This article will go through the most common behavioral interview questions that software engineers tend to face. We'll also dive into detail on how to answer them.
These questions can be mastered. With sufficient preparation, you can anticipate many of things you'll be asked, and prepare for them. Lazlo Block, former SVP of HR at Google, wrote an amazing article on how to win any interview. Here's a summary of what he has to say below:
You can anticipate 90% of the interview questions you’re going to get. Three of them are listed above, but it’s an easy list to generate. (AlgoDaily: This is your list below!)
For EVERY question, write down your answer. Yes, it’s a pain to actually write something. It’s hard and frustrating. But it makes it stick in your brain. That’s important. You want your answers to be automatic. You don’t want to have to think about your answers during an interview. Why not? Keep reading.
Actually, for every question, write down THREE answers. Why three? You need to have a different, equally good answer for every question because the first interviewer might not like your story. You want the next interviewer to hear a different story. That way they can become your advocate.
So that'll get you the "what" to answer, but you'll still need to know the "how". You'll want to demonstrate organized thought, strong communication skills, and an ability to tell a narrative.
In general, you want to focus on the STAR approach, which is outlined below.
I'd highly recommend you follow the STAR method in answering behavioral interview questions. STAR stands for the following: 1) Situation, 2) Task, 3) Action, 4) Result:
You'll want to answer all the questions in this format, as it allows for best clarity of thought. Now onto the questions themselves. But real quick, a word on body language:
Your body language is important in conveying to the interviewer that you are comfortable, happy to be there, and focused. Here's a few things to keep in mind:
The commonality between these things is how they demonstrate (or don't demonstrate) your level of ease. Remember, they're not just evaluating you as a software engineer, they're also seeing how you'd be as a coworker and teammate. A little bit of nerves is to be expected, but generally portraying yourself as someone with nothing to hide and a high degree of confidence will help you fare much better.
If the above is too much to remember, a simple rule is stay open and relaxed.
This category of questions allows the interviewer to get to know you. They're looking for for an overview of your history and how you ended up at the interview.
Note that this is a warm up question and probably not the time to go into detail. A short 2-4 sentence answer does the trick.
A tip for talking about your accomplishments is to demonstrate a diverse number of skills. Ideally you can show strong technical ability, as well as leadership, critical thinking, collaborative skills, etc.
Something else to consider is brushing up on the technical details of older projects. Interviewers may learn about a project you mention and ask several follow up questions about it. Be sure you can give a high level overview of the architecture of the project, and any technical decisions you might have made.
These questions are meant to gauge you as a teammate. Conflicts will always happen in a team, but the key is to have a story about how YOU took action to resolve it.
Talk about projects you've led, engineers you've mentored, or changes you've initiated on the team. Be careful here, you want to modify your answer to fit the company's values around how to lead.
Engineer interviewees who don't have stories around failures simply don't have much experience. Building software is a hard and usually open-ended problem, and mistakes are not only common but expected.
With these questions, it's important to be able to concretely answer what the problem was, how you fixed it, and what you learned from it. You should also be able to speak to how you fixed it, and using what tools.
This is for more senior candidates, and very much company dependent. Read up on the company and see what their core values are, and what kind of managers tend to succeed in the organization.
Interviewers also love these questions because the way an interviewee answers them reveals a lot about their personality. People who own up to their mistakes without being too emotionally attached to them are likely to be able to face similar issues in the future. Those who have their egos attached will not do as well.