Why Behavioral Interviews Are Hard To Prepare For | by Yuchen Z. | Nov, 2022

And what are the things to keep in mind in your preparation

photo by chang duong Feather unsplash

A while back, we discussed coding and system design interviews. If you haven’t, feel free to take a look here:

Today, let’s review and discuss the last category in this series – Behavioral Interviewing. I am a software engineer by training. Behavioral questions are common throughout the industry. However, this post is heavily focused on the engineering perspective.

Coding interviews assess whether you can be an effective and productive engineer. System design evaluates whether you can operate complex systems on a large scale. Behavioral Interview assesses whether you can work in critical situations, whether you can work well with your colleague, whether you can uplift the team, whether you can be a leader or not , and many more.

If you do well in coding interview then you qualify as Junior Engineer. If you do well in system design, you can get an offer with a senior engineer title. Those are the two essential foundations. But only if you deport on the behavioral questions will you get a chance to be considered for a team lead or management role.

The first mistake that candidates make many times is to ignore the behavioral interview. You may think:

I really don’t want to prepare for behavioral interviews. It is what it is. I am who I am. I don’t want to over dress it or fake it. I want to be my true self during the behavioral interview.

You can spend weeks and months practicing coding questions and groking system design concepts, but start looking at just a few behavioral questions the weekend before the interview.

That’s not enough. It takes just as much, if not more, effort to prepare for the behavioral interview.

In Scrum or Sprint project management, we have retrospectives from time to time to reflect on what went well and what didn’t. This is for the team level, but it is equally important to do the same at the individual level.

In most established companies, there is some employee evaluation. For the company, this is the time to promote the high performers and manage the low performers. For individuals, it is also a good time to reflect and look for opportunities to do better in the next period.

Master Zeng said:

I introspect several times every day. whether, in making suggestions to others, I could not be faithful; whether, in intercourse with friends, I have not been honest; What, maybe I haven’t mastered and practiced what I’ve been taught.

That was 500 BC, but it is still applicable today. Preparing for a behavioral interview is an ongoing process, and it is also an introspective process.

Each company may have its own definition of engineering culture. At Netflix, There’s a Notion and a List of “Dream Teams” valuable behavior, Google has the so-called Googleyness. most famous of all 16 Leadership Theories on amazon.

Looking through the haze, they are more or less the same. Meta may have put a little too much emphasis on “moving fast” and Google may have focused a little too much on “engineering complexity”, but fundamentally, what makes an engineer an excellent engineer is the ability to The other place will not change.

Here is a list of 14 features that I have summarized in plain words:

1) Be passionate

  • As Steve Jobs said: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
  • be intrinsically motivated by your work
  • be energetic

2) make good decisions

  • have a good attitude
  • seek diverse perspectives from others
  • make decisions based on data

3) Be creative

  • Think beyond imagination. develop effective ideas
  • Look for every opportunity to reduce the complexity of problems

4) Think Big

  • focus on the big picture
  • Know what matters and what doesn’t
  • Choose long term value over short term results
  • communicate ideas effectively to others

5) Be curious and keep learning

  • Being older doesn’t mean you are more experienced as technologies are constantly evolving
  • stay hungry and keep learning
  • learn from failures and learn from those around you

6) Mentor and Grow Teammates

  • be a helpful team player
  • Help your associates grow and succeed
  • Point your companions to the vision you see and inspire them to join you on the journey

7) Take ownership

  • Be active, no more hand-holding
  • Have a sense of responsibility for our collective success
  • Act in the best interest of the company, the team, then yourself

8) Have commitments

  • Once you have made a decision, be it your thoughts or others, stick to it
  • Build great products and systems
  • look for every opportunity to improve
  • have integrity

9) Be respectful and considerate

  • be sympathetic
  • Respect people from different backgrounds, identities, values ​​and cultures

10) move faster

  • make tough decisions without delay
  • Know when to take informed, calculated risks
  • Build and Iterate on Ideas
  • be open to possible failures

11) Be open and honest

  • give clear and direct feedback
  • Be prepared to have difficult conversations with each other
  • speak up boldly when you disagree
  • Debate ideas with good intentions and get your colleges to do the same

12) Understand the constraints

  • Realize that time, budget, computing resources and workforce are all finite resources
  • aim for more with less

13) Resolve Conflicts

  • bring the team together and move things forward
  • Recognize that everyone has bias and work against it
  • Understand the perspective of your colleagues, customers and partners

14) Perseverance

  • stay calm in stressful situations
  • move through the vagaries and overcome the obstacles
  • Be optimistic and spread positive energy among your peers

The list does not come in any particular order. They are equally important.

There are many example questions on the internet. They are all about the above characteristics.

Not aiming for a comprehensive list. Here are a few examples:

  • Tell me a project you are most proud of.
  • Tell me about a time when you failed to meet a deadline.
  • Tell me about a disagreement you had with your team.

Can you fake it till you make it?

Nothing stops you from doing so. But there are some problems.

Many interview questions begin with “Tell me about a time when…”. Behavioral interviewing is about real life work experience, not story telling, not role play.

The initial tell-me-about-a-time question is only the beginning. A seasoned interviewer will anchor on that and ask a series of follow-up questions based on your answer:

  • Who are you working with?
  • What is your role and responsibility in the project?
  • why is it important?
  • Do you have any data to support your argument?
  • What is the impact (on cost-savings, customers, revenue, etc.)?
  • Is there a follow up?
  • What would you do differently next time?

It’s easy to speak the initial questions, but it’s hard to fake answers to all the follow-up questions without really experiencing them.

Even if you can crack the gate with mockery, you will not be able to live up to the expectation. You may be suffering from impostor syndrome. You may experience more stress than usual. You may not be able to keep living and can afford to let go eventually.

Systems design and coding have nothing to do with your day to day work, and they can be studied. Behavior is different — it’s all about your day-to-day work.

Amazon added Recently two new leadership theories, is one of them:

Strive to be Earth’s Best Employer
Leaders work every day to create a safer, more productive, higher performing, more diverse and more equitable work environment. They lead with empathy, have fun at work, and make it easy for others to have fun. Leaders ask themselves: Are my fellow employees growing? Are they strong? Are they ready to do what next? Leaders have a vision and commitment to the individual success of their employees, whether at Amazon or elsewhere.

I think we should all strive to be the best workers on earth. Be kind to each other, focus on priorities, aim high, work hard, have fun and make an impact! That’s the best thing we can do.

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