Is it appropriate to bring a copy of the APIs for languages listed on your resume, in anticipation of technical / coding / whiteboard questions?

This could be perceived as either ignorance or preparedness (and an awareness for the situation). This would be difficult with with a hardcopy, but feasible with a phone or small tablet, especially if they are made available offline. Obviously, if the interviewer wants to test memorized knowledge, they can ask (or you can offer) to perform the task without it.

For Non-Programmers: API stands for Application Programming Interface and is used by programmers to interact with common functions made available by a programming language.

  • I've never seen anyone do it, although I have seen people bring a laptop with them and place it by their chair.
    – Kilisi
    Sep 19 '16 at 16:49
  • One alternative that you may not have thought of -- bring a copy of the API (in your bag, in your phone, etc.) but then don't use it. Simply having it on your person may make trick yourself into an extra confidence that you "could" look something up if needed. But when asked a whiteboard question, you should do your best to explain clearly the approach/design/algorithm rather than aiming for 100% accuracy of API calls.
    – Brandin
    Sep 19 '16 at 18:07
  • In modern times when some job mentions "API" they almost always mean Web APIs. The "API" for programming languages are generally referred to as "Framework." Ex, "Win32 API" might refer to the old Windows API people use to write desktop applications. Are you certain you have the right API concept in mind prior to the interview?
    – Dan
    Sep 19 '16 at 18:45
  • "API for languages" is wrong anyway. You have an API for a specific component which may be written in one of more languages depending if we're talking about simple API (prototypes/interfaces) or things if higher level like REST API.
    – Walfrat
    Sep 20 '16 at 9:46


You should not be expected to memorise APIs. As long as you can demonstrate use of common/basic functionality you should pass the interview.

If during the whiteboard session you feel you need to look something up simply tell the interviewer; if they chastise you for not knowing the API by heart you should point out that this is exactly what programmers use Google for all the time, and your memory is better spent on something useful.

  • Sorry: 'no' as in not appropriate, or 'no' as in not inappropriate?
    – user58446
    Sep 19 '16 at 15:36
  • 4
    "No" in response to your question's wording of "Is it appropriate". You should not bring the print-outs. If a candidate brought notes I'd not think badly of them but it does seem strange. You imply that 1) your memory is poor 2) you think the interviewer would not provide internet access when API looks ups are required or 3) that programming tests and memorising APIs are synonymous
    – RJFalconer
    Sep 19 '16 at 15:37
  • I have seen question asking for what specific class you need for "x.y.z" in version x of framework Y. But the employers said it himself that they don't relly care if we fail this questions.
    – Walfrat
    Sep 20 '16 at 9:43

You ask about bringing a copy, but the real question is about using it during the interview. Having a digital copy in your pocket/bag is a reasonable precaution, but they won't even know unless you want to consult it.

I've encountered two types of interview situations where API knowledge is relevant. One is when they're just asking questions to assess technical knowledge (e.g. what's the difference between an X and a Y). In those cases the whole point is to see what's in your head; if you don't know you can say "I don't know but can look it up", but they probably won't want you to. Probably they'll just move on to the next question.

The other situation is when you're writing code during the interview. When I conduct interviews of this type I don't design the problems to rely on arcane knowledge. Occasionally during an interview somebody will say "I don't remember the exact syntax for this", where "this" is a minor detail compared to the problem. In my experience interviews usually just ignore that; after all, as you said, we assume that in a real setting you'll look it up. If that happens to you you could say something like "I don't remember the exact syntax" while you pull out your phone, demonstrating that you're prepared to address the problem. Whether the interviewer wants you to proceed or just tells you not to worry will probably depend on time.

All of this is for small details, though. If you are, say, applying for a web-development job and you say you don't remember the syntax of PUT or what a return code of 404 means, being able to look it up isn't going to matter. Basic knowledge -- whatever is considered basic for the particular position -- they'll want to see in your head.

So, bottom line, make sure you know the key APIs, it doesn't hurt to have the rest in your pocket, and play it by ear during code-writing interviews.


I don't think it could hurt. Don't show up with a book, though!!! I wouldn't think it unreasonable for you to show up with a cheat-sheet of some sort -- just the highlights. It'd be far less obvious of you have it in PDF format on your smartphone rather than walking in with a stack of papers. (I'm specifying PDF because it's a format you can store on the phone, and access quickly, without having to have internet access).

No reasonable manager would expect you to memorize everything about your skillset, verbatim.

You may actually have access to the internet during your "trial". If you do, take advantage of it.

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