I started looking for jobs today and I encountered the term "working knowledge". I do not really understand what the term means and I am wondering what kind of tasks I would be expected to do with "working knowledge" of given software/language.

Specifically, the job post i saw asked for "working knowledge of Assembly language". I had an encounter with the Assembly language when I worked through the Raspberry Pi "Baking Pi" tutorial where the goal is to write very simple OS in assembly. However, I have never done any coding of my own in the language so I do not feel like I could do any useful work with my assembly knowledge.


4 Answers 4


As a senior level engineer (28 years experience) I've sat in on many interviews; generally when we ask a candidate about "working knowledge" in, for example, a programming language, we want to know if he/she can sit down and write functional program in that language. You don't need to be an expert, but you need to have done some real work with it, or used it extensively in school if you're a recent graduate.

Using the assembly language example you gave in your question, I probably would not rate you as having working knowledge. You'd get points for being exposed to it vs. a candidate who had never seen it before, but I'd keep it at that level on my resume.

  • 2
    What about being able to fluently code in something using reference materials? I've coded less or more briefly in a lot of things, have theoretical and some practical knowledge of pretty much all the concepts out there, etc. etc. I feel like that wouldn't really be enough in most people's books, even if I personally know that I could get up and running with the stuff fairly fast. I suppose that I should do some things in the languages relevant on the market before looking for jobs. Commented Nov 2, 2014 at 0:48
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    @Asmageddon, People always code with "reference material" like Stackoverflow and code manuals / wiki. You don't actually expect people to rote-memorize everything do you? Or do you mean something else when you say "reference material"?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 8:32

"Working Knowledge" reflects a low-level competency in an area - you will be expected to work with the tool, but not necessarily to be an expert in that tool.

If you don't feel like you would be able to build a full product with the tool, BUT you feel like you could, with a little trial-and-error, reconstruct it from an example, you probably have 'working knowledge' of that tool.

As long as you can use that tool on a daily basis, even if you don't know how to do everything with that tool or even the 'best practices' of using that tool, you can say you have working knowledge, and back it up with your experience (I would say having some experience with it while working on another app is close enough to put on a resume - but the job requires you have a stronger working knowledge of the code, you should probably learn it a bit better before beginning work there).

Working Knowledge: 1.A knowledge of how to make something work without any deeper understanding of why it works, or of how to fix it if it breaks

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    As per conversation in the water cooler, here's a source to back it, too: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/working_knowledge
    – CMW
    Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 18:35
  • @CMW Do you mind if I include that in my answer?
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 18:51
  • @Zibbobz go for it. You wrote basically what I'd write if I wrote an answer.
    – enderland
    Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 19:39
  • @Zibbobz what enderland said. I stole the link from him.
    – CMW
    Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 19:53
  • @Zibbobz, Doesn't your answer actually contradict the other answer above with 23 upvotes?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 8:34

If you told me you had working knowledge of X, I would expect that I could assign you tasks to do with X and you could carry them out. You might be a bit slow at first due to having to ask questions, look things up, etc, but you know enough to have the framework for acquiring more knowledge organically. Without working knowledge in X, I would expect to have to give you some sort of training before you could carry out tasks to do with X.

If you wouldn't be happy to be hired on the basis of your knowledge of assembly language and given assembly language tasks without much "extra support" getting up to speed with assembly, then you don't have working knowledge of it.

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    Well, I would be very happy to be hired on the basis of my limited knowledge of assembly language as I very much enjoyed using it and I feel like this would be a great opportunity for me to spend more time with the subject. Possibly I posses the working knowledge in question then? :-)
    – BoZenKhaa
    Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 22:01
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    Not "spend more time with the subject" - can you work somehow productively on it on your first day? If not, then it's not yet 'working knowledge'.
    – Peteris
    Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 22:10

"I do not feel like I could do any useful work with my assembly knowledge." You do not have "working knowledge" of assembly.

"Working knowledge" of something, means that given a task in it, you could "take the ball and run with it," producing a "substantially complete" assignment. You might need some supervision at the front end, or some correction/editing/feedback at the back end, but you could bear the main burden of the task.

That doesn't seem to describe you. At best, you might be viewed as an "advanced beginner" or potential trainee.

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