How to not suck at behavioral interviews

Here's something we don't talk about: the best storyteller always gets the job in the end.

With technical roles, there comes an assumption that if you LeetCode yourself to death, you will be the job hunt victor. But let's be real- interviews are competitions where everyone else is as technically savvy as you (duh, that's why they're competing for the job against you) - so what's your differentiator? In most cases, you win the job based on the behavioral/ leadership interview, typically the final round after half a dozen technical screens.

Learning how to come across well in interviews can be hard, especially if you're an introvert (like me) that likes to be left alone to tinker on their projects. But hey- if it makes you feel better, even 10x engineers go through this and most of them have survived.

At Candor, we can pair you with a senior tech pro in your career track but you can also do some legwork on your own to level up your skills. This post will give you basic guidance on how to think about behavioral interviews and put your best foot forward.

Things you'll need before we start:

👯‍♀️Find some peers in the same career track to practice with

🤔Ask a friend who knows nothing about your job to help

📌Start a Google Doc with interview questions you expect to get

📸Record yourself as you go

OK, here's how this is going to work- I will start you off with some very basic interview questions that come up all the time. I'd like you to put these in a your Google Doc and have 4-5 bullet points of talking points on each + type out a narrative.

Here's 10 questions you will likely get asked:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What is the biggest accomplishment in your career so far?
  • Describe a time when you had conflict with a peer. How did you handle it?
  • Give me an example of a time you got negative feedback.
  • Why do you want to work for our company?
  • Why did you decide to leave your last job?
  • What kind of teams do you like to work with?
  • Tell me about a time you took initiative on a project.
  • Give me an example of how you communicate with XFN partners.
  • How do you handle projects that are ambiguous or lack direction?

Next, ask your peers to give you candid feedback:

Share your Google Doc with your peers and ask them to give you honest feedback on what works and what doesn't. If you're up to it, we also recommend recording yourself answering each question and embedding the link in the document. Youtube videos work great for this, just make sure they are unlisted.

After one round of feedback from everyone, choose which changes to implement - to be clear, not all feedback is good feedback. Take stock of how people feel but don't let it override your intuition.

OK, here comes the really uncomfortable part

Now, let's call your friend who has no idea about what you do. Give her the questions to ask ahead of time. We very very strongly recommend recording the call so you can listen to it again later.

I know this feels a bit counter- intuitive so hear us out: a behavioral interview tests your ability to communicate clearly with stakeholders of various functions without leaning on technical jargon. So in essence, if you can't answer these questions simply, in a way your grandma or mom gets - you will likely fail the interview.

In this call, please pay extra attention to the clarifying questions your friend is asking you- these are the areas you are likely not articulating clearly that you need to work on.

Lastly, record yourself on video

This last practice pass is aimed at helping you identify a few things:

  • Do you ramble?
  • Do you have filler words like "like" or "ummm"?
  • How do you carry yourself - are you an animated speaker

Watching a recording of yourself will help immensely in identifying, building awareness and ultimately eliminating bad behaviors that make you seem less senior and unpolished.

If you're working with a Candor mentor, you will work on these skills intensely and interview with senior professionals in your field who have been part of a hiring committee and have experience working with candidates just like you. Reach out if you need help!

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