I am in the interview process for a summer internship at a company (I'm a junior in college). I had a non-technical interview, after which they gave me a coding test and scheduled a technical interview. My interviewer for the technical interview will review my coding test prior to the interview.

The test had two questions; I got one of them, but didn't get the other. I came up with an almost perfect solution, but forgot about a corner case. It was a timed test, so in my haste to get the right solution I started over from scratch and began something that was completely off-track. Then I ran out of time, so I submitted what I had so far of the wrong solution (not knowing it was wrong at the time). Almost immediately after submitting the test, I remembered the corner case, re-programmed the question on my own, and saw that I had it right. I also played around with the solution I had submitted and realized it was completely incorrect.

My question is, what to do now? I still have the technical interview, before which the interviewer will see the abysmal attempt I submitted for the question. Should I bring up that I have a working solution, and mention that I came up with it almost right away but given the time pressure, ended up not using it?

I know I should have just commented out my almost-correct solution, but it didn't occur to me, so now I have no way to prove or justify that I did actually have a solution and didn't just look it up when I finished the test. I know it's not the end of the world to blow one interview, but I thought I was doing pretty well and I know I had an efficient and correct solution to the first question, so if there was some way to mention that I was close on the second question, I'd really like to. This is also pretty much my dream internship.

  • 4
    Coding challenges are not always about getting everything right. A lot of times, there is no one correct solution, or the time is too short, and it's about seeing your approach.
    – simbabque
    Commented Sep 15, 2016 at 12:04
  • 4
    At least you've learned that you crack under stress ;) That's a valuable lesson and a thing to work on in the future.
    – Erik
    Commented Sep 15, 2016 at 12:12
  • 4
    "Should I bring up that I have a working solution, and mention that I came up with it almost right away but given the time pressure, ended up not using it?" - Yes, and if possible try to bring it with you to the interview. It will show that you're giving it thoughts and will certainly help you. Explain what you did wrong with the first attempt, and that you realize the error, and begun working on a 90% solution but you're still having trouble with X, Y, and Z.
    – Dan
    Commented Sep 15, 2016 at 13:23
  • "Can I fix it?" is a rather specific question. Perhaps this would be a more useful and clear question if it were worded as something like "What can I do if I realise I made a mistake during a technical interview?"?
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Sep 15, 2016 at 13:49
  • Saying that you failed the technical test is too dramatic. "Made a mistake" is what it sounds like. If you had really failed, they would have told you not to bother coming for any further interview steps.
    – Brandin
    Commented Sep 15, 2016 at 22:32

3 Answers 3


I think you are not looking at this the right way. I can be wrong (it depends of the interviewer and the company culture of course) but I don't think your coding test was meant to go straight into the product ;) This test is meant to judge your capacities (if you don't write anything, it's a bad sign), but not only. It's to see how you think and how you behave.

Making mistakes is ok. It's all about your behaviour from now on. You have a great opportunity to impress them on how mature and confident you are.

You KNOW you made a mistake on the second question. So you are ready for this bit of the interview. Be also ready to be unsettle by the interviewer because what he want to know really is: Is it a guy I want in my team? Can he work with me/my guys?

So I would advice you to (try) to be calm, humble, smilling and ready to learn (yes even during the interview).

They will look at your answers and, right or wrong, they will comment on it => don't get upset, they are professionals you need to learn from. Don't be so eager to say you had it right on the side because it doesn't matter. They will not only focus on the correctness of the answer, but also on how you wrote it. Do you follow a coding style? Did you write tests? etc. If you don't understand a question, say so. Also ask why they ask this.

tldr; The test weight less than you think it does: your behaviour in the interview does.

[edit typos]

  • 2
    Great advice. I think the points about not constantly bringing up issues but solutions will land him good points. You know you were unable to complete it, and they know it as well. You should not talk about the reasons for the failure as it would look like you're trying to make excuses. Instead only talk about solutions and your post-test process.
    – Dan
    Commented Sep 15, 2016 at 13:38
  • Good advice....
    – Kilisi
    Commented Sep 15, 2016 at 13:49

I have made my share of mistakes during technical interviews. If this happens and I know what went wrong, I email my corrected answers to either the interviewers or my HR contact.

Everybody makes mistakes. It's how they react to those mistakes that convinces an interviewer team to make an offer. If you are in a professional, high tech environment, you might want to be seen as someone who can think on their feet, identify and fix their mistakes quickly and who is not afraid to be held to be held accountable for their mistakes. Screwing on part of a technical interview is not fun but you can still give your interviewers the impression that you are the kind of colleague they want to have and that you are a pleasure to work with.


Go ahead and send your interviewer or evaluator a note that you realized the mistake and have a working solution. The sooner, the better.

It isn't worth anyone's time for an employer to continue the interview process if they have already eliminated you as a potential candidate, so if you still get to have an interview after a mistake on a coding exercise, you are likely still in the running.

Sometimes if an exercise is time-bounded, they may not expect you to complete it entirely, let alone perfectly. This is especially true if they are trying to fill multiple positions and are trying to determine where you fit best.

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