those who just want to know what Blind’s users are saying about it.

What Is LeetCode?

It’s a website where people–mostly software engineers–practice their coding skills. There are 800+ questions (and growing), each with multiple solutions. Questions are ranked by level of difficulty: easy, medium, and hard.

Similar websites include HackerRank, Topcoder, InterviewBit, among others. There’s also a popular book, “Cracking the Coding Interview,” which some call the Bible for engineers. The Blind community uses a mix of these resources, but based on mentions, LeetCode seems to be the most popular. Our active users cite the following reasons for preferring LeetCode: more questions, better quality, plus a strong user base.

Why LeetCode?

There are three primary reasons why our users LeetCode: to prepare for the technical portion of a job interview, to get into FAANG, or to improve their total compensation. For many engineers on Blind, their goal is to accomplish all three.

Passing the Technical Screen

Within the last decade or so, the technical interview process has become formulaic and what some describe “unnatural” for engineers. What people are asked to perform in an interview–solving word or code based teasers, coding on a whiteboard, and being asked to produce clean optimized solutions in a short time frame–is not what they would experience in a daily work environment.

LeetCode, HackerRank, and the like have risen in use because of the way interviews have evolved. Engineers believe that these resources help prepare them for what they will encounter in today’s technical aptitude screenings.

Not Just Any Technical Screen

For many, the objective for using LeetCode isn’t about just passing the technical interview. It’s about passing the technical interview at the elite tech companies: Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google. LeetCode questions are often asked during interviews at these companies, some more than at others. Among the Big Five, Amazon is said to place the least emphasis on LeetCode.

Many of our users spend about 3 months preparing for interviews for the Big Five, and a good deal of them make use of LeetCode’s premier feature that allows members to practice mock interviews by specific company–the elite ones included. The number of problems people solve in preparation for interviews ranges widely, from 20 to a few hundred. Then there are those who don’t LeetCode at all and still get offers.

LeetCode-based interviews are more prevalent at well-known tech companies in Silicon Valley and Seattle. Outside these areas and internationally, engineers are less likely to be asked a LeetCode question during the recruiting process. This may or may not be a good thing depending on how you view LeetCode.

A Better Offer

Our users sometimes mention that a better interview performance, including producing the best coding solutions in the shortest time, can result in a better offer or at least give candidates more room for negotiation. This motivates some users to spend more time LeetCoding, even though it’s not always the case that a better interview performance correlates with a higher salary.

Mixed Opinions About LeetCode

Our users hate it, are ambivalent about it, or they like it. The funny thing is, the opinions regarding LeetCode don’t seem to be about LeetCode at all. Instead, the opinions voiced about LeetCode often speak to today’s tech interviews. There is nothing wrong with LeetCode, it’s just a tool. Rather it’s how it’s being used that people love or hate.

Here are more opinions that have been expressed on Blind:

Asking LeetCode question is not the best way to measure technical capabilities but it’s an efficient way to recruit engineers.

LeetCode is a useful metric.

LeetCode is best for testing algorithmic skills and testing less experienced engineers.

Interviewers who ask LeetCode questions are lazy and engineers who LeetCode are rote memorizers.

Both interviewers and interviewees respond: The purpose of using LeetCode shouldn’t be memorizing solutions. Plus, using LeetCode to prepare for interviews may say something positive about work ethic.

And lastly, LeetCode may not be the best reflection of the daily work that goes on at a job.