Is it unethical to receive help during a remote interview task?

The Workplace Asked by BBQ_Ribs on December 28, 2021

A company’s interview process consists of sending the interviewee a task that they have to complete in a couple of days/weeks and send it back to them for evaluation. I have received such a task.

I solved the task myself, after which I have sent my solution to a close friend of mine who has more experience in that role, so that he can double-check my answers and offer some suggestions as to how I can improve my solution before I send it to the company. I do not intend to disclose the fact that I received help from a close friend.

Is this unethical?

11 Answers

I would suggest simply mentioning that "Code has been peer reviewed by XXX" (including full contact information)

This implies that you have had more experienced eyes looking at what you did, and give you feedback on your solution, but that you did the work yourself! You might want to elaborate on what the feedback was, so that they know what you learned in the process.

This tells your potential employers that:

  • You know that having others look at your code and responding to their feedback, makes your code better.
  • You know that this process has a name and how to use it.
  • You are open about it. The reviewer did not write your code, so it is your own work, but you received the kind of help I would expect them to expect you to require in a work scenario.

Good luck.

Answered by Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen on December 28, 2021

Send them both. Then tell them you had a code review done by colleague that knew the subject and implemented his/her suggestions.

Answered by Be Kind To New Users on December 28, 2021

Is this unethical?

No, it is not unethical.

The company provided you with a task without specific instructions (this is what I get from your question). You do your best to succeed with that task.

In real life, people go to SO, friends, forums, church to get an answer to their coding problems, so no surprise you use whatever you can in that case.

Now - and this is an important disclaimer - you must make sure your own solution was "good enough". Otherwise, you may end up with a stressful job where you won't be able to do anything, as it will be beyond your capacities - a truly awful situation to be in.

Answered by WoJ on December 28, 2021

I do not intend to disclose the fact that I received help from a close friend.

I can only see two reasons not to disclose this fact. One is that you know in your heart that you were cheating. The other is that you know in your heart the prospective employer should be looking to hire your close friend rather than you.

Most colleges require that students sign a statement affirming that the student did not receive help from another person on a test. This pertains to everything from a short closed-book exam to a multi-week open-book exam. With open-book exams, a student is typically allowed to consult notes, consult textbooks, consult the library, and even consult the internet. But consulting friends, close or otherwise, is verboten.

The working world is even more restrictive than college is, because consulting people who do not work on the project at hand risks disclosure of proprietary knowledge. These risks can apply even within the company, let alone with "close friends" who might or might not happen to work for a competitor.

Answered by David Hammen on December 28, 2021

I have sent my solution to a close friend of mine

You will not be able to do that when you start working (i.e. share your work with a friend who is not known to the company), so yes it is unethical and can be illegal if you do it when you are employee of the company.

If you would have just asked a query to your friend that would have been okay because it is like google search. Sending the entire file is definitely not in the grey area.

Edit: Based on the downvotes, I am adding more context to it. I think the purpose of these kind of interviews is that company is checking if you can to do your job either through your knowledge or though self research without sharing the code with people they do not know! So you need to emulate that behaviour in the interview. That is what my point is.

Answered by PagMax on December 28, 2021


conforming to accepted standards of conduct. Merriam-Webster

It is not standard or accepted conduct in the tech industry to let someone else take your interview/job placement test(s) for you or to help you. Unless they are actually the person administrating the test.

Furthermore, should you be given the job you will lack the confidence to complete tasks without additional help from your friend (or others). Do you think your friend is going to be interested in doing your job for you? Or that it would be ethical to send your company's internal documents and client info to your friend? You are doing things that will snowball into more problems later. Focus on making yourself the person who can pass a test without help.

And for those who say, it's normal to get help when you're working a job, sure but only for things the employer would have expected you might need help on based on their hiring process. If you cheat the process then you would likely need help on things the employer didn't want to spend time on helping you with! And you, knowing that, wouldn't be likely to seek that help from inside the company. Now, since I have never cheated to get a job I'm not an expert on the thought process but this seems to be the likely outcome to me.

Answered by HenryM on December 28, 2021

One useful test for ethics questions is "If everyone with an interest in this issue knew exactly what I am doing, would they act differently or think less of me?"

By that test, you answered your own question when you wrote "I do not intend to disclose the fact that I received help from a close friend."

If you really thought it was ethical, and something the employer intended to permit, you would be comfortable including with your answer a note saying exactly what help you got from your friend.

Answered by Patricia Shanahan on December 28, 2021

Yes, it's unethical.

When I test someone, I want to know how they think more than how right they are.

I gave a technical interview once where the guy couldn't answer any of my (deliberately difficult) questions. We hired him, because he gave HONEST answers. Technical deficiencies can always be addressed through training/education and are not deal breakers in many cases.

It also can come back to bite you when you get on the job and you're not performing at the level that they think you are capable of performing.

Answered by Old_Lamplighter on December 28, 2021

I think it's a grey area. If they did the work for you, would be unethical. If they did part of it for you, it would be unethical.

You doing it all and after it's done getting suggestions on how to improve it? Assuming you do the improvements yourself and don't have them done by them, I'd say that's very borderline okay-ish.

I mean it's what we do. We work in teams, we review a colleagues work, we react to outside suggestions and in the end we hope to build the best product.

It's what we all suggest for everything else in interviews, right? A written CV or cover letter, should that be proofread by as many people as possible? Absolutely! Do we give credit at the end, listing all the people that helped? No we would not.

So you should definitely by able to say you did all the work on this. if some suggestions on improvements were by a friend you showed it too, I would not mind personally. Not mentioning that friend up front would be okay with me, too.

But at some point there might be a question or even casual remark like "so you did that all on your own". Lying to that question would indeed be unethical. So be prepared what you want to do when that question comes up. I cannot tell you what to do, whether you want to be truthful or deceiving, but stuttering, stalling, evading or having to think about this question will surely get you a black mark.

Answered by nvoigt on December 28, 2021

Is this unethical?

Maybe, but not necessarily.

Firstly, it is you that is being interviewed for this job, not your friend. Unless your friend is going to be willing to do your work for you when you get the job, you should present your work without his input. The company is trying to assess you, not someone else.

However, unless the instructions with the task specifically state that you must complete it alone, you are free to assume that you are allowed to complete it in whatever way you wish. This is, after all, supposed to be the point of a complete-at-home task: "realism" and freedom. That means using Google, Stack Overflow, and even the input of others are all valid options. Read the instructions closely and follow them accordingly.

(Personally I think a company asking a candidate to complete some task on their own time are unfairly abusing that candidate's good nature anyway. But those companies that do choose to do this, must provide clear instructions on how the task is to be approached and whether there are any restrictions on time or resources that the candidate should limit themselves to. If they do not, any approach is completely fair game).

Indeed, it is perfectly normal to ask a friend to review one's CV or covering letter. This is not quite the same situation as that, but it could be argued that it is similar.

In summary: follow the instructions with the task. If there are no instructions, you may do as you wish. But you must be able to justify your hiring to this position, whether your friend helps or not, so you may wish to consider making a point of doing it alone.

Answered by BittermanAndy on December 28, 2021

Is this unethical?

The short answer is: Yes

You would be able to do your own research, so Google, use other sources (textbooks) for your task.

To ask someone to edit your work for you means it is not your own work.

After all the employer is paying for your expertise, and what you can bring to the organisation.

I would suspect you would not be the only person to approach this task in this manner.

In the end, it is a personal judgement call, and where you stand with your values.

Answered by fran on December 28, 2021

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