As an interviewee your main priority is to help the interviewer visualize what kind of employee you'll be at their company, and how your previous experience and achievements makes you a great for the position.
One of the things that I still find surprising after years of hiring and interviewing engineers, is how poorly software engineers prepare in average for the behavioral and soft part of the interview.
As a hiring manager, I'm looking for software engineers that are flexible, that can perform under pressure, and above all adapt to their environment. Therefore, assessing soft skills, is a crucial part of the evaluation process.
Now chances are that if you are an engineer actively interview, you had been asked some of the following behavioral questions:
- Could tell about a challenging problem that you had to solve in the last year or so?
- Could you share with me an instance where you had to deal with conflict within your team and how you handle it?
- Can you walk me through a difficult bug you had to solve?
Behavioral-based interview questions generally start with any one of the following phrases:
- Tell me about a time when you…
- Describe a situation when you…
- Give me an example of a time you
- Think about an instance in which you…
- Tell me how you approached a situation where
In most cases people do a decent job of answering this kind of questions. However, in my experience there is still a lot of fumbling when it comes to this part of the interview so I would recommend the following:
- Write a script.
- Have specific stories in mind.
- Practice makes perfect.
- Slow down.
Behavioral interviews are fairly predictable, so putting the work ahead of time to practice and have a good narrative will help you make a great impression and stand out.
Now, there is a particular section of the behavioral interview that more often that not candidates get wrong or fail miserably to prepare for.
I cannot stress this enough, before you prepare for anything research the company you'll be asked your reason for applying for the role or why you are interested to work for company X.
Many candidates give generic answers that could apply to hundred of other companies; at worst some candidates will come so poorly prepared that won't even have the faintest idea of what the company actually does.
As a candidate you want to show your interviewer that you're excited about their company and the problem they are tackling.
Part of the your interview preparation should include reading about the company and trying to answer the following questions:
- What does the company do and why am I interested in this company?
- What differentiates them from their competition?
- What excites me about working on the industry?
- What are the company core values?
In this day an age, the myth of the lone curmudgeon developer on the basement of the company is long death; you need to show that you have the skills for the job and that you are good team member.
One of your goals as part of the interview is to turn the interviewer into your internal advocate. But how do you that? Easy, build a real connection with your interviewer.
At some point during the behavioral interview you'll be given the opportunity to ask a few questions. Be sure to be prepared with a few questions about the company and the product, but I would also recommend that you ask a few questions that give the interview an opportunity to talk about themselves.
People love talking about themselves, so demonstrating genuine curiosity about your interviewer’s experience will make you feel more personable and help you standout. Here are some good examples that you can use:
- Can you tell me a bit more about your background and the thing you love more about this company?
- How can you describe the culture at the company?
- What are the opportunities for growth and personal development?
- In your opinion what is the most important skill or quality for a candidate to be successful at this role?
Make sure to actually listen and engage with their answer. When you focus on actively listening, the conversation naturally becomes a two way exchange between to people, and will boost the chances of the interview connecting with you.
Finally, soft-skills are not different so remember, practice, practice, practice.