I just want to know what should I reply to an interviewer if I don't know the language that he wants me to code in, should I reply him with something like this -

"I am not familiar with java, can I code this in C++?"

  • 4
    Depends on what they are looking for and the requirements for the job. If they want you to live code in a language you don't know, how did you get the interview? – Seth R Jan 11 '18 at 4:50
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    If you apply to a job asking for Java, you should be prepared to know Java... If the job advertised C++ and they ask about Java, just run... – HorusKol Jan 11 '18 at 5:07
  • Is this a coding test or a language you will be using in the job – Neuromancer Jan 11 '18 at 11:35
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    I guarantee that if you don't know a language, but pretend you do, it will not end well for you. – Mike Harris Jan 11 '18 at 14:51
  • Why are the talking to you at all if you don't know the required langauge? – Mister Positive Jan 11 '18 at 15:56

If it only concerns the language your interviewer is asking (not a language that is required in the job description) I don't see a problem.

BUT, if that language is in the required skills of the job description then the interview will probably be over as soon as you ask that.

All jobs have the required (i.e. 3 years experience with xxx language) and the nice to have skills. If it's a language in the latter, well you won't get any brownie points but it's less of an issue.

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    If I've ended up in a situation where Java is a required skill and I'm doing an in-person interview where the candidate knows no Java, somebody on my side has screwed up badly. Time to apologise to the candidate and move on, but good to find this out now. – Philip Kendall Jan 11 '18 at 6:17
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    Then again, if someone has eg. 10 years of C++ experience, it's not a big jump to learn the syntax of Java and be productive. The key principles of programming are language agnostic. – Juha Untinen Jan 11 '18 at 8:28
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    But the libraries and details are not, so it will definitely take quite some time to be productive in the new language. – FooBar Jan 11 '18 at 8:43
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    @Y12K The employer would be very short-sighted to flat out refuse a candidate that has 10 years of C++ experience and willingness to learn Java. – Juha Untinen Jan 11 '18 at 10:27
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    @Juha However, if the job posting is for a so-called service-based job (where the employee is deputed to work for a client - usually from the client's office) as against a so-called product-based job (in house development), it wouldn't make much sense to hire a C++ expert for a Java development role - just like you don't want to have a 10 years experienced carpenter who wants to learn plumbing show up to your place to fix the kitchen sink leak. :) – Masked Man Jan 11 '18 at 11:09

If they ask you to code something in Java, and you don't know Java (enough to do this successfully), then there is really no other choice than telling them, so your suggestion is perfectly fine.

If Java is a requirement for the job - well, that shouldn't have happened. You should never have been invited to the interview, so someone got it very wrong along the way. You won't get the job, that can't be helped.

It may very well be that Java is not required but would be useful. Someone knowing Java may have a very slight advantage compared to someone who doesn't. As long as the rest of your interview goes well, it's no problem. You can't know everything. And again, you can only be as good as you are. If there's someone interviewing who is better, that can't be helped.


That's usually a perfectly acceptable request from an interviewee. However, you should be familiar with the requirements of the position to which you're applying and be reasonably close to meeting those requirements. Furthermore, I would suggest keeping the language choice close to the one requested (C++ and Java are probably close enough, JavaScript and Kotlin are probably not)

Some interviewers might object, but there is little you'll be able to do once you're in the interview. In reality, they shouldn't be inviting you to interviews and expecting you to use a language you aren't comfortable in. You didn't apply to a Java position and put Java on your resume and then ask to avoid it in the interview, right?

  • No absolutely not, but looking at their past interview questions they were asking oop questions in java. Even their coding round held on hackerrank and I used c++ for that, they could have restricted the language in the coding round. I am confused because what if the interviewer only knew Java? – user3481652 Jan 11 '18 at 5:00
  • @user3481652, Don't worry. You will most likely have multiple interviewers and those interviewers will have pre-determined what questions they ask so that they don't ask you the same question more than once. So expect questions about C++ from their C++ developer. Expect Java questions from their Java developer (assuming you put Java in your resume). And usually, if you're interviewed by a programmer who doesn't know your programming language of choice or your framework of choice, he'll probably ask you more general questions about design patterns or Computer Science concepts. – Stephan Branczyk Jan 11 '18 at 8:17
  • I once had an interview where they deliberately had the coding test in a language I didn't know. They were testing on how I reacted when faced with something I didn't know. Apparently a lot of people didn't even try. I told them I didn't know it, and then started working it out anyway. I got the job. – thursdaysgeek Jan 11 '18 at 16:11

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