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As the title suggests, I did a 20-minute phone interview for a remote software developer position. One of the questions was "have you used any frameworks with X language, specifically Y framework?" My answer was "no I haven't used Y framework, but I have experience with Z framework."

The rest of the interview went fine and he explained that the next interview would be related to theory, followed by a short coding test with Y framework if I passed the theory interview. Maybe I should have brought up the fact that I don't have experience with Y framework again, but I didn't think about it until after the interview. The job posting had wording similar to:

We use Y framework, but are always on the lookout for the best technology for the job.

I took this as it being possible they just want a good developer, not someone necessarily experienced in that framework. However, if that's the case I don't know why they would give me a coding challenge that uses it. Obviously, I most likely won't do well. Is this a red flag?

Also, he set me up for the interview next week. I could study up on Y framework, but I think it might be a waste of time. If I don't get the job, I won't use it and if they want someone experienced in that framework I won't be able to learn it thoroughly enough before the interview.

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    A red flag for what? If you're unable (or unwilling) to complete the task, you won't get the job and you're not a good fit. If you manage to complete it adequately with a time commitment you find reasonable, you're probably a good fit, you're one step closer to getting the job and the task itself was probably reasonable. In either case, what's the problem? We have no way to know how easy the task would be or how easily you'd be able to pick it up, so can't judge how reasonable this requirement is. – Dukeling May 17 at 21:17
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    News flash! Area company's job posting full of hype! Film at 11! Seriously, if you want the job, do your best to complete the quiz. – O. Jones May 18 at 15:30
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    So uhh, you are interviewing for a job that specifically said they use framework Y, and you are surprised they ask you to do something with it? There are no flags involved. – Juha Untinen May 18 at 16:02
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I don't know if it's a red flag, but there's clearly a communication problem here.

Rather than simply showing up to the next interview, or making assumptions, you should contact your interviewer to verify what the expectations are.

It's possible that the "short coding test with Y" is simply a training exercise to see how well you catch on to coding in a new framework.

On the other hand, if the interviewer expects you to be proficient in framework Y, you'll both be disappointed.

Make sure you and the interviewer are on the same page, before the interview, so no one's time is wasted.

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It doesn't sound like a red flag to me, but you might have a different threshold than I do, so you really need to evaluate it yourself. I see two important factors in what you reported:

  1. They use Y framework.

  2. They gave you advance notice of a short coding test using Y framework.

The language in the ad suggests to me that they'd like people with experience in Y but if you have something else that's close enough, that's fine too. They are going to ask you to demonstrate that what you know is close enough. It's a short coding test, not a huge project, and if it's interactive (collaborative editing tool) you can ask questions that are specific to the framework if needed. Not solving the problem isn't necessarily an automatic failure; if they hire you you're going to be figuring out Y on their dime, so it's reasonable for them to want to see how you approach it in a small exercise.

I was once in a similar situation -- I applied for a tech-writing position, they said there'll be a short coding exercise in my choice of languages A, B, or C, and I chose one that I've used and then brushed up on it in the week before the interview. Could I flawlessly do all the likely questions they might ask me? Definitely not. Did I think I could show reasonable results (calibrated for the position, which wasn't a developer role)? Yes.

I had to spend some time brushing up. You would have to spend some time learning the basics of Y framework. Some companies or positions aren't going to be worth the effort; I had other reasons to consider the position I was applying for to be a good fit, so I was willing to spend some extra time on it. There are definitely companies for whom I would not have done that, and then I'd decide whether to do my best with what I currently know or withdraw from consideration.

Everything you're asked, or asked to do, in an interview is relevant to the person asking it, but that doesn't mean that there is one correct answer and anything short of it fails the interview. They're trying to test the waters with you and a framework you said you don't know, when you said you know another one (implying there are transferable skills).

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So they know you've never used Y framework but they still want you to come back for a followup interview and a code test. They told you in advance what they would be testing you on and are giving you some time to prepare. This sounds to me like you made a good enough first impression that they're willing to look past the framework and give you a chance based on your intelligence and general knowledge. What they're testing now is your ability to pick up new skills and adapt to new situations. I'm sure they don't expect you to become an expert on Y over night but it's fair for them to ask you to learn the basics and to be able to effectively leverage available resources to get things done.

So, if you think the job is a good fit, spend some time studying the framework and do the best you can. If not, thank them for the opportunity and move on. Frameworks come and go but strong minds are a rare commodity and it sounds like the interviewers understand this.

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The rest of the interview went fine and he explained that the next interview would be related to theory, followed by a short coding test with Y framework if I passed the theory interview.

[...]

However, if that's the case I don't know why they would give me a coding challenge that uses it. Obviously, I most likely won't do well. Is this a red flag?

I think that they were explicit enough, what you had to do was to learn it, if you wanted the job, then do the test. Obviously if you don't want to learn what everyone else is using they won't change their way to accommodate you.

It's up to you to adapt yourself and then propose possible improvements once you're in.

They are no red flag, it was stated in the description that they were using that framework and you applied, this was to be expected.

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That's exactly how I got my current job. They want a good developer who can easily learn new stuff. I don't see any red flag at all.

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