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I am applying for an internship at a technology company, and one of the steps in the hiring process is a pair programming interview.

Is it appropriate to ask what language we will use ahead of time? I'm not sure whether it will be a generic language like Python or one of the languages listed as those which I'll be using at the company.

Assume I will be able to ask someone who does know the answer to this question.

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  • Why would I hire you lets say for a job using Java and give you a test in Python? Doesn't make sense. I want to know if you can do the Java job, so you get a Java test.
    – gnasher729
    Apr 5, 2023 at 10:59
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    @gnasher729 i would not take this for granted, if the goal is to see your train of thought and how you get to a solution or just see how you do in unknown territory. But just asking can't have any negative consequences here.
    – kirbby
    Apr 5, 2023 at 11:06
  • @gnasher729: in the past, I applied for a PjM job, I got the PjM job, but I was tested and interviewed with programming questions (including writing short sequences of code). No test or questions about PjM. Reality is occasionally even more surprising than SF movies.
    – virolino
    Apr 5, 2023 at 11:23
  • I think I wouldn't worry about it. If they ask me to work in a language I'm not comfortable in, I'd say so and then show them how quickly I can bootstrap myself into a new environment -- which is presumably the actual skill they would be testing for in that scenario.
    – keshlam
    Apr 5, 2023 at 11:34
  • Ask for what software tools you need to have prepared, if any. This should give you a very good idea about what you will encounter. Apr 7, 2023 at 10:02

1 Answer 1

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It is perfectly fine to ask questions during the interview, before the interview, and after the interview. You may ask any reasonable questions about the future job, about the colleagues, about the managers, about the company's culture, rules, policies...

Even though the companies prefer to maintain a monopoly, the interview is actually bidirectional. You are allowed to ask as many questions as needed, to evaluate the company and the job - and they are morally required to truthfully answer those questions. You are totally entitled to reject a company and a job, even if they are willing to have you - if you notice unacceptable red flags.

The reality may occasionally disappoint, of course - but that is life.


If the company / interviewers become uncomfortable when you ask questions, consider that as very red flags. And ask yourself really seriously if you really want to be with them at any costs. Most likely, there will be significant costs, sooner or later.


Notes:

  • before the interview, it is most suitable to ask questions about the interview itself: time, place, tools you need to have (e.g., personal laptop), information you need to have prepared in your mind, and details about the interview itself - including what programming languages would be used.
  • after the interview, you might ask questions you forgot to ask during the interview (hopefully not too many), or to discuss the impact of the changes that might have occurred after the interview - e.g., if the start of work can be delayed for XY time for xy reason.
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  • This doesn't directly answer the specific question being asked, which is about asking a question before an interview... But the same answer does apply, you can certainly ask.
    – keshlam
    Apr 5, 2023 at 11:31
  • OMG! Complicated thinking and wording. You are right, I will update.
    – virolino
    Apr 5, 2023 at 11:33
  • Does this still apply if I am asking a few days before the technical interview takes place? I don't want it to appear as though I want to obtain a competitive advantage with this question, but it is true that I may need to refresh my memory if I am asked to program in a language I haven't used in some time. Apr 5, 2023 at 11:44
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    If they think you can get competitive from the information, they will just inform you about it and refuse to provide the information. But it is OK for you to attempt to clarify the details. The sooner, the better.
    – virolino
    Apr 5, 2023 at 11:46
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    Always thought even beginners should be able to vote on answers to their own question...
    – keshlam
    Apr 5, 2023 at 12:19

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