Many people are very afraid of behavioural interview questions in technical interviews as they seem to be just something most programmers are not good at.
Unlike technical questions, which are very standard and usually have clear answers, behavioral interview questions are much more flexible and sometimes may make candidates quite uncomfortable.
Although behavioural questions are not very popular in technical interviews, sometimes they may make a big difference in your overall performance as interviews are all about finding the right person and to some extent behavioral questions are the best approach to evaluating this.
So in this post, I’ll share 6 very practical tips that can help you get over your fears of behavioral interview questions.
Tip #1 – Be very familiar with your past experience
This might sound silly at first as some people may think that people are always familiar with their own experience. However, when I say “very familiar”, what I really mean is that not only should you know what has happened in the past, but also be able to explain everything clearly and smoothly. Let me explain this more.
First and foremost, you should prepare well to give a brief summary of your background.
There’s no doubt that the most common thing at the beginning of an interview is “tell me about yourself’. However, you’ll be surprised about how many people don’t prepare this well once you have done some interviews.
Some folks talked about their experiences forever until the interviewer interrupted, others may dive into a bunch of technical details, making it very hard to understand for people without relevant experience. The advice is to prepare well for a version about 1 minute that only focuses on high-level things. You may keep refining based on people’s reaction and feedback, which is quite similar to prepare for an elevator pitch.
Secondly, you should also be able to explain most of the technical details. In a technical interview, interviewers may pick one or two points in your experience to further discuss with you. It could be something relevant to the company, or it’s just interesting to him.
Lastly, it’s not very common but still possible to be asked questions like what’s the most difficult project you’ve ever done or talk about a project you had a lot of collaboration with others. It doesn’t hurt spend some time preparing on this kind of questions. If you can pick several key projects and be very familiar with them, your life can be much easier.
Tip #2 – Be very familiar with the company
Similarly, when I say “very familiar”, the bar is really high. What I really mean here is that you should know more about this company than most other candidates.
It will be extremely disappointed as an interviewer when the candidate knows almost nothing about your company. He may barely say more than one sentence when you ask him what he knows about the company. Or he may just ask questions that can be easily found online like what languages Google is using.
On the contrary, if you can show great interests and knowledge about the company, it can be very impressive and it’s possible to make a difference to the final hiring decision. Not only can you answer well to the question “what do you know about us”, but also you may come up with very good questions to interviewers at the end of the interview. So always do your research about the company including its mission, culture and almost everything before your interview.
Tip #3 – Be very familiar with the product
This can be part of getting familiar with the company, however, I’d like to make it a separate point as I find it so important.
Many people believe that product is the core of a company and many interviewers like to test if the candidate has any sense or comment on their products although it’s a technical interview.
It’s quite common for interviewers to spend 10min discussing specific features of the product with candidates and the discussion can be both technical and non-technical. For instance, the most common question might be just asking any feedback or critique of a feature.
It’s not necessary for an engineer to be a product expert, however, some sense of product is definitely needed especially for people who are building user-facing features. Try to be a core user of the product before your interview, remember that registering an account and playing for few minutes right before your interview will never work.
Tip #4 – Have a clear answer why you want to join the company
In many interviews, you will need to tell the reason you are applying for this company. And for some company, this question is a must-have. Although there’s no standard answer here, some answers are clearly bad and it’s almost for sure that the candidate will fail.
Some candidates may say that they want to join here because they didn’t have much chance to learn in their old companies or there’s no room to grow. This seems even worse if they came from some large corporations. If you are working at a company with 100+ employees, how could you say that you have no chance to learn anymore?
The point here is not to create a good reason to answer, instead you should figure out this before you even apply for that company.
I truly believe that people should apply for companies that can resonate with them. In other words, you should only interview companies that you believe in their missions, love their products and cultures as well. In this case, it should be very natural to have a clear answer why you want to join the company.
Tip #5 – Communication
Behavioral interview questions sometimes are all about communication. As you know, a lot of time it’s not what you say that is important, but the way you say it.
More specifically, if you have a great communication skill, you may still make a good impression even if your answers are not that ideal because behavioral questions are not only used to evaluate specific skills, but also give interviewers some clues whether they want to work with this candidate in the future.
However, as is known to all that communication skill is not easy to improve. You won’t be able to make any difference if you start thinking about this one day before your interview. Instead, you should pay enough attention to this point at the beginning of your preparation and the earlier the better.
Try to practice mock interviews with your friends or some experienced interviewers and you can hardly improve your communication skill without actively talking with others.
Tip #6 – Be yourself
The last tip is that just be yourself. Many candidates are so eager to show their advantages and sometimes they try to exaggerate or even lie. If you talk about things that are different from what you think, it’ll be really awkward.
Always be yourself. Be honest with both your advantages and disadvantages. There’s no shame to have specific drawbacks. Over the past, I noticed that interviewers are more likely to vote for candidates who are honest and modest rather than braggers.
Many people think that your non-technical abilities are only evaluated by those behavioral questions, however, they are actually evaluated through the whole interview process. When you prepare for behavioral interview questions, don’t focus only on the question itself as sometimes communication is more important. In a broader perspective, interviewers are trying to evaluate if they want to work with you in the future instead of you can give a correct answer to those questions.
About the author:
Jake Cook is the co-founder of Gainlo, an online based online platform that allows people to have mock interviews with experienced interviewer from Google, Microsoft, Amazon etc. and get real feedback to improve. Having been in tech industry for years, he has lots of experience about interview and has a great passion for it as well. He truly believes that interviews can be made more transparent, which is exactly why Gainlo was born.
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