About to re-enter the job market and terrified of coding tests.

New / Eng JeanStark
Dec 4, 2019 26 Comments

I'm one of those older web developer types who learned from books, trial, and error. I don't have a formal education beyond high school, and no degree of any kind; not even an unrelated one. I've been working professionally my whole adult career.

I'm really good at what I do. And I enjoy what I do! I have code samples and a portfolio and I'm super willing to do interview code mini-projects... I've got references and endorsements and you-name-it.

But...

It seems like every company I've come across who is hiring these days is doing so with coding tests. Those weird programming assessments that are timed and usually watched.

And I can't pass them, no matter how hard I try.

I've practiced for hours and hours over months, trying to pick this skill up. It's just not how my brain works. I have dyscalculia and I just cannot do these heavy-math, theoretical tests.

I've even tried explaining about my learning disability and offer to do whatever other task they want to prove myself. (Let me tell you, that was not the least scared I've ever been talking to a recruiter.)

Never before in my life has a recruiter ghosted me, but it happened after I was told to undergo a test on Karat, which is a platform for code tests for interviews.

I don't know what to do. I feel like I've finally hit a career dead-end that can't be fixed by learning a new language or picking up a new discipline.

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TOP 26 Comments
  • Amazon Ah Dang
    I’m curious - how many interviews have you done with coding and failed - are we talking a couple, or lots? Are the companies big like the FANG type, or variety?

    Earlier in my career I didn’t think I would be able to get in to the big tech companies because I didn’t have a traditional CS background. I pushed myself super hard for years, and kept stretching myself in uncomfortable ways. The hard work paid off, despite lacking the traditional background.

    I don’t have dyscalculia, but empathize with having a disability like that for interview situations. That said, with determination, I expect you will find the right role for you. Don’t give up!
    Dec 4, 2019 1
    • New / Eng JeanStark
      OP
      Thanks for the comment!

      I've done plenty of live code pairing sessions and that's been fine. I generally always land a job that I submit a mini-project for.

      I've had a total of 4 of these coding-exam style interviews though, and all of them have gone down about as well as a unicorn trying to hide in a zebra herd.
      Dec 4, 2019
  • If you really can’t or won’t pick up the skill, consider applying for similar positions at companies that aren’t tech companies. They likely aren’t following these interview patterns. Maybe a similar job at a local credit union or something similar non tech that needs the same roles.
    Dec 4, 2019 5
    • That’s funny, because I only responded the way I did because you were dismissive to my comment. Your original post said that you didn’t know what to do, so I offered an extremely valid solution to the problem that you generalized and dismissed. There is plenty of opportunity there, but if you don’t want to hear alternatives, we’ll, then there is the game - but that’s not what I thought you wanted from your first post. I’ll even throw out an example: I interviewed at iRobot a couple years ago. The only code involved was a piece of paper python interpretation. They aren’t a big software company, but they hire for the roles and meet your needs.

      Beyond that, I could say the stereotypical leetcode. Practice makes perfect, even if the practice is harder.
      Dec 5, 2019
    • Amazon PIPninja
      Lmao OP just got owned. "but but but...i don't thrive in those environments" haha what a baby.

      GE is right...you have to pick one, either apply to places that don’t play the game, or learn the game.
      Dec 5, 2019
  • New / Design
    stj6101

    New Design

    PRE
    Vocus Communications
    BIO
    Currently: Entrepreneur with two design tech start-ups. Australia. Formerly: KINETIC IT, DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, VOCUS, LOYALTY APP
    stj6101more
    I am similar. I have colour number synesthesia meaning numbers bamboozle me and my work history is similar, learnt on the job. I now never struggle to get architecture, change management or SOE roles and found I now enjoy less hands on code jobs where I can leverage other skills like communication, process, analysis, problem solving, implementation business, etc. I found these interviews much easier to nail and then leverage my tech skills in rather than going directly for tech roles that mandate a on the spot code test.
    Dec 4, 2019 2
    • New / Eng JeanStark
      OP
      Now this is a really interesting way of looking at a solution! If you wouldn't mind, could I PM you? This is an angle I hadn't thought of and would really appreciate more info.
      Dec 4, 2019
    • New / Design
      stj6101

      New Design

      PRE
      Vocus Communications
      BIO
      Currently: Entrepreneur with two design tech start-ups. Australia. Formerly: KINETIC IT, DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, VOCUS, LOYALTY APP
      stj6101more
      Of course! I am probably more junior than you but I can probably shed some light on how I got to where I did.
      Dec 4, 2019
  • New Lund
    Karat will give you more time if you have a disability/ need special consideration. Might help for future Karat ivs
    Dec 4, 2019 5
    • New Lund
      Ah, the questions don't change. Those are randomly chosen from a pool that the company has approved. Without stating that it was for a disability, they may not have granted you extra time. But I know that people with dyslexia and other learning difficulties have been granted extra time. Not sure what the bar is for that to be approved though
      Dec 4, 2019
    • New / Eng JeanStark
      OP
      Good to know, that's unfortunate but understandable about the pool of questions. Thanks for your insight!
      Dec 4, 2019
  • Bloomberg / Eng
    WPslayer

    Bloomberg Eng

    PRE
    Fidessa
    WPslayermore
    Yeah there is a big disconnect between programming interview coding challenges and what programmers actually do on a day to day basis.

    I found The boom Elements of Programming interviews was helpful in giving the skill set to easily do modern programming tests.
    Dec 4, 2019 1
    • New / Eng JeanStark
      OP
      I'll take a look at that, thanks!
      Dec 4, 2019
  • Most programming interviews don’t involve math. What are your target companies? I am older developer as well but from a solid CS background so when this algorithm craze started things started looking up for me
    Dec 4, 2019 1
    • New / Eng JeanStark
      OP
      Interviews I'd been in in the past didn't include math either, so this craze is just weird to me.

      One of the companies was Wayfair, and the others were tech start-ups, two local and one remote.

      I'm full-stack but with a heavy emphasis on UX and UI, and I'm not applying for heavy back-end roles.
      Dec 4, 2019
  • New / Strategy
    NonCodeSW1

    New Strategy

    BIO
    program manager
    NonCodeSW1more
    Have you tried hooking into a startup for a job?
    Dec 4, 2019 1
    • New / Eng JeanStark
      OP
      Thanks for the comment!

      Almost all of the jobs I've applied to have been start-ups. (I've always enjoyed start-up pace and unique problems that need solving.)

      I think that's why I'm so confused :/
      Dec 4, 2019
  • Consider going to a consulting firm or digital agency and moving into an architecture/leadership role there. Plenty of money to be made and may align better with your interests
    Dec 4, 2019 1
    • New / Eng JeanStark
      OP
      Thanks for the reply!

      I did actually try the consulting route but the overall culture was not a good fit. I thrive in close-knit teams and I was never able to stay in one place long enough as a consultant to build real connections.

      An agency could work, though. Thanks!
      Dec 4, 2019
  • Amazon _Hokage_
    You can look up websites that track tech companies that don’t ask leetcode questions.

    If you really have dyscalculia, honestly even those companies will be tough to crack. For mid-senior level, system design questions are common. Have you considered trying to pivot into project management role at these companies?
    Dec 5, 2019 0

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