I've faced a weird situation when I can't pass any technical interview. I'm talking about mobile development jobs.

The reason I'm failing is "we require deeper knowledge".

As an experienced one, I can earn virtually the same (slightly lower, in fact, but comparable) money as an office developer.

It turns that while being a freelancer, my experience is enough. As an employee, it's not.

Why is that? Does it mean that freelance entry level is much lower?

  • 1
    Was halfway through writing an answer when I realised I read your question wrong. What industry are you in and are you looking to transition from freelance work to a full-time position? How is the job market in your field and location?
    – Lilienthal
    Mar 4 '16 at 20:33
  • Freelance entry level is non existent, anyone can freelance in any industry, whether they can pull in clients is another matter. But I've seen some terrible freelancers make a living.
    – Kilisi
    Mar 5 '16 at 6:30
  • "I can't pass any technical interview" - how many technical interviews did you attempt? Maybe you just got the hard ones, or there was a mismatch in expectations. With freelance you also probably have a self-selection bias, taking the contracts that are well within your knowledge domain.
    – Brandin
    Mar 7 '16 at 15:31
  • Good question, its unfortunate it got closed. By the usual suspects who like to close questions when you question the status quo on technical interviews which clearly is in the maverick frontier stage in the tech world. One throws a Hackerrank link and says see you later, another gives you a coding challenge which takes more than a week to do for zero pay, another one takes the rapid fire questions approach like you are in the military, its absurd and frustrating and demoralizing and then you ask about it and someone feels threatened and votes to close your question.
    – Daniel
    Nov 12 '18 at 6:45

I have been in your situation. I'm a self-educated, and would like to think of myself as a good developer. Freelance jobs are not easy, but nothing could stop me even though I had literally just myself to rely on. However, I did have my challenges when I was employed.

The main challenge was not lack of problem solving skills which you rely on when working as freelance, it was mainly the terminology and formalities associated with workplace. I constantly found myself in a situation like this.

Person: Do you know XXX?
Me: No! What is XXX?
Person: XXX is ....
Me: Oh yes, I have actually done this ...

My advice to you is to get some academic education, whether from books or institutes. Technical exams are academic, your problem solving skills alone will not be sufficient to show that you are good.

  • I think perhaps the suggestion to get academic education is just the opposite of what is needed. That will (one hopes, anyway) provide practical knowledge of how to solve problems, which it appears the OP already has. What s/he seems to lack is familiarity with current language & methodology fads, which to be blunt, may well be rather less effective.
    – jamesqf
    Mar 5 '16 at 5:38
  • @jamesqf If you want to learn the latest programming framework, go read the official tutorials, join a opensource project and so on, you'll learn more, faster and more up-to-date. What a good University does is teach concepts and terminology, which is way more useful in the long term. For getting a job the ability to communicate efficiently with other people is really the most important thing. And that's hard to learn on your own and failing there will make you look much less knowledgeable than you might actually be. I've seen that happen in real life from the other side (being the interviewr)
    – Voo
    Mar 5 '16 at 15:50
  • @Voo: I don't disagree, but my point is that learning or using the latest programming framework may not be the best way to accomplish real-world tasks. Management tends to force the adoption of such, thinking they'll magically increase productivity.
    – jamesqf
    Mar 5 '16 at 18:51
  • Excellent answer to a good question above. As a freelancer I have also gone through the same exact thing, but not so much these days, because you just need to be constantly be around other programmers and just more learning and more exposure.
    – Daniel
    Nov 12 '18 at 6:47

It could be one of two things:

  1. You can get the job done, but maybe not in the best way possible


  1. You don't know how to best represent yourself in an interview

1. Getting the job done

It's great to be able to get the job done, but quality matters as well.

To give an example, I'll describe the difference between our senior dev and one of our other devs who's been around here forever:

The senior dev knows all the latest Javascript and JQuery tricks and libraries. He loves to learn new things on his own. My other coworker uses only ASP.NET controls on his webpages, and each click on a control causes a post-back. The one's pages are very smooth, user friendly, load lightning fast, etc. The other's are dinosaurs and resource hogs, which cause the server to crash if more than 5 people use the same system at a time.

They both get the job done, but which would you hire?

2. Showcasing your skills

It's entirely possible that in an interview situation you are not able to communicate your knowledge effectively, and thus come across as unskilled.

Since you tell us that it's technical tests that you're having trouble with I think that the problem that plagues you might be far more closely related to not being entirely up to date on the best programming practices and standards of the industry more so than this, but we can't know that.

If you feel that your interview skills might be impacting how you do in these situations maybe set up a list of your skills and experience to bring up in conversation so that you don't forget to mention anything.

Good luck!

  • Or, he might just freeze or be short on lingo like me. Mar 4 '16 at 21:43
  • 1
    @RichardU - that falls under category number 2
    – AndreiROM
    Mar 4 '16 at 21:51
  • Yeah, probably, the upside is that I've never had an employer regret his decision :D Mar 4 '16 at 21:55
  • It's also just possible that the things people are focusing on in technical interviews are not good proxies for the skills needed. For example, I once interviewed for a Flash position where the guy asked me how I'd write an algorithm to figure out if something was a prime number. When I answered truthfully that I'd google it and go with the solution I liked best, he didn't like that. I've never had to do more than simple algebra and trig in front end development, and I always look to see existing solutions even if I think I know the answer. Mar 4 '16 at 23:14
  • OTOH, you may have a situation where the dev who knows and uses all the latest tricks winds up alienating (perhaps silently) a significant fraction of the customer base, who find those tricks don't play well with their browser of choice - e.g. one of my credit card providers :-(
    – jamesqf
    Mar 5 '16 at 5:43

Take a few online classes in your specialty.

There's more to coding than coding to pass a technical interview.

There is also jargon and lingo that people apply to the field and not knowing that part of the equation may be getting in your way.


Clients want to know:

  1. Can you build this?
  2. Have you ever build something like this before?
  3. How much do you charge?
  4. When will it be done?

They tend not to be as knowledgeable so they don't ask specific/detail questions. The risk is less because they can fire you at any time with not as much cost as a full-time employee.

When someone is hiring for a position, they may more detailed knowledge and will ask specific questions. Often this turns into a game of Trivial Pursuit. Of course everyone will tell you these are very common and must know questions or there's just no way you could have enough skill. Also, they want you to be an employee. This often involves being used to working with a team/playing well with others, handling communications, less flexibility in your time, sitting through meetings and doing things a certain way.

You have to understand the mindset when filling a position - avoid risk. If they pass on a good programmer, that isn't good for you, but as long as they get someone who is qualified, they've done their job. They can afford to be wrong with the ones they don't hire as long as the person they hire is qualified. What's the odds you'll go work for a competitor and put them out of business? They just see you being a risky hire.


Yes in fact, contractor entry requirements paradoxically may be lower.

When folks are hiring a contractor, they only need the specific skills to complete that one task. When they're hiring an employee they are looking for the ability to handle a wide range of future projects.

I am guessing that interviewers think you have good skills in a specific niche or with a specific toolset, but don't have broad enough background to operate as a generalist.

This is a common problem for (and with) folks who are largely self-taught. As others have said, the videos to broaden and deepen your skillset, and the easiest way to prove that you've done so is to take some real classes.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .