Quixey is an app discovery engine with a problem, and it’s not just the odd name.

Like many startups, Quixey’s key issue is finding talent — great talent. The Palo Alto-based company, founded in 2009, has to compete with the likes of Facebook, Apple, and Zynga for top engineering employees in an extremely hot job market filled with engineers.

So how does the company make sure it hires the best people for the job without wasting time on the wrong applicants? By playing games.

Top engineers, goes the theory, are smart. And they enjoy solving puzzles. So Quixey separates the sheep from the goats with a series of puzzles. Hopeful job-seekers sign up for a Quixey Challenge username and then attempt to solve a series of problems.

Here’s an example of a Quixey question:

Longest Common Subsequence

Calculates the longest subsequence common to the two input strings. (A subsequence is any sequence of letters in the same order they appear in the string, possibly skipping letters in between.)

Input:
a: The first string to consider.
b: The second string to consider.

Output:
The longest string which is a subsequence of both strings. (If multiple subsequences of equal length exist, either is OK.)

Example:

The tests are not for the faint of heart — or the slow of brain. Applicants are timed as they solve the questions, and both their time and answers are recorded.

After the prospective employees complete a minimum of three practice questions, they are finally able to apply for an open position at Quixey. They’re told to provide their Quixey Challenge username along with the application, for the company’s human resources professionals to review.

Practice questions were just the start. Quixey has expanded its project and created an entire game based on being the best engineer which can help other companies find their good hires (and engineers make a little cash).

The company crowdsources challenges — users are invited to submit sample questions — and then opens up a competition like this one:

Names of winners and runners-up are posted online, and anyone can view the leaderboard.

It’s an ingenious method of unearthing the top talent in the engineering world and allowing a company to pick from the winners. This could be a perfect solution for other companies looking to hire great people fast.

Quixey has raised \$24.2 million in capital to date, with the vast majority of it coming in a second round raised in mid 2011 from Atlantic Bridge, SK Planet, and TransLink Capital. Google chairman Eric Schmidt is also an investor in the company.

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