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I am new in the United States, I am new in the field: 8 months corporate experience with a small company + 8 courses (grad and under grad) by now. I am having a problem

I always succeed in getting the personal interview (To the technical test), however, I always screw in the test. It happened with the last four applications (Since I started the career / education here as a Computer Scientist): They call me, they like what they hear, they ask me to come to the test, I fail the test..

Now I have a fifth one next week. I come from a C# / C++ background and this company develop with Java. When they mentioned the test I asked if they are going to take into consideration that I am considered a noob in Java and they said they still want to test my understanding of object oriented and other topics. But the thing is, yes I learned a lot of stuff in a small period of time, but I am still a noob even with C++ / C# !!

Not sure if I am targeting higher level jobs than my level or I am indeed just a noob still. And now I am sitting here without knowing what to do.. I don't want to keep negative thoughts. I want to study and nail that test and get that job!

The thing is, all the tests that were provided to me, I found them online later under "Interview Questions". So they are not actually testing my skills to match their tasks , the test is just a part of the process of hiring. How can I go through that properly?

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  • 4 fails in a row would seem to suggest that you are reaching to high, conitnuwe working where you are until you get more experinced at some language – cdkMoose Sep 15 '16 at 19:42
  • I'm confused. Is there a programming language you are comfortable with? – robert Sep 16 '16 at 6:29
  • @cdkMoose I don't like where I work now - I am not learning / growing – Sandra K Sep 16 '16 at 12:52
  • @Robert yes, C++ (somehow - not a pro but I like it) – Sandra K Sep 16 '16 at 12:52
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    @SandraK, understood, and I'm not suggesting that you stay where you are, but it looks like the jobs you are applying for are a higher level then you are currently qualified for. These sound like more experienced jobs, so look for some with lesser experience requirements, these are jobs where you will have better opportunities to learn the material that you are struggling with on the tests. – cdkMoose Sep 16 '16 at 13:33
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When they mentioned the test I asked if they are going to take into consideration that I am considered a noob in Java and they said they still want to test my understanding of object oriented and other topics. But the thing is, yes I learned a lot of stuff in a small period of time, but I am still a noob even with C++ / C# !!

Interviewers at good companies are less concerned with the "correct" answer to a technical question, and more concerned with how you got there. I've interviewed (and recommended) people who didn't finish a single question I gave them, but their engagement, curiosity, and approach was excellent. They asked questions, grappled with the problem, related other things they'd done, and overall made me believe that they knew how to approach problems.

So they are not actually testing my skills to match their tasks , the test is just a part of the process of hiring. How can I go through that properly?

This could, admittedly, be lazy interviewers. But everyone uses a certain amount of "fizzbuzz"-type questions to warm up a candidate, start the conversation, and see what direction would be best for the interview.

When you're in the room, just treat every question like a real problem that you'd actually face. Interviewers are trying to gauge how well you'd do in a real work environment - so don't treat it like a school assignment. Again, interviewers want to know how you approach a problem.

I come from a C# / C++ background and this company develop with Java.

This is not important. C# and Java are so similar as to be indistinguishable in many cases. Even then, being a polyglot isn't really special anymore. Good engineers pick a language that fits the task at hand, or at least understand that all the commonly-used languages today are almost equally C-like.

Overall, don't fret it. Interviewing is a skill, and if you've only done five interviews, I don't think it's unusual to not get the job. But make sure you're looking for jobs that fit your skills - be frank with recruiters in that you're probably looking for something junior or intermediate.

  • +1. Most employers would rather take someone in with the right problem-solving mindset and approach rather than someone established who might be harder to work with, and doesn't seem to want to expand his/her horizon. Technical work is, often, a mental game, where the smartest doesn't always perform, but the most persistent one does. – cbll Oct 25 '16 at 7:38
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I think you sample size is too small - 4 successful personal interviews are not enough to conclude that you always pass it. It also depends on what you count as a personal interview: it is often that it will be ridiculously easy or not focus on technical skills at all - they could just want to weed out crazy/completely incompetent applicants.

I also disagree with your conclusion that they are not testing the skills that match their tasks merely because the questions were not original: they think that the type of candidate that would successfully solve these tasks is most likely to succeed in the day-to-day work, and coming up with truly original and effective questions that also reflect common tasks can be quite challenging.

Having said that, you might want to prepare a bit and study the type of questions you get asked if only to ensure that you don't fail because you panic/are too surprised. But I don't think that having a mindset of "I should sit down and study for hours to pass the stupid test" helps - interviewing processes are highly non-deterministic!

Just keep going and perhaps try to find positions that better fit your current abilities. Again, interviewing is very random!

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There are plenty of sample tests available on the Internet. Get the ones for Java and practice until you can nail them. Every time you don't pass a sample test, figure out what you did wrong. Then figure out what you should have done instead. Then take the test again. More importantly, learn to retain that information so that the next time you are faced with a similar test, you can do it.

  • This approach works for many kinds of test prep, specifically including the SATs. Study your errors, look for patterns in those errors, put additional study into those areas. – keshlam Sep 15 '16 at 21:32
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You may want to focus less on the language specifics and more on the underlying principles. If they're testing basic object oriented principles, they likely don't care about semi-colons and importing the correct external library.

They want to understand, does this candidate know what inheritance means (the definition)? Has this candidate internalized it by using it when appropriate (the test/question)? Do they understand overloading vs overriding? Do they use it when appropriate? Do they understand polymorphism? Do they use it when appropriate?

The individual interviewers will test you differently. Some may ask direct questions What is ibheritance? Others will give you a coding problem that could utilize inheritance and will see if you don't use it, use it incorrectly, or use it properly. Others may do both (or neither).

If you get the ideas right, you pass, even if your syntax is wrong (for most interviewers). side note: comment your whiteboard code, even if it's pseudo-code


My entry-level interview involved a screen with lots of coding problems. My recent senior-level interview involved some high level questions about dealing with situations any senior technologist should be familiar with (SCM, technical debt, Testing/TDD, etc). The fact that another company promoted me several times while doing this stuff was a good indication that I probably knew overloading from overriding.


TL;DR; If you're failing the technical interview, you likely haven't internalized basic object oriented programing, design patterns, and best practices. Don't be afraid to ask for feedback (part of my entry-level interview involved a code review from a senior dev who gave me feedback -- they generally only did that for folks who passed, but occasionally if someone asked and the interviewer had time, they would review it as a courtesy -- as would I when it became my responsibility to review the screens -- just don't demand it or pester them).

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