I've got an OK job as a senior software engineer, but wanted to see what was out there. I found a great company with lots of quarterly bonuses and recurring signing bonuses.

After getting through the verbal/resume part of the process, I took an online coding test and bombed hard. I thought the online IDE or the video chat were responsible for my failing, so I was allowed a redo opportunity.

I learned the IDE shortcuts, relaxed all day and went in to the next round without any nervousness. However, I did not complete the problem in time and did not find the optimal solution. I didn't get a job offer.

I'm worried that if my current startup gets bought or goes under, I will only be able to get a job at other small companies with easier interviews. I've shipped quality production code for seven years without any major issues, but I don't have the skills to just "pull the right algorithm out of thin air during a coding test", even after a week of studying and practicing with Cracking the Coding Interview. I know all the data structure definitions and can implement these if asked to, and can describe the Big O, etc... but where am I supposed to learn "how to whip out the right algorithm immediately" without having to guess and check?

It seems like these interviews are geared towards 20-something year old college students with little-to-no job experience, but I want to be able to work there too!

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    Doing well in technical interviews is a skill in and of itself. Are technical interviews a great proxy for success on the job? That's debatable, but it'll take the average software engineer more than a week's worth of practice to get really good at it. Don't lose hope. Keep practicing.
    – jcmack
    Feb 24, 2019 at 8:49
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    Can you solve the problem on your own in your own time? How long did it take you? Feb 24, 2019 at 9:24
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    "...even after a week of studying and practicing with Cracking the Coding Interview." For someone just starting to study for technical interviews, one week is far too short. Even the book you mention suggests making a study plan months in advance. It does get a lot easier each time you do it though... people tend to ask the same kind of stuff and there are noticeable trends in what people ask, which is why it's important to go over the stuff you didn't do well on previous interviews. Feb 25, 2019 at 14:25
  • What location is this?
    – Mawg
    Feb 26, 2019 at 10:07

1 Answer 1


Practice makes perfect. That's the only way. You gotta ask yourself if it's worth it though because the majority of the time companies don't need you to know algorithms. But unfortunately, many companies do require it regardless.

So you either have to learn it and know it well, or just decline the test they give you and move on to companies that don't include it in their hiring process.

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    After doing interviews through 9 years, I can only remember being asked about algorithms or implementations (tree travelsal, O complexity, etc.) in just three places out of some 50. Even places with no technical tests have been more common! Feb 24, 2019 at 9:19
  • This is a good answer in my opinion. In short, to be better at a technical skill you simply need to grind away at learning it. Feb 24, 2019 at 20:41

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