Coding Platforms used in SRE Interviews - LeetCode vs. HackerRank
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Coding Platforms used in SRE Interviews - LeetCode vs. HackerRank

SRE Recruiting
January 27, 2022
Written by Harrison Clarke
3 minute read
Written by Harrison Clarke
3 minute read

Due to the increasing requirements toward the stability of applications and systems, the demand for Site Reliability Engineers is growing every year. Digitally-driven companies of various sizes and specializations are building SRE teams to minimize downtime and improve the performance of their applications and services

Although SRE specialists are in great demand today, hiring interviews for the various positions within this field are very rigorous. A typical SRE interview involves several stages, including a phone interview, a personal interview (on-site or remote), and a coding interview. Engineers looking for a successful career in Site Reliability Engineering need to prepare thoroughly for each step of the recruitment process.


Practicing for an SRE technical interview

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Getting ready for an SRE interview can be more challenging than preparing for other IT roles. This is because the SRE role requires a unique combination of skills where solid technical expertise and human skills are critical to be successful on this career path. All dimensions of the SRE role are crucial in evaluating an engineer’s fit for this position, and any of them can make or break an interview. Scoring high on all aspects sets apart exceptional SREs from the crowd. 

While evaluating a candidate’s fit with the company culture may be a matter of feel, the technical interview is unequivocal and unbiased. In previous blog posts, we covered how candidates should prepare for DevOps/SRE interviews (whether in-person or remote). Now, we focus on how engineers practice for an SRE technical interview. More specifically, we will compare two of the most popular platforms that allow engineers to practice their skills for an interview and companies to evaluate talent — LeetCode and HackerRank.


What is LeetCode?

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LeetCode is an online platform designed primarily for software developers and machine learning experts. Its purpose is to allow these software engineers to practice and improve their coding skills and prepare for technical interviews. Furthermore, DevOps/SRE recruiters use the platform to identify top talent.

LeetCode’s key features:

  • 1,800+ questions that support several programming languages;
  • Three skill levels — easy, medium, and hard;
  • Covers a variety of programming languages;
  • Community discussions (considered one its most valuable assets);
  • Contests and challenges for developers.

What is HackerRank?

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HackerRank is a platform focusing on competitive programming challenges for both software engineers and businesses. Its main features include:

  • Programming challenges for software developers;
  • Three skill levels — beginner, intermediate, and advanced;
  • Covers multiple programming languages;
  • Global rankings based on accomplishments;
  • An opportunity for companies to screen and hire developers;
  • University hiring opportunities.

As two of the most popular competitive programming platforms, LeetCode and HackerRank provide software engineers with valuable resources to enhance their skills and knowledge and prepare for technical interviews. While both solutions follow the same standard work sequence and include a variety of questions, editorials, and peer interactions, LeetCode has more comprehensive features and content.

Other similar features and differences between LeetCode and HackerRank include:

Filtering Options

Natural curiosity and eagerness to learn are a sign of a growth mindset. Technical leaders

Both platforms allow users to filter the materials by topic and skill level. Many developers especially like the way problems are tagged and categorized in LeetCode.

Available topics and languages

Both LeetCode and HackerRank allow software developers to practice their skills in a great variety of topics, including mathematics, data structures, machine learning, and many more. 

Users can answer questions in different programming languages on both platforms. With HackerRank, an engineer can solve programming problems in several languages at once.

Community

The two platforms have communities where engineers around the globe can discuss coding tasks, exchange opinions, and gather valuable feedback from industry peers. However, many professionals find the discussion boards and forums on the Leetcode platform the most appealing.

Use for screening candidates

Modern tech organizations can use LeetCode and HackerRank to find the best SRE talent. With its Interview Preparation Kit to help engineers get interview-ready, HackerRank focuses more on employment challenges that mirror real-life technical skill screenings. Furthermore, potential employers can see the rankings engineers get upon completing the challenges. On the other hand, LeetCode-based interviews are getting increasingly popular among high-growth tech companies.

Subscription cost

To get access to most of the questions on LeetCode, users will need a Premium subscription which will cost $35/month or $159/year. As to HackerRank, it is entirely free for users willing to prepare for an interview. However, companies looking for IT talent need to subscribe to one of the platform’s four plans.

Relevance to the top companies

As mentioned above, problems found on LeetCode are questions candidates may frequently encounter during a coding interview at high-profile tech companies like Amazon or Google. This boosts LeetCode’s appeal among engineers who wish to prepare for (and pass) interviews at FAANG-type enterprises. Additionally, with a Premium subscription, users get an opportunity to go through a simulation of an interview with a specific company.

At the same time, HackerRank users note that many questions on the platform are either far from the realm of their work or poorly written, making it hard to come up with a solution to an incomprehensible problem.


HackerRank vs. LeetCode: which platform is the best solution to practice for an SRE interview?

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Online skill assessment platforms are great resources for software engineers and hiring managers. Developers use them to practice their coding skills and prepare for tech interviews while organizations use the platforms to find top talent. 

LeetCode and HackerRank are two of the most popular platforms used for today’s SRE interviews. Both platforms help engineers test their talents and be ready to crack the challenging SRE coding interview. Still, with its strong community, easy-to-use discussion forums, and increasingly widespread use in interviews at FAANG companies, LeetCode tops engineers’ preference list.

Nonetheless, relying solely on an online competitive programming platform may not be enough to prepare for a technical interview. So, it’s always best to combine this practice with other tools. In addition, it is important to keep in mind that when hiring for a Site Reliability Engineering role, organizations look for soft skills and fit with the company culture alongside strong technical skills.


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