So I go to an interview, everything goes well, one hour discussing work history and company's products, finishing with a programming test. I am told a decision will be made in a week or so.

Now I get an email saying that a more "advanced" test would be sent to me and I have 24 hours to do it. I was caught by surprise since that has never happened before - who knows what's in that "test", and how much of it is real work.

Should I accept and take the test? I am concerned they will come up with other things since this was totally not expected.

  • 2
    Do you want the job? Do the test. – Khalil Khalaf Sep 6 '17 at 20:36
  • Another option is to write a scathing letter to the HR Department about their hiring practices. I suspect the same result as not taking the test. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Sep 6 '17 at 20:44

I'm guessing that the main objection to writing the test is the idea that the company might be fishing for "free work" by asking candidates to write "a test" involving the development of a self-contained feature or something.

I would say you should at least have a look at this test before deciding what to do. There is certainly a risk that this is the company trying to get "free work" out of candidates with this test, but it's also possible that this is a legit step in their hiring process. Everyone uses their own style, after all.

Some red flags to look for:

  • How many questions are there? If the whole test is one big "question" for a single complete feature or function, that's suspicious. If the test is composed of multiple short questions asking for snippets of code then it's probably fine. Basically, ask yourself how much this test resembles the sort of thing you'd expect from tests you were given in school.

  • Time required. You've been given 24 hours to finish the test, but if the thing they want would take 4-6 hours just to complete it, that's probably fishing for "free work." If it looks like it would take 20 minutes, it's probably OK.

  • Is psuedocode acceptable, or do they ask for a specific language? This one is more of a grey area, but if pseudocode is acceptable, that's a good sign that it's not "free work." Asking for a specific language is not necessarily a bad thing, but in combination with other factors, it could add up.

  • Also check the content. If the test doesn't look like something they actually need for whatever industry they are in then that is a good thing – Collatrl Sep 6 '17 at 20:53
  • 2
    And, if it looks like they're fishing for free work from you, a veritable stranger, now you know that if you go to work for them, they will try to squeeze as much free (unpaid) time from you as they can. I think it's always better to know things like that than to not know. – Nolo Problemo Sep 6 '17 at 23:14

Typically, this would be really positive sign. The fact that they want you to take an advanced test means that they were pleased with the first interview, and now they want to know more about your skill set. You've made the first cut!

If you want the job, then definitely take the test. Ask yourself, "What's the worst that could happen?" Most likely, that is only not getting hired, and that's already true, right? (Meaning that you don't work for them yet.) The best is that you ace the test. The result will probably be somewhere in between.

I say go for it, and good luck!


Should I accept and take the test? I am concerned they will come up with other things since this was totally not expected.

As long as you don't see them trying to get free-work out of you. Make sure they are only asking you to complete small assignments, not writing a whole webpage,feature for them.

If you want the Job, I think your only real option is to take the test.

Here are some tips when it comes to taking this test:

  1. When you start this test make sure you can commit a large portion of time to the test. (don't start it Sunday night if your working Monday etc.)
  2. Remember that some tests like these are designed show how you break down a problem. So write down as much important information as possible.
  3. Use as many assets as your allowed (the internet, books, previous programs you've written)
  4. Relax you will do just fine :]

See also: Solving Problems, Breaking it Down - a reference of breaking down a software problem I found very useful during an interview question.


It seems fishy that a company would give you an open-ended test for which you could easily hire a freelancer to complete, most especially after you've already completed a different one. Either they're very lax, or plan to incorporate whatever you do into their production systems as free work.

You should make it clear - to yourself, and other parties involved - that there's a specific amount of time you're going to spend on this test if you choose to do it. I think anything requiring over an hour's time would be very suspect. It wouldn't hurt to receive the test, but choose wisely after that.

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