I tried then gave up. I wanted to find a short cut to technical interviews, Yet again i failed.

There’s no one “way” that will define a good approach to programming interviews.

Surrendering to interview process,embracing it, loving it, hating it,understanding it, experimenting with it, is the key to getting successful at it.


Sometimes i failed and it’s really painful. Sometimes I hated to learn so deep. It often gave me great anxiety.

But all these experimentation and deep learning resulted in one real "SHORT CUT" to technical interviews. Called the 80/20 rule.

And here is how i discovered it. 

Road To 80/20 Rule


I was scared that i have not prepared enough. I was desperate and nervous, as i was scrolling through chapter after chapter in a book. My heart was pounding harder.

From the last three days, I was trying to read everything all about the fancy programming terms, about distributed systems, design principles for large scale systems, from JVM architecture to memory models.

I was invited by amazon for their hiring event in Berlin in 2011. I thought the basic programming stuff i knew very well. I needed to focus more on the bigger stuff.

The Interview Day

I was at amazon office in Berlin. Waiting eagerly for my turn. When the moment came. First 20 minutes went very smoothly.

Finally it was time for technical test. Me and one of the amazon developer stood by the white board.

The first question he asked me was. Invert this binary tree on the whiteboard. I was like what? I have not refreshed or prepared about binary trees in last three years.

But i pretended to know it and tried to invert but failed.

Next question was an array with random values. I need to implement at least two sorting algorithms and compare their performances.

After around 40 minutes they could clearly see. I lacked the deep knowledge about the topics they were asking and stopped the interview.

I felt ashamed, broken and depressed by this rejection.

I was very surprised that they have not asked me a single questions. About the big stuff, the distributed systems, design principals, memory models. All i have prepared and learned by heart.

The 80/20 Rule

 By the end of 2011. One day, I sat down to create a list of all the technical questions. I have been asked in last 2 years.

When i was finished with my list surprisingly 80% of the companies asked me same kind of questions. Or put it another way.

20% of the topics were covered in 80% of the technical interviews i have been.

I could clearly see a pattern emerging. I was so wrong. I thought these topics were basics and never spent the amount of preparation they deserved.

Make sure you know anything and everything about 20% questions. You will not fail any other interview again.

The 20% Technical Questions

-Array interview questions

-Linked lists interview questions

-Array lists interview questions

-HashMaps interview questions

-Algorithms interview questions

-Inheritance interview questions

-Multithreading & concurrency interview questions

-Design patterns interview questions

The 20% Non-Technical Questions

It is also true for non- technical questions. 80% of the times i have been asked these 20% questions

  • what you do in your free time or what are your hobbies?
  • Tell us about yourself?
  • what are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  • How you handle stressful situations?
  • How do you deal with angry colleagues?
  • Tell us something you are proud of and why?
  • You prefer to work in teams or individually?
  • Tell us about your latest project?

In fact you can follow 80/20 rule to any interview. just find out what are the top 20% questions that are asked in a specific field and then spend some time to learn very deeply about them.


I have always thought that if, I did not knew the bigger and high level stuff, I would fail. And in almost every interview.

I was never asked about that stuff. We always tend to ignore the most basic things as not important or assume that we know it.

You need to understand one thing. It is not about how many things you know. It is about how many important things you know.

And how deeply and well you know them. It is better to narrow down your preparation.

Dig for the top 20% of the questions or topics in your field. Then spend 100% of your effort to learn everything about them.

You may be able to mess up for some of the stuff. Nobody cares when you mess up. Everyone messes up. Nobody is ever thinking about the stuff you missed.

Instead People will be thrilled by how well you have done for the things that mattered the most.

Prepare something good and important. Then come to the party. Else Nobody cares if you are at the party

 About The Author

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