Rocketfuel Case Study | Technical Recruiting | Hiring the Best Engineers

Rocket Fuel Sources and Hires Engineers 88% More Efficiently

By the Numbers

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Engineering resumes
per year

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Required to take the HackerRank Test

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the test

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Continue down
the funnel(15%)

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screening time

Rocket Fuel, a leading provider of advertising and marketing solutions for global agencies and brands, makes its recruiting process more effective and more efficient using HackerRank’s automated coding tests. HackerRank helps Rocket Fuel reduce the time spent on phone interviews, as well as reach more candidates in a more effective way, thus improving the top-of-the-funnel recruiting process.

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"In a time when finding great developers is becoming a real business challenge, HackerRank’s codesprint is a no-brainer solution to getting to the top programmers. Being able to hire winners of codesprints made HackerRank a very smart investment for us."
- Jim Chauncey-Kelly, Rocket Fuel’s Director of Talent

About Rocket Fuel

Rocket Fuel delivers a leading programmatic media-buying platform at Big Data scale that harnesses the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to improve marketing ROI in digital media across web, mobile, video, and social channels. In 2013, Rocket Fuel was ranked #4 in Forbes list of Most Promising Companies in America and ranked #1 in Deloitte’s Fastest growing technology companies. This tremendous pace of growth also comes with the challenge of growing the team at an equally rapid rate. And its also crucial to hire the best and brightest minds in tech so Rocket Fuel can maintain its leadership

The Recruiting Challenge - Efficiency and Effectiveness

Standing out. Rocket Fuel is at the forefront of technological skills and has all the right buzzwords - big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning. However, in the Silicon Valley, where numerous other companies are looking for those same skills, the challenge for Rocket Fuel is to establish a distinguished presence in these crowded job boards. According to Wanted Analytics, an analytics firm for the talent marketplace, in March 2014 there were over 45,000 tech jobs advertised in the Silicon Valley.

Beyond resumes. Rocket Fuel’s tech recruiters, like their peers in other companies, are dealing with a unique problem. Resumes tell only part of the candidate’s story, and there is no easy way to assess coding competence without interviewing each and every one of them. So the resumes are filtered by the obvious parameters like top-tier school and years of experience. This approach however, leads to increased competition with other companies on the same small pool of candidates and they miss well-qualified candidates from less known backgrounds.

Recruiting Efficiency. Given the daily pressures to meet increasingly demanding hiring needs, Rocket Fuel is constantly looking at ways to increase recruiting efficiency, and it focused first on phone screening. While each phone screen is short, 10-20 minutes, it is conducted at the top of the recruiting funnel, therefore in large numbers, and quickly becomes the most time consuming recruiting task. Rocket Fuel realized that any optimization on early screening will result in significant savings.

"With the coding aptitude tested and out of the way, during interviews we now get into far more depth on the developers thought process and rationale. We spend time assessing if they will be a good fit - a huge intangible benefit of using HackerRank."
- Abhinav Gupta, Co-Founder and VP of Engineering at Rocket Fuel

The Solution

Launched in Summer 2012, HackerRank’s mission is to help companies hire talented programmers. With a rapidly growing active community of about a million programmers and the automated screening tools, HackerRank is simplifying sourcing and screening of tech talent. It replaces time-consuming and expensive outreach efforts with a community within which technology companies can connect with a diverse population of talent around coding challenges.

Rocket Fuel, recognizing its growth challenges early on, started using HackerRank to source and assess technical candidates when the development team consisted of only 30 engineers. Rocket Fuel now uses HackerRank’s coding challenges at the top of the recruiting funnel and screens more than 1,000 candidates annually using six different coding challenges. It also routinely sponsors HackerRank’s campus Codesprints (virtual hackathons) to source hundreds of candidates.


Turbocharged sourcing and brand presence on campuses. To solve for its sourcing challenge and to distinguish itself from other tech recruiters on campuses, Rocket Fuel began sponsoring HackerRank’s academic Codesprints in 2012. Through its most recent sponsorship, Rocket Fuel established its brand presence in front of 15,000 students from over 750 colleges in India and 2000 students from 87 universities in US. Codesprint sponsorship has also resulted in hiring of exceptional developers from places such as Russia, China and India. “In a time when finding great developers is becoming a real business challenge, HackerRank’s codesprint is a no-brainer solution to getting to the top programmers. Being able to hire winners of codesprints made HackerRank a very smart investment for us”, says Jim Chauncey-Kelly, Rocket Fuel’s Director of Talent.

Time savings and increased recruiting efficiency. The math of time savings is simple.

  • Rocket Fuel gets about 1000 applicants. 24% of these applicants do not complete the HackerRank challenge and are qualified out early on. These are 240 candidates per year who do not have very serious intentions in working for Rocket Fuel, and without the test would have been interviewed anyway.
  • HackerRank challenges also help Rocket Fuel identify top 15% applicants based on their score, saving additional phone screen time for remaining 85% of the candidates.
  • The platform also identifies plagiarism by flagging submissions where there is a 70% overlap - one of the more innovative and differentiating features of the platform to qualify out undesirable candidates.

With HackerRank platform, Rocket Fuel now screens only top 114 candidates vs. 1000 candidates resulting in 88% time savings from screening.

Expanding the funnel while distinguishing rockstars. Rocket Fuel expanded the top of the recruiting funnel by inviting more candidates to take the code challenges. At the same time, distinguishing the rockstars is easier. For a specific position, the HackerRank-for-work platform creates a distribution curve of all the candidates and stack-ranks programmers based on their performance. The recruiter can then easily distinguish the top performers and invite only those for an interview.

Improved candidate experience. The standard technical recruiting process used to include a test, performed by the candidate on-site, as part of the interview. This ordeal is stressful and unnatural, and often the candidate does not perform to his/ her full potential. HackerRank elevates this process to a much more natural experience where the candidates solve the challenge at their own pace. Rocket Fuel, on its end, gets to see the candidate’s full potential and stands out among other companies by delivering superior candidate experience.

What’s Next?

Rocket Fuel is looking for ways to reap benefits from HackerRank’s wider range of recruiting applications. One of the initiatives being implemented is testing the company’s current engineers in order to create a baseline of desired skills. Candidates will then be compared to the baseline to determine their fit. The treasure trove of data will be truly game changing as it will allow the company to predict success of engineers based on early performance indicators - a visionary way in which Rocket Fuel plans to use big data for talent management.

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