I'm working in development for 4 years, and 3.5 in PHP - why I don't seem to be able to be selected in an interview.

I want to know what special things the interviewer wants to see in candidates - for senior PHP developer roles.

Interviewer asks me 10 questions and I'm able to answer only 5. Does selection depend on these things? It doesn't mean that I can't solve the problem, I can google the question, I can ask on forums. Why don't they understand that a man can't remember all the answers for each and every question? Especially programming ones.

Please advise.

  • @Rook please check now
    – WebDev
    Nov 25, 2010 at 12:25
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    Maybe they google your name, find this question and reason "Hm, apparently others have not taken him in for an interview. He's probably a bad candidate for this job, too".
    – gablin
    Nov 25, 2010 at 15:38
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    Which questions were you unable to answer?
    – user1249
    Nov 25, 2010 at 16:19
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    It's unfortunate that the fact that you were looking for a Senior PHP Developer position was edited out of your question, as that may be the reason you are not being selected. Four years of experience does not qualify you for a senior level position at most employers. Nov 25, 2010 at 19:27
  • 1
    Senior PHP developer... The mind boggles...
    – ThomasX
    May 21, 2012 at 14:21

9 Answers 9


"Interviewer asks me 10 questions and I'm able to answer only 5. Does selection depend on these things? It doesn't mean that I can't solve the problem, I can google the question, I can ask on forums. Why don't they understand that a man can't remember all the answers for each and every question? Expecially programming ones."

These things are very significant and will be a very significant part of the reason.

Interviewers do understand that you can't know everything and generally tailor the questions to suit. Generally most questions an interviewer will ask will be the sorts of things they expect a candidate to be able to answer without access to the internet.

Why do they expect this standard? A few reasons come to mind:

  1. You indicate that you're looking at senior developer roles. Senior developers are by definition those who have a good level of knowledge already and can help others out, not those who are dependent on Google.
  2. A programmer who knows this stuff - as opposed to having to post it on forums - is going to be far more productive that one who relies on the internet. They're not having to wait for replies, understand what's been posted and adapt it to their purpose, they're just getting on and coding.
  3. They're obviously finding candidates who can answer these questions and in that instance wouldn't you hire the guy who got 9 out of 10 over the guy who got 5 out of 10.
  4. If they were happy with someone bright who understands the basics and Googles the rest, you can hire a junior developer for a lot less money.

Personally out of 10 questions for an intermediate or senior role normally I'd expect a candidate to be answering perhaps 8 well and having a fair idea at least one of the others.

If you're not hitting that level then I suggest that you're probably applying for jobs a little above your current level and should adjust your expectations.


Reason 1 : You have bad English

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    +1 That may or may not be a put down, but you've managed to stumble across what studies have shown to be the most important aspect of a potential employee: communication skills (more important than education or experience).
    – Neil
    Nov 25, 2010 at 12:21
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    Reason 2: you are unable to assess your language skills correctly
    – user281377
    Nov 25, 2010 at 12:24
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    @Rahul - then I think you need to consider that it might be a factor. People aren't being rude but your English could be better and it might be influencing some people. Nov 25, 2010 at 14:26
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    @Rahul: Consider that your question has received 1 major and 1 minor grammar edit, and it could still use some more. I'm not saying it's the reason you're being turned down, but you're not being honest with yourself if you think it's not that bad. Nov 25, 2010 at 15:35
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    I disagree. Based on the original post @Rahul's English is good enough to communicate effectively. Minor grammar mistakes can be disregarded for a non-native speaker. Real problem is the disregard for details, reflected in sloppy spelling and capitalization. It looks like the writer is not making any effort to be presentable and accurate. Programmers tend to be meticulous. A misplaced capital, comma or even whitespace hurt our eyes. Sloppiness is a huge red flag.
    – dbkk
    Nov 26, 2010 at 9:42

I've said it before. I'll say it again.

A job interview is a competition, not a pass-fail test.

The reason you aren't getting the job is that another candidate impressed the employer more than you did. If you got 5 questions right, perhaps someone else got 6 or more.

The fact that you can Google answers or get them from SO is irrelevant as I discussed in more detail in my blog article Why "I'd just Google it" is not an acceptable interview answer.

  • 4
    +1: Anyone can google. You have to demonstrate that you're better than a googler. Nov 25, 2010 at 16:14
  • @SnOrfus: Or at least better than the googlers who are applying for the same job.
    – JohnFx
    Nov 25, 2010 at 16:18
  • @JohnFx: Of course, yes. If you only ever want that job. Nov 25, 2010 at 16:26
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    @SnOrfus, actually it is an art to use Google - you need to know the right terms for what you want to know or you will never find the needle in the haystack.
    – user1249
    Nov 25, 2010 at 16:28
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    @Job I don't think the OP would be asking this question if he were in a position to select his employer.
    – JohnFx
    Nov 25, 2010 at 21:00

If you aren't getting interviews then it could be that your 3½ to 4 years experience isn't seen as sufficient for a senior developer role. You should look at revising your CV to highlight your strengths. You should also look at applying for more relevant roles - perhaps at a more junior level.

If you are getting interviews then it could be down to anything.

You might come over as too nervous/shy or you might come over as too abrasive/aggressive or ....

Ultimately only the interviewer can answer this question and they might not even be able to articulate the answer themselves - they just "know" you won't fit in.

  • 6
    @Rahul - someone in a senior position needs to be able to "get on" and communicate well with others. This will include other developers, sales people and even customers. Being too shy or too aggressive would be problematical. The examples weren't meant to be a complete list just examples of why you might have failed.
    – ChrisF
    Nov 25, 2010 at 12:36
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    @Rahul - from how you behave in the interview. However, if you aren't getting to interview then you need to focus on your CV and the type of roles you are applying for.
    – ChrisF
    Nov 25, 2010 at 12:47
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    If, having had an interview, you are not selected there is nothing wrong with going back (writing) to the company and asking why they didn't choose you - the worst that happens is that they tell you nothing or give you a stock answer, the best is that you learn for next time.
    – Murph
    Nov 25, 2010 at 13:49
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    @Murph No, in the best case scenario they inadvertently reveal that you were passed over due to illegal discrimination and sue the for millions of dollars. It is, however, not a likely scenario.
    – Kris
    Nov 25, 2010 at 15:33
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    I know this is going to sound rude, but I'm not sure how to put it more gently - if you can Google the answers to questions, why can't you Google nervous/shy/abrasive/aggressive?
    – Nicole
    Nov 25, 2010 at 20:00

UPDATE: this answer has been made based on the first version of the question, which asked "why i am not selected in interview"

Show us your CV and we'll tell you.

Did you...

  • ... put your photo? Remove it
  • ... put emphasis on your problem solving capabilities?
  • ... send it to enough companies? (To get one interview, you must send 10 CV)
  • ... have too much pages? Limit your CV to one page
  • ... send it to companies that actually need PHP?
  • ... tried different versions of your CV?
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    please check my cv here rahuldeveloper.blogspot.com/2010/11/my-cv.html
    – WebDev
    Nov 25, 2010 at 12:28
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    First thing you could do is removing this: i.imgur.com/9QcAV.jpg.
    – user2567
    Nov 25, 2010 at 12:43
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    I'd disagree on "Limit your CV to one page", I think 2 pages of a4 is perfectly acceptable. Certainly in the uk, its the norm.
    – Gruffputs
    Nov 25, 2010 at 13:54
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    @Gruffputs: please disagree there: programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/18803/…. Your valuable feedback will be available to others, including the user that asked the question. Thanks
    – user2567
    Nov 25, 2010 at 13:55
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    has anybody actually looked at the CV's HTML code? It's exported from MS Word. Not what I would expect from a Senior PHP developer... Nov 25, 2010 at 17:09

By the sounds of it, you would fail my interview technique as well. At interview I expect candidates to write code on the whiteboard. It might seem tough, but it allows candidates to show that they do know the language, and are not relying on intelsense and google to program. Lets face it, if you are claiming on your CV to have 3.5 years of PHP experience, then at interview I want to see some evidence of your experience.

I also use the process to identify people that think logically about their designs, write code that actually implements their design, and when faced with a new constraint understand how it affects their design, and what they need to adjust to accommodate this new information.

Whilst lots of companies do use the 20 question interview method, this method is a poor differentiator in identifying who the best programmers are, and good at identifying who has been reading a lot of books recently. If you are constantly facing this interview technique, start reading. You should want a 95-100% good answer rate on these questions to get offered the job, however it will not make you a better programmer on its own.

The major problem with "programming by google" is that whilst you may deliver code that works, but its quite possible that you have no understanding of it increasing the risk of subtle bugs and undesirable consequences. It will certainly take longer to write the code and your source code will have the same consistency as the internet making it much harder for your replacement to support your code in the future.

Whilst I'm sure that my answer is not the warm fuzzy reassurance that you may have wanted, hopefully it will help you to understand what you need to do differently to gain the knowledge and experience, or perhaps, may help you to understand why a career in a different sector may be a better choice for you. good luck for the future.


I suspect you wrote the question whilst frustrated - but this suggests a problem:

Interviewer asks me 10 questions and I'm able to answer only 5. Does selection depend on these things? It doesn't mean that I can't solve the problem, I can google the question, I can ask on forums. Why don't they understand that a man can't remember all the answers for each and every question? Expecially programming ones

I have two issues with this, first is that if you answer 5 out of 10 and someone else answers 6 out of 10 then all other things being equal that's game over - but second and more important is the question of how you respond when you don't know and your attitude to not knowing.

In terms of questions - it rather depends on the questions - but if its basic platform knowledge then you should be able to answer and if its a more detailed problem then you should be able to suggest approaches - "look on google and ask in forums" is not an approach. Any programmer I interviewed that suggested either a) that he knew everything (unlikely and probably already proven to be false by poor answers) or b) that he didn't need to because all the answers were on google (or even stackoverflow) would not be coming back.

In terms of attitude... if you're being interviewed by someone qualified to ask the questions then they will have their own view of what a reasonable level of knowledge is based on their own capabilities and experience and you know what? It may be reasonable for a given job to expect the interviewee to give a good answer to most of their questions. If you're consistently failing to answer a significant number of questions (50% is significant) then you need to assess why.


I always tell people to try asking the interviewer that turned you down what might have improved your candidacy. Even if you get a response from 1 out of 10 interviewers, you won't be guessing (or asking others to guess).

I ask every time, have only ever had one person refuse, and I always get great feedback. The sample size is low though (4).


Another point is how many people are applying for these jobs? If there are a dozen or more being interviewed and you all have an equal chance of getting the position, the probability is around 8.3% you realize, right? Sometimes it can come down to a numbers game where you have to go through many interviews to get somewhere.

How many people can match your PHP experience but may have more education or some other differentiating factor? When you don't answer a question, are you saying that you'd go to Google and have it answer the question for you? How you phrase something like that could make it come off like the company is hiring someone when they should just get a contract with Google to get the answers. While some may think that is ridiculous, there are many things in this world that are rather ridiculous yet exist.

Last but not least, there can also be the potential for you wanting something that a company isn't going to give. For example, how many companies would pay a developer $1,000,000,000 (US) or more? Very few if any, I'd think. What kinds of questions are you asking the company? What kinds of signs are you showing that you want the job and would fit into their culture? If you make it sound like the company should be lucky that you are even considering working there, that arrogance may well be a contributing factor on why a company doesn't like you.

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