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Discussion on: I failed an interview because of an algorithm

warichter1 profile image

As someone who has bounced around the tech industry for decades and has sat on both sides on the interview table, I would say don’t worry about it. If I am in on an interview team and someone misses something, I will drill down to see if this is a lapse or a lack of knowledge. I really don’t care if you know what a bucket sort is. I do want to see you walk through a problem logically and explain to me how you would solve. Do I want you to write out the code, forget it.

I’ve written code in more languages than I can count, I’ve managed programming teams and have done far different. Managed a help desk, repaired hardware, have done systems administration. I currently have an informal advising role in my organization’s Python User’s group. Python is in the minority but we still gave over 200 members. With 7-8 years of python experience, I’m one of the more advanced engineers.

With that after decades in one sector, decided in a change. Hadn’t seriously sat for interviews for a while but skills come back. Got into a company known for their difficult interviews but not a good fit. After a few months, decided this wasn’t for me, too many hours and a manager that couldn’t decide what he wanted.

Before I restarted, I though hard about what I wanted. Then I started interviewing. The worst were the interviews that required coding exercises or knowing some obscure algorithm. With a bunch of languages bouncing around in my head, hard to keep track. This is what google is for and I explained this. Wishing them luck on their search, on to the next.

Then got a call from a nonprofit, largest in their sector with almost 20,employees. Set up a couple phone interviews and then an on-site with my managers and 2 senior managers. Very relaxed, asked what my expectations were, I mentioned no insane hours, they laughed.

This was a fit interview, I passed. In many cases sitting on both sides, you will find that the most technically brilliant candidate can be passed over for someone with no where near the knowledge. The last thing a team wants is a bunch of geniuses who can’t get anything done for debating over the best coding style or algorithm. I am a stickler for well written code and logical structure but I don’t need a debate about why I should write a project in Java instead of Python. I might just write in Bash to irritate you. If I interviewed you, might wash you out in the process. All about the fit.