I had the first interview with a recruiter and before meeting the team there is a mandatory coding test at Hackerrank which consists of a database query language and a scripting language.

I mentioned specifically that I only encountered the scripting language 5 years ago during my studies and it is not my strong side. She said it's fine and she will let the team know.

I know I will fail the scripting part if I do it right away. Shall try and hastily "learn it" (I have about 1-2 evenings to do it) or send a remember when I've done the test?

This is my first time using Hackerrank also, during the interview we discussed that maybe I could use the language I have been using for several years, she said that would probably be fine. But I guess it's not possible in Hackerrank. Shall I maybe try and solve it locally and send in the results?

  • 1
    Does the recruiter actually work for the company? Aug 25, 2021 at 15:20
  • @GregoryCurrie Yes. Joe Strazzere it was on my resume, but also listed as "basic knowledge".
    – MLEN
    Aug 25, 2021 at 17:10
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    "Basic knowledge" should mean "able to read and understand 90% of code written in the language and able to write code that does not involve more advanced concepts" for both sides, not just the one trying to evaluate the candidate... For whatever reasons "basic knowledge" in CV means "I've seen my friend mentioning the name of the language/library" and "expert knowledge" in CV means "I got a book on it... in one of the unopened boxes since the last move". :( Aug 25, 2021 at 19:09
  • Since you mentioned basic knowledge try to learn it up to that level if you want the job. Even if you don't get the job you would still have some knowledge for the next interview. Overall, if you don't have other offer a little bit of effort would not harm you.
    – rs.29
    Aug 25, 2021 at 19:24
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    As a programmer you should only list programming languages that you will be able to answer interview questions and eventually actually use. As a programmer myself, it sounds like you should remove this particular language of your resume, unless you are proficient enough in it to solve basic problems relatively easily.
    – Donald
    Aug 26, 2021 at 3:59

3 Answers 3


With Hackerrank, assessors can actually see you type in code in real-time (and replay after the test is finished). Even if you are not able to complete the task, they can still see the thought process behind what you're doing, even if you have to lookup function names. Or bumble your way through the solution.

I would personally spend a couple of nights becoming a little proficient. All you are trying to do is give them enough so that you can score an interview. Even if you fail the test, a little extra knowledge won't hurt you.

You should also certainly also chunk a comment in the code indicating that you don't really know the language. The assessor may be inclined to look more at how you approach the problem rather than technical deficiencies if you manage their expectations.


When I review candidate's tests, I consider it a very bad sign if a candidate doesn't even attempt a solution and blame it on not knowing the language. But that's because the company I work for needs people who are willing to -- with an open mind -- go into uncharted territory and see what happens. (We even considered having a part of the test be reviewing Fortran code or something else candidates are very unlikely to have real world experience with, just to see how they approach novelty.)

That's not what all people want, so it's all about finding a good fit between environment and mindset.

How do you want to be perceived by this company? What sort of company do you want to work for? Act accordingly.

I would personally spend a little time brushing up my skills in that language, but that's who I want to be perceived as. Might be different for you. If you ask me five years from now, I might want something different. You gotta ask your heart what it wants.

The only thing I can say for certain is that you should over-communicate that this is a language you've never actually had to use before. It's easy for such things to get lost in the train of hand-offs.

  • I certainly don't find it unreasonable for you to have that expectation. I knew nothing of Fortran 77 before I took my job, but I knew and used numerous programming languages, and thus was able to quickly adapt. I know the syntax of multiple languages, I know what resources to use to get the functions that are built into those languages, and thus I can achieve nearly any end goal with those languages. I also have to know Java, VBA, .NET languages on my job.
    – Donald
    Aug 26, 2021 at 14:35
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    Quite wrong attitude. I haven't written any Java code for ages, so if you require this in an interview, I'm not going to do it. If I have a job, and the resident Java developer is hit by a bus and someone needs to take over, I'll get a good book about Java, spend a day reading it, and get going.
    – gnasher729
    Sep 1, 2021 at 10:25

This happened to me in my current role, where I didn't know the language and I told the interviewer. Our solution was that I was allowed to do the interview with a language guide up on the side, so I could refer to syntax in the language if I needed to. He was also understanding of the fact that I may not know idiosyncracies of the language due to inexperience with the language. Eventually, based on the skills I did show and that I was able to learn "on the fly" (it really was on the fly, I had no experience with the syntax whatsoever prior to the interview), I ended up getting the job.

That said, this is not usually how it works. Usually, you are expected to know the skills required for the job before you do the interview. If you don't, that's pretty disqualifying; you're going to come into this job as a junior-level because you don't know how to use the tools. I've definitely been disqualified from roles for this reason as well.

My one concern though, is that your current language set is not available on HackerRank. HackerRank supports pretty much all major languages used these days. If you don't know any of the languages supported by HackerRank, then your language may be obscure, or at least sufficiently obscure that you will find a hard time changing jobs. Perhaps you may want to learn a more widely-used language solely for that reason, and you may want to try instituting some of that language into your current role as practice (just say "I think this language might be good for this application", don't tell your boss you're looking to learn a new language to interview with other companies). I've definitely learned other languages while working at companies that were not my "main" language; I haven't worked in my "main" language for about 20 months now, to the point that I don't even have a "main" language, per se, anymore. You may want to look into something similar, to widen your field.

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