Job Interview Tests Help Rank Programming Languages

Adding to the bevy of existing programming language popularity indices, developer careers company HackerRank is incorporating the job interview process into the mix.

The young company has joined the ranks of TIOBE, RedMonk, the PYPL (PopularitY of Programming Language) index, Stack Overflow, IEEE and others seeking to provide developers with information about languages.

In this case, the company is using data collected from coding interview challenges to answer the questions:

Which programming languages are employers proactively seeking the most often? Are there any variances by industries?

HackerRank has access to the coding interview data because the company specializes in providing competitive coding challenges and ranking the results to help companies discover dev talent as part of the preliminary interview process.

In these tests, employers can choose to enable or disable the usage of specific programming languages. Tossing out those tests in which all languages were enabled and only investigating industries with 20-plus representative companies, HackerRank culled its data from more than 3,000 coding challenges.

The findings were discussed today in a blog post whose title summarized the results: "Emerging Languages Overshadowed by Incumbents Java, Python in Coding Interviews."

Top Languages Used in Interview Coding Challenges
[Click on image for larger view.] Top Languages Used in Interview Coding Challenges (source: HackerRank)

The firm sought to explain the popularity of Java -- which always fares well in such rankings -- and Python, another strong performer in various indices.

In the case of Java -- which was the most oft-enabled language by employers and language most used by developers in the challenges -- it's a multi-faceted explanation that includes factors such as: the open source Java Virtual Machine; Google's choice of Java for its Android mobile platform; the large role of Java in the growing Big Data ecosystem; and other possible explanations.

Python's popularity, meanwhile, is especially prevalent in the financial tech industry.

"FinTech is the only industry where Python is taking a noticeably far lead as a language that's enabled 50 percent more than the runner up Java," HackerRank said in today's blog post.

The company also discussed the venerable C language, propelled by security concerns.

"Security companies and start-ups seek out C programming language skills more often than other industries in this study," HackerRank said. "It's not surprising since C has been a celebrated systems-level language. Security companies using HackerRank (Symantec, FireEye, Citrix, Juniper) are securing and monitoring technologies built on these low-level languages.

"One speculation for this could be that, unlike other feature-driven or API-driven languages, the C language offers a lot more control over your code since it's not written on top of a virtual machine."

Coincidentally, C was named the most popular language in a brand-new study conducted by IEEE -- even more coincidentally followed by (you guessed it) Java and Python.

In fact, using different criteria, several other recent language-ranking mechanisms are dominated by those three languages, joined occasionally by other stalwarts such as JavaScript and C++.

Here's a summary of such recent reports:

  1. C
  2. Java
  3. Python
  4. C++
  5. R
  1. JavaScript
  2. Python
  3. Java
  4. C
  5. SQL
  1. Java
  2. C
  3. C++
  4. Python
  5. C#
  1. Java
  2. Python
  3. PHP
  4. C#
  5. JavaScript
  1. JavaScript
  2. Java
  3. PHP
  4. Python
  5. C#
  1. JavaScript
  2. Java
  3. Ruby
  4. PHP
  5. Python

In today's HackerRank report, meanwhile, C++ joined C and Python as the only languages besides Java to rank No. 1 across the industries surveyed by HackerRank. C++ led the Gaming & Media category, C led Security, Python led FinTech and Java led everything else.

Here are the results:

Top Languages Used in Healthcare & Social Media
[Click on image for larger view.] Top Languages Used in Healthcare & Social Media (source: HackerRank)
Top Languages Used in Gaming & Media, and Security
[Click on image for larger view.] Top Languages Used in Gaming & Media, and Security (source: HackerRank)
Top Languages Used in Finance and FinTech
[Click on image for larger view.] Top Languages Used in Finance and FinTech (source: HackerRank)

"When you look at what the actual coding skill proficiency that you need, this study reminds us that employers aren't into chasing shiny objects," HackerRank said. "Employers are still seeking strong foundational skills in good old Java, Python and C. They're focused on infrastructure strength, security and scalability."

The company also warned developers to not take such ranking initiatives too seriously, but merely as an adjunct tool in making career decisions.

"While it's true that software engineers must remain adaptable to ever changing technologies, what's not as often talked about is that adopting good software development tools takes decades, and it's not always easy to predict," the company said. "Unlike other fields that are deliberately designed, good software development takes several years of versions before it's ubiquitously adopted. All of this is to say, such programming language rankings should always be taken with a grain of salt before leaping over the next hyped language or tool, of you move too fast or getting worried about the next hot tool that could force you to miss the bigger picture."

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.