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Overall, I'm lucky that I've had a good but challenging career in I.T. with dyslexia for 23 years.

I perform horribly during 'leet code' or Big Tech style coding interviews (Ironically I've worked at AWS and Oracle for 10+ years). I have a lot of difficulties comprehending the problems shown on the screen, especially in the short time given because of the working memory and recall issues that come with Dyslexia. Studying a lot and doing a lot of 'leet coding' doesn't seem to help, and traditionally a lot of my jobs I've gotten through contract-to-hire and via my network since they don't base things as heavily on technical screening.

If you're dyslexic or have any advice, how do you approach coding interviews? What topics do you study, what practice sites do you use and what type of schedule do you use for study? I'm lucky that I get a lot of interview requests, but I've yet to pass a technical screening in my life. It's one of the reasons I finally got diagnosed at my age.

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  • What have your past jobs been like, and what are you looking for? Clearly you've found roles in which you can work; do they involve less coding, or more of your own code, or more structured contexts, or...? If you're a top notch sysop or DevOps type, coding per SE may not be a major portion of the job and you can emphasize that.
    – keshlam
    Mar 11, 2023 at 3:08
  • I've been in data science for well over 10 years. The interview process is basically the same as a software developer role with python being a focus. I'm very good at what I do but the structure of the tech screen is nothing like how I normally work. I do a lot of statistical research, coding in python and visualization in R. Coding interviews are a lot of programming brain teasers it seems.
    – Manueldo
    Mar 11, 2023 at 3:33
  • The exercises I've been exposed to aren't anything fancy of challenging, more "here's a spec, implement it'" and watch how they approach the problem, what questions they are clever enough to ask about tradeoffs, and that sort of thing. Puzzles give unfair advantage to those who have seen that particular puzzle before, and there's plenty of creativity and design in a more normal task.
    – keshlam
    Mar 11, 2023 at 4:20

3 Answers 3

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I'm not Dyslexic, but I am Dyspraxic.

I would go with an up-front strategy - let the recruiter know ahead of time that these style of tests are not representative of your work style due to your personal condition.

The fact you have AWS and Oracle in your Resume means you can lean on that when discussing this with the recruiter:

"I was a valued employee at AWS for N years, Ironically, I wasn't able to pass any of their Coding tests, but I still managed to perform above my peers when it came to actual projects and work"

If the recruiter or company knows ahead of time, they have the option to continue with that expectation.

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    I've been doing that lately and you get to see how well or poorly companies treat people and their understanding of disability laws. I do ask for accommodations now for increased time on tests. Some companies flat out refuse despite it being illegal because they just don't get it or don't care. I don't want to limit my job opportunities but at the same time I feel I should just refuse to deal with it given my resume.
    – Manueldo
    Mar 11, 2023 at 3:53
  • Unfortunately, if you refuse, they may refuse. But I agree that stating it before any written test and explaining how you work around this -- and pointing out that your resume speaks to your real-world competence -- is probably the way to go.
    – keshlam
    Mar 17, 2023 at 14:35
  • @Manueldo You’re not limiting your opportunities. They’ve already been limited. This is just a quick and easy way to find out before you waste any time interviewing at a place that isn’t likely to be a good fit.
    – Kaz
    Mar 17, 2023 at 20:53
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I'll flip it on its head as an interviewer:

I'm happy to accommodate you, I just need to know up front. In some cases, depending on where you live in the world, I as an interviewer may be required to do so by law (in the United States, it's in the Americans with Disabilities Act).

My philosophy and manifesto for interviewing does differ a great deal from the rest of the known industry, but what I'm usually looking at in a candidate is:

  • How they approach the problem
  • How they discuss the solution with their peers
  • How correct they were with their solution

The actual coding and such...I don't care so much about. Like I'm going to expect you to be able to pull flawless syntax out of thin air on a whiteboard, either in-person or digital. C'mon. That's unrealistic.

When it comes to interviews, my best sentiment of a reasonable accommodation would include, but would not be limited to:

  • Some extra time on the whiteboarding section
  • Forgiveness of syntax (and that's already baked into my interviews; I don't really pay too much attention to the precise syntax of the language), so long as we all agree on the convention
  • If necessary, allowing the use of an IDE (although I'd conjecture that with our interviews, that'd be more a liability than an accommodation since we're literally just looking at how well you solve problems, not how well you use an IDE)

But the best policy still stands - just let me know up front so that I don't impose something unreasonable on you. I'd work with my HR department to inform you ahead of time what the accommodations we can provide are.

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  • That's awesome to hear Makoto. I've started doing that the past few months. I'll also say, that some companies are horrible about accommodations and treat it like you're trying to get away with 'cheating' or something. I've been upfront now about contacting HR about the interview process and I also tell them flat out I need to use my IDE, text-to-speech, etc to do my work. I wish more tech interviewers were like you. I did very well in my career with in-person whiteboarding sessions because I could draw and pseudocode my architecture solutions.
    – Manueldo
    Mar 17, 2023 at 23:48
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Run your code frequently - validate it works along the way:

Frequently running your code and making sure it compiles and runs provides validation that you have no simple syntax errors or typos, even more so if you have test cases written and executing for the run, or other was to validate output AUTOMATICALY.

Use an IDE:

Using an IDE where you can then bulk rename a typo that you are using consistently is also helpful. (I often complete a working program only to realize I mispelled a methoodName or vaaaryable 100% of the time, so renaming helps keep it semantically meaningful).

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  • You don't normally get an IDE for a whiteboard or quick 20 minute coding test...
    – Makoto
    Mar 17, 2023 at 21:58
  • The short time, memory, and comprehension issues that go along with doing interviews remotely are what makes being dyslexic and getting jobs (for me at least) very difficult. It's like that classic poor academic performance, but amazing work performance that is my life story. Tech industry interviews you like you're doing the SAT or something.
    – Manueldo
    Mar 17, 2023 at 22:05

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