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Eh I doubt that explains it. In my experience, the response is shock. Not "oh hmm well, lemme think". It's " I've never written that code since school! That's a terrible thing to ask! Why would I ever write that? "

Also, for trivial algorithms and data structures, mind blanking is a potentially bad sign. Like, if you cannot explain the idea of garbage collection (not necessarily implementation details), then I gotta question your understanding of your environment.

I am reasonably experienced programmer who has delivered numerous web applications and websites. I could not explain to you how a linked list or binary tree worked - although I am sure I could look them up on google and understand the concepts given 30 minutes.

"Experienced programmers" who don't understand linked lists and binary trees without looking them up are strong no hires anywhere I have worked in the last three decades. Please stop writing software until this isn't a problem.

* edit: please stop asking people to pay you to write software. Keep writing software on your own until such elementary ideas such as linked lists and binary trees are core to your understanding, then apply again.

I have yet to encounter a situation in my career that called for a binary tree. I use general trees and graphs all the time, but never any of the specialized forms.

Maybe the problems your companies have worked on did. That's fine. Don't go telling people to "stop asking people to pay you to write software" just because they don't know how to use or write a binary tree, though.

I agree with you that I wouldn't hire someone who doesn't understand linked lists, but I still think your statement is too harsh for that situation as well.

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