Technical interview prep is hard. However, most software engineers are often more worried about how to prepare for a behavioral interview compared to the coding rounds. And for a good reason! Companies, especially FAANG, put great emphasis on behavioral interviews to determine how well you fit into the company culture and how you deal with work-related challenges.
Interviewers ask behavioral interview questions to understand how you perform under high-pressure situations or how you resolve day-to-day work issues. So if you don’t answer well, it can make or break your chances of landing your dream job.
So, what is a good strategy to prepare for a behavioral interview? We have put together this guide to help you with just that! We’ll tell you what you can do to be prepared for behavioral interview questions, along with some sample questions and answers, to help you crack interviews at FAANG and other tier-1 tech companies.
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To help you understand how to prepare for a behavioral interview, we’ll cover:
- How to Prepare for a Behavioral Interview
- Some Common Behavioral Interview Questions and How to Prepare Answers for Them
- Preparing for a Behavioral Interview — What You Must Do During the Interview
- FAQs on How to Prepare for a Behavioral Interview
How to Prepare for a Behavioral Interview
“Walk us through a time when you had a conflict with your co-worker and how you resolved it.”
Questions like these are pretty common at behavioral interviews because they help interviewers understand your outlook toward solving problems in the past, which in turn will reflect in your future. Therefore, how you prepare for behavioral interview questions and how you answer them is pretty important. Your leadership abilities, time management skills, and ability to juggle multiple things simultaneously are tested through a behavioral interview.
Behavioral interviews are usually conducted after the technical interviews. These are especially important for senior-level roles, wherein soft skills are critical. You will, usually, be required to draw on past instances to showcase behavioral skills. Unlike coding or system design interviews, there are no solutions to be arrived at.
So, here are some things you must do to prepare for a behavioral job interview:
1. Understand Your Prospective Role’s Responsibilities
Behavioral questions typically focus on key soft skills and interpersonal principles needed for your prospective role. Identify key requirements for the role you’re applying for. Prepare corresponding instances from your past roles that showcase these specific skills.
This really is the key to a good behavioral interview preparation strategy.
2. Study the Company Culture
A large percentage of candidates fail to make it through the tech interview process because they aren’t a suitable cultural fit. This, despite being an ideal technical fit.
Understanding a prospective company’s culture will help you gauge the kind of behavioral questions to expect and how to prepare for them. Amazon, for example, centers its behavioral interview on its leadership principles. This makes it possible to anticipate behavioral interview questions and prepare answers to showcase the skills they are looking for.
You can also assess your strengths and weaknesses as they will be perceived from the company’s perspective. Key aspects about a company you should study to understand its culture are its:
- Vision and mission
- Core values
- Performance evaluation systems
- Organizational setup
- Employee interactions
- Communication systems
FAANG and other top tech companies put out a lot of information about their company culture. Additionally, getting an employee’s insights can be useful to understand what really makes for a good cultural fit at your targeted company. Reach out to people in your network to get a real understanding of how people function at the level you’re targeting in their respective companies.
While ascertaining success factors, also try to gauge what the company considers deal-breakers in assessing a candidate’s culture fit.
3. Prepare an Impressive Introduction
Almost every interviewer will ask you to introduce yourself, usually with the question “Tell me about yourself” or its variants: “Explain your background,” “How did you get to your current position,” etc.
At senior levels, it can be challenging to answer this question in a succinct yet impactful way. To successfully answer this question and create a good impression, prepare a response that is:
- Relevant: Highlight aspects of your profile that closely match the job description for the prospective role.
- Specific: Talk about key roles and responsibilities, not job titles.
- High-level: Don’t go into details; summarize your background and overall years of experience.
- Impactful: Highlight achievements and how you created value for your team, business, or company.
- Short: Keep your answer under 2 minutes.
Close your answer with your reasons for applying for the role and why you would be a good fit. Read How to Pitch Yourself as a Must-Hire at a FAANG Interview for more tips.
4. Practice the STAR Approach
Once you know what is expected of you, the next step is understanding how to structure the answers to behavioral questions. You should use the STAR approach, which stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result.
It helps keep your responses succinct yet informative and clear:
- Situation: Describe the context in which you had to utilize the skill in question.
- Task: Describe your responsibilities or goals to remedy or enhance the situation.
- Action: Describe specific activities you performed to achieve the goal.
- Result: Describe the outcome and its impact; explain learnings and achievements.
Besides assessing your existing skills, interviewers will also assess your ability to think on your feet. There’s no way to predict what questions an interviewer will ask. The STAR approach is useful when you don’t have actual experiences to draw from. Describe the situation as you think it might play out, then identify the tasks and actions needed to obtain the desired results.
When utilizing the STAR approach, focus on positive results, achievements, and impact. In case of negative outcomes, identify reasons for the same and explain your learnings or areas of improvement.
5. Write Down Answers to Commonly Asked Behavioral Questions
Unlike coding and system design interviews, you won’t have to write or draw solutions and answers. However, writing responses is a good way to organize and structure your thoughts.
The STAR method cannot be used for all types of behavioral questions; identifying relevant events and explaining them on the spot is hard to do. Noting down key points to be covered can keep answers relevant and prevent you from rambling.
In the next section, we’ll be covering some behavioral interview questions and how to answer them; use these to practice answers and prepare yourself for the interview.
Some Common Behavioral Interview Questions and How to Prepare Answers for Them
As you get ready to face interviews at FAANG, keep these five questions in mind when you prepare for the behavioral interview. We’ll be discussing these five so that you can gear up to face similar behavioral interview questions and prepare your strategy accordingly.
Remember, the idea is not to memorize answers to these questions — that will not get you very far. Prepare answers for and practice these questions to get comfortable with the question and the answer format at behavioral interviews. FAANG companies are quick to detect and reject “template” answers.
Now, let’s look at some sample behavioral interview questions and how to prepare answers for them:
Q1. What was the most difficult team project you have worked on to date?
If you’re applying for a job at FAANG, you already know that working with a team might be a part of the job. To test how well you work with others, these sorts of questions are asked in a behavioral interview.
Here, the interviewer wants to understand how well you collaborate with others and whether you’ll handle any problems that may arise when doing so. Here’s how you can prepare an answer for this behavioral interview question:
- You’ll need to set the scene first and describe the project in question.
- Take the recruiters through the challenges that came up during the course of the project with your teammates.
- Never complain about your teammates.
- As your final step, explain how you resolved those issues amicably.
Q2. Have you ever had any conflicts with any of your co-workers? If yes, how did you resolve it?
It is understood that when you’re working with other people, there will be some conflicts as everyone is entitled to their own opinion. This becomes even more common when you’re working together every day in such close quarters.
When preparing an answer for this behavioral interview question, some things you’ll need to keep in mind are:
- Recruiters are less interested in the conflict but more in how you resolve them and sort your differences with others.
- Walk them through your thought process so that they can understand how good your problem-solving skills are.
Q3. Which one do you prefer — working alone or with others?
As they’re on the hiring team and already a part of the company you want to get into, they know their work culture. Questions like these are asked to gauge how good a cultural fit you’ll be. They know what it takes to survive and thrive in their working environment.
Here’s how you can prepare yourself to answer this behavioral interview question:
- When asked such questions, where you need to choose one over the others, don’t get nervous. Take a moment to compose yourself.
- Try to answer the question in a manner that will balance both options.
- Even if you prefer one over the other, such questions are aimed at determining how you adapt to situations you don’t like.
Q4. Tell us about a time when you were in a leadership role. What was it about, and what were the results?
This question is relevant for those applying for senior-level positions. As is made clear from the question, it is included in behavioral interviews to understand how you will do in a leadership role and if you have what it takes to be in one.
As you prepare to answer this behavioral interview question, remember that:
- Your leadership skills are tested with such questions, so you must approach the answer with the necessary mindset.
- One pro tip here is tying your answer to the job description. They are probably looking for particular skills, and you can emphasize those through your answers.
- As a leader, you’ll be expected to keep what’s best for your team your top priority. So answer accordingly.
Q5. What’s the most challenging problem you’ve had to deal with at work? How did you manage it?
Problem-solving skills are important for any job, especially if you want to get into FAANG. Since they already get endless applications every year, you’ll need to have the best problem-solving skills to get in.
A hiring manager needs to know how good your problem-solving skills are, and your past experiences will help them understand this so much better. It will determine whether you are capable of solving issues on your own.
When preparing for such behavioral interview questions:
- Remember that this question is aimed at finding out your decision-making process.
- So the answer or story that you tell should clearly depict how capable you are of making executive decisions when you need to.
Here are a few more behavioral interview questions you can prepare and practice for your next interview:
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why do you want to work for this company?
- Have you taken any risks when working on a project?
- Which leadership principles of the company inspire you?
- Which core value of this company resonates with you the most?
Check out Behavioral Interview Questions for Software Developers for more sample questions for your preparation.
Preparing for a Behavioral Interview — What You Must Do During the Interview
When preparing and practicing for your behavioral round, keep these tips in mind for when you are actually at the job interview:
- Answering behavioral interview questions individually might seem like a walk in the park; however, it's normal to feel a little overwhelmed when interviewers ask them one after the other. Ensure that you keep calm and stick to your story.
- Every question is meant to determine a certain skill. So while you should answer every question in-depth, there is a limit to exaggeration, so be cautious of it.
- You need to bring energy and enthusiasm to that interview room (or Zoom call). Wear a smile and relay to the interviewers how excited you are to work for their company.
- Before you can convince the interviewers that you’re the perfect candidate for the role, you need to believe it. To exude confidence, you need to prepare for the behavioral interview as thoroughly as possible.
We hope this guide has helped you understand how to prepare for a behavioral interview. Use the methods, questions, and tips covered to come up with the best interview prep strategy.
All the best!
FAQs on How to Prepare for a Behavioral Interview
These are some of the most commonly asked questions on behavioral interview preparation strategy.
Q1. What should you not say in a behavioral interview?
Stuff like “it’s on my resume,” badmouthing your previous company, or even saying that “I’m feeling really nervous” might not go down well with your interviews. Try to remain calm and collected, and prepare as much as you can before you go in.
Q2. Do software engineers need to prepare for a behavioral interview?
The notion that behavioral interviews are easy couldn’t be more wrong. These questions are a pretty important part of the hiring process because they determine whether you’re a cultural fit for the company, and you need to take them seriously. So prepare accordingly.
Q3. How long does it take to prepare for a behavioral interview?
Preparing for behavioral interviews isn’t as time-consuming and hard as technical interviews. Just practice for 3-4 days, 1-2 hours each day, and you’ll be good to go. It’s also a good idea to participate in mock interviews to really understand the interview environment and get comfortable with it.
Q4. What are the most important behavioral interview questions?
Some of the top behavioral interview questions are: How do you handle a challenge? How do you deal with stress at work? Tell me about yourself. How do you set goals for your future?
Q5. How does a behavioral interview typically begin?
Behavioral interviews are usually conducted after the technical interviews. When you hear statements such as “Tell me about yourself” and “Give me an example of a time…”, you can consider that the beginning of the behavioral interview.
Join Us for the Best Behavioral Interview Preparation Strategy!
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