The Hack Reactor Interview: Process, Information and Tips

This post has been modified to match Hack Reactor's current interview process. A big thank you to Jeff Lee for authoring the initial post.

What's in the Hack Reactor Interview?

Everyone knows Hack Reactor is incredibly selective, so what makes the admissions process and Hack Reactor interview so demanding? How do you maximize your chances for success? Well, read on, and maybe you won’t have to rely on chance.

The interview process at Hack Reactor has two parts: a brief initial test, followed by a fairly rigorous technical interview (which often happens in person).  If you’ve never coded before, you will want to give yourself lots of time to learn before starting this process.

Hack Reactor Initial Test

The first part of applying to Hack Reactor is completing a short coding test. This takes only 5-10 minutes, and demonstrates to Hack Reactor that you have an understanding of the basics. If that looks good, Hack Reactor will contact you to set up the interview.

Prep for Your Hack Reactor Interview

Fortunately, Hack Reactor will email you a very helpful message covering interview preparation. The email tells you what basic concepts to master, and what online resources you can use to teach yourself and practice the basics. If you’re serious about enrolling in the 12-week program at Hack Reactor, then you’ve probably already sought out several learning resources -- I know I did, but the list of educational material can still be very helpful. I found particularly useful for practicing JavaScript syntax and development of small algorithms to solve small problems.

Hack Reactor Technical Interview

Even if you were able to complete the prior challenges without issue, it’s unlikely you’ll escape the technical interview unscathed. Hack Reactor interviewers are as nice as can be, but they couldn’t protect me from my nervousness when faced with the live coding questions in the interview. The technical portion involves a lot of pair-programming, which is a standard practice for Hack Reactor students. While I can’t reveal too much about what I was asked to program, I will say that prior C or Java knowledge won’t save you. Expect to learn some new programming concepts in the interview!

After a lot of struggling, I managed to correctly answer most (but not all) of the coding challenges. The test is clearly meant to push the interviewee into uncharted waters to see if he/she can handle some pressure and learn on the spot.

Call me a perfectionist, but I didn’t feel comfortable with leaving the live coding challenges uncompleted. However, I ran out of time, and the interview shifted into a non-technical Q&A.

I answered and asked a flurry of questions to determine if Hack Reactor was a good fit for me. I had spent countless hours reading the official blog, Quora posts, Reddit posts, and press articles. I also watched some vlogs and Google Hangouts. But even after all that research, I still had plenty of questions. I asked a ton of questions about Hack Reactor’s past successes, daily schedule/logistics, opinion about the industry, etc. I was asked questions to reveal my rationale for entering such an intense program and to gauge my ability to complete the course (i.e., energy/interest level, commute, finances, and so on).

As you can imagine, I liked how the interviewer responded because two months ago, I started the program, and now I barely have time to write this blog post in between the end of the awesomely self-empowering personal project period and the excitingly ambitious group project period.

Hack Reactor Interview Tips for Success

  • Double-check your motivation. The interview process will be tough, so you need to be serious about joining Hack Reactor if you want to do well (especially for the technical interview).

    • Prepare to answer questions about your own motivation for becoming a pro-level programmer. In my case, teaching myself to manipulate the DOM with jQuery wasn’t enough. I wanted to learn a lot more, and I wanted to learn at a faster rate.

  • Take your time. Don’t rush yourself during the live coding session. Otherwise, you might end up making a typo that causes an infinite loop.

  • Don’t panic when you struggle. Feel free to ask questions. Look forward to picking up some JavaScript skills from the interview process.

  • Familiarize yourself with commonly used JavaScript methods, but don’t agonize over memorizing their syntax (parameters).

  • Prepare to ask questions that show you’ve done your research (because you’re serious about entering a life-changing program)!

Hack Reactor Interview Summary

  1. First test

    1. Basic coding

    2. Test takes only 5-10 minutes

    3. Can only be done online

  2. Technical interview

    1. Quick introductory chat

    2. Live pair-programming session (30-40 minutes)

    3. Build something with your interviewer, and probably learn some new concepts

    4. Non-tech interview and opportunity to ask any questions

    5. Opportunity to feel the vibe of the environment

After the technical interview, you could be accepted without any more tests or interviews, Hack Reactor might determine that the program is not for you, or there are a few in between options. In some cases, they may ask you to learn a little bit more (they’ll give you specific recommendations) before scheduling another interview, or they might need another conversation to decide what to do with you next.

Note: Hack Reactor recently changed its interview process, and this post was edited to reflect those changes.

This is one student’s experience of the Hack Reactor interview and admissions process, in his own words. The admissions team reserves the right to change its screening and selection procedures and to make adjustments to its typical process in order to achieve a complete picture of each applicant.

If you have specific questions for our admissions team, feel free to email them directly at If you’re interested in joining Hack Reactor, the first step is to complete our Admissions Challenge here.