Puzzling Candidates to Attract Top Talent

March 11, 2016

Engineers are passionate about problem solving. I know that from both my personal experience as a software engineer and from the people I work with here at LinkedIn. It’s incredibly refreshing to be surrounded by like-minded problem-solvers who share my curiosity and creativity.

One morning, I found myself confronted with a regular expressions crossword that MIT had published as part of their Mystery Hunt in 2013. I spent so many hours working on the puzzle that when I finally solved it, I felt accomplished but also wanting more.

This inspired me to create my own regex puzzle to attract talent to LinkedIn, a project idea I had already been brainstorming and prototyping for a while. An early iteration would have let visitors edit the code of the website itself to fix bugs and reveal a job application. I saw the regex puzzle as an even more engaging and creative challenge, and I knew it would attract the most curious and imaginative types.

I also wanted the puzzle to introduce potential employees to our exciting culture. Clues like C{0}N[NECT]* (connect) and [MBERS]*)\1 (members first) alluded to our mission and values, as candidates exercised their technical knowledge and problem-solving skills to arrive at a solution.

The page went live earlier this year, and I honestly didn't expect too much from it. It was just a fun side project that might get a few hits. Or so I thought.

I've been overwhelmed by the website's success. In less than a week, the site attracted more than 5,000 visitors. Hundreds went on to solve the puzzle and many decided to apply for an interview with LinkedIn as a result. Incredible candidates from around the world are not only solving the puzzle, but also sharing it within their networks.

The puzzle has attracted engineers from many different backgrounds — mobile, web, apps, systems and infrastructure, data, and more! Some candidates are just beginning their careers and looking for their first internship or full-time job; others are distinguished engineers in Silicon Valley. One candidate even has a Ph.D. in natural language processing.

It's been a whirlwind. A huge thanks to many different teams across LinkedIn – recruiting, security, legal, design, accessibility, microsites, and more – who helped bring this project to its new home at engineering.linkedin.com/puzzle, where anyone can give it a try. We're excited about connecting talent from all around the world to opportunities at LinkedIn in a creative way, and I personally can't wait to see how transformational this website will be for these candidates and our company.