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I sent an online application for a job. The job description specifies as a requirement experience using library "a" (programming language "A"). Although I don't have experience using library "a" (I do have some experience with language "A"), I applied anyway because it is similar to another library I have used, library "b" in programming language "B".

A few days after I applied (fewer than I was expecting) I received a response from a person in HR stating that experience in "a" is required, and that I should include some samples of that work in the application (as an e-mail response). I did not reply to that e-mail, thinking I didn't have a chance on that job anymore.

Two days later, I received another e-mail from the same HR person. This time that person sent a test (some sample data to work with), and that I am encouraged to reply directly with my answer to the test. A time limit was not specified, but it specifically says that it needs to be programmed in using "a".

However, this was two days before I leave on a 10-day holiday, where I will not be able to work on this test (I won't even have access to a computer). Between the time of application and the second e-mail (6 days) I had been studying how to use "a" effectively (for personal study, not for this specific job). When I received the second e-mail, I decided to give the test a try, although I wasn't expecting to finish it on time before I leave. Anyway, I will try to finish it when I come back. Given my current knowledge of "a" (I am aware of the Dunning–Kruger effect), I estimate accomplishing the task in about 3 days after I come back.

Before I move on to the question, some final background information: I am a PhD student and my resume clearly states my expected graduation date (also, it does not say that I have experience in "a"). Therefore, I would expect the recruiter to think that I will work on this task during my free time (and that the person already knows I don't have experience in "a").

Now to the question.. when I finally finish this task, it will have been at least 15 days (2 + 10 + 3) since receiving the task. Should I let the recruiter know about the cause of this delay? If so, what would be the most professional way to do it, and when should I do it?

Option 1: I reply with my results whenever I finish and don't mention anything about the time I took to do it and/or the fact that I didn't have any previous experience with 'a'.

Option 2: I reply with my results whenever I finish and subtly/professionally explain why I took so long to do it.

Option 3: I let the person know in advance about the delay.

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You've got nothing to lose by getting back to them and discussing the time-line within which they would be willing to accept a solution, however don't hold your breath.

Asking a company to wait 3 weeks for a solution to a (relatively) simple programming test is likely to send the message that you don't care enough to really commit to the application process.

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If so, what would be the most professional way to do it, and when should I do it?

Option 1: I reply with my results whenever I finish and don't mention anything about the time I took to do it and/or the fact that I didn't have any previous experience with 'a'.

Since you were given no timeframe, just finish and send your results as soon as you possibly can.

Waiting as long as you are planning is unlikely to be a good thing. Almost certainly they will be expecting it back sooner. Maybe you will be lucky and they won't really care, or are planning a very long, extended set of interviews for this job anyway.

However explaining that you won't be working on this test because you are taking 10 days off won't likely be received any better.

Sometimes, timing is everything. And if a holiday gets in the way of learning enough to pass a test in a required language you don't know, then you miss a possible opportunity. It's unfortunate that you weren't capable of completing the test in the two days between the 2nd email and your holiday.

In the best case, the delay doesn't matter. In the worst case it does matter, and you'll have wasted a bit of time on the test.

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