Here is a summary of Jackson’s video about Behavioral Interviews.
Behavioral interviews are a type of job interview in which the interviewer asks the candidate to describe their past behavior in specific situations. The goal of this type of interview is to assess the candidate’s skills, experience, and personality, and to determine whether they are a good fit for the company and the position they are applying for. Unlike traditional interviews, which focus on hypothetical situations or general questions, behavioral interviews are more focused on real-life examples and specific situations.
One of the main reasons why behavioral interviews are important is that they provide employers with a more accurate and objective way of assessing candidates. By asking candidates to describe their past behavior in specific situations, employers can get a better sense of their skills, experience, and personality, and can determine whether they are a good fit for the company and the position they are applying for. In addition, behavioral interviews can help employers to identify candidates who have the specific skills and experience they are looking for, and to avoid candidates who may not be a good fit for the company culture or the position requirements.
Preparing for a behavioral interview can be challenging, but it is essential for job seekers who want to succeed in today’s competitive job market. Mocki’s introduction to behavioral interviews provides job seekers with a number of useful tips and strategies for preparing for this type of interview. Some of the key tips include:
1. Research the company and the position: Before the interview, job seekers should do their research on the company and the position they are applying for. This can help them to understand the company culture, values, and goals, and to tailor their answers to the specific needs and requirements of the position.
2. Practice answering behavioral interview questions: Job seekers should practice answering common behavioral interview questions, such as “Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult coworker,” or “Describe a situation where you had to make a difficult decision.” By practicing their answers, job seekers can become more comfortable with the format of the interview and can be better prepared to answer questions effectively.
3. Prepare specific examples: Job seekers should prepare specific examples of their past behavior in different situations. These examples should be relevant to the position they are applying for and should demonstrate their skills and experience.
4. Be honest and authentic: Job seekers should be honest and authentic in their answers, and should avoid exaggerating or embellishing their past experiences. Employers can usually tell when a candidate is not being truthful, and dishonesty can be a major red flag in the hiring process.
In conclusion, Mocki’s introduction to behavioral interviews provides job seekers with a valuable resource for preparing for this increasingly popular type of job interview. By understanding what behavioral interviews are, why they are important, and how to prepare for them, job seekers can increase their chances of success in the job market and find the right job for their skills and experience.
“Welcome back everybody! This is episode n plus-1 of The Unqualified Engineer (that’s me). Today, we’re going to talk about behavioral interviews. Don’t everyone freak out! I know what you’re thinking, ‘But I’m a coder! I code! I don’t do people things. How am I supposed to make it through a people things interview? What’s the how? Do you make? I don’t even understand what to do here. How do I prepare for this?’ And the answer is, happily, I can tell you this is an interview that you cannot prepare for. You just can’t. I’m sorry. On the outside, what you can do is go in with correctly set expectations, and you can go into it knowing how to present yourself in the best possible way. You cannot prepare yourself for what sort of company you’re going to be talking to, whether or not the culture of the company and your sort of personal philosophies align. Can’t help you there. What I can help you with is knowing what the signals are that any competent interviewer should be looking for and help you know how to give those signals without interfering with the interview process itself. That’s about it. I don’t think you can do much better than that for an interview like this unless you want to go super dark. That is to say, unless you want to try to reverse engineer the questions and give them the perfect answer that you know that they need to rate you highly. And we will talk extensively in this episode about why that’s a terrible idea. So brace yourself. Let’s talk about the high-level goals of a behavioral interview.”
I once worked with a director who said the single strongest and most important and potentially most deal breaking signal to get and for the signal to be clearly one way or the other is genuineness to put it more strongly the same director said if you sense dishonesty that is the worst possible signal genuineness is a critical component of these interviews you have got to show the person genuinely who you are what you value what you’re into what you get excited about those things have to be authentic and you might think oh well yeah but like I could probably guess what the company cares about and I could probably you know tweak what I say to make sure it matches what they’re what they’re up to and I can tell you exactly why this is a bad idea because the good case here the successful case here is that you get hired and you know getting hired is not unlike getting into a long-term relationship and if you start a long-term relationship on a foundation of feeding the person to get them to love you eventually they’re going to find out who you are and that’s going to be painful as hell if you were dishonest in the first place so just don’t don’t even be tempted by it do not absolve yourself purge yourself of any inclination to bend what you’re saying to what the company wants to hear let it go okay anyway what else is the goal of a behavior interview from the company side one of the most critical components of a behavior interview is maintenance of company culture in fact these interviews sometimes are called culture interviews in America at least that’s a difficult thing to pull off because if someone fails your culture interview and you don’t hire them they could probably sue you for some sort of horrible discrimination even if what you mean is company culture not you know did you wear the right clothes to represent the right religion or socio-economic background whatever it’s not about that I mean it might be about that it’s not supposed to be about that anyway company culture they’re trying to find people who are aligned with the company’s vision who the company is trying to be in the world what the values of the company are what sort of working style they they’re going for is this a company that totally prides itself on interactions between people is it all about like peer programming code reviews or is it like the sort of you know top coder sit in the bedroom by yourself and like do amazing algorithmic work type of company there there’s every company in between and whatever kind of company you’re applying at they’re going to be looking to see if you can work in that culture if you can survive and be happy and thrive in that culture another aspect of these interviews is communication in technical interviews it can be very easy to just focus only on the technical stuff spend most of your time silently coding and not really give great signal about your technical communication abilities your interpersonal communication abilities a behavioral interview is all about this exact thing like in fact from the start to the finish it really is about how well you’re communicating your thoughts and ideas and perspective and experience to the person who’s interviewing you just it’s throughout the entire thing another piece of it is collaboration do you play well with others will you share your toys and it’s amazing like I after years and years of interviewing I am still amazed sometimes by how collaboration blind people can be how unable to see how poor at collaboration they are and so this interview is wonderful for that this is the sort of interview where someone who is going to come in and be toxic and take from the company and steal all the good projects and elbow people out of the way this interview should be screening that person out of the process there should be no no no to that person on the other hand if you’re the kind of person who wants to foster the people around you who wants to help raise the team up with you and make your success the team success and vice versa this interview should be making you more likely to get hired probably like the last and also maybe more more difficult to suss out component of this interview is your amount of passion how much do you care about what you do how much do you care about the team you work on and the project you work on and what that stuff means in the world how much do you care about shipping something how much do you care about actually doing work or do you care mostly about achievement you care mostly about what level you are what what promotion you got last cycle what your what your salary is you know like are those your values and passion and achievement don’t have that much to do with each other really in fact achievement can often be the enemy of passion and we’ll talk about that more towards the end of this one interesting thing about these interviews is that they in a lot of ways are kind of an unknown list over a yes list which is to say it’s very easy to see things in this interview that are clear knows for instance for me one thing that has always been a clear no is when someone takes something from their own career some misstep they’ve made and blames it on the circumstances that they were in so when I come across a candidate who exhibits those features I just know okay like we’re done here this there is no way no matter what else happens in this interview that I would hire this person now that said I have seen people make it through interviews who have outrageous strengths that completely outweigh whatever their negative sides are and in fact this often is the hallmark of a very senior person the more senior someone gets the more they’re typically valuable for their outrageous strengths whatever that is then for their handful of interpersonal flaws so it’s a balance on the one hand your strengths will come through and will be in your favor on the other hand there are some things that woods blacklist you some things you might exhibit and if you do it’s not because the interview is a jerk or the interviewer is a jerk or the company is a jerk it’s probably because you suck in some way that’s hard to hear like it should be nobody wants to hear that they suck but failing a behavior interview it indicates either the interviewer sucked or that you suck and a sucky interview sucks happens but I think it’s also really really worth thinking about the questions you could ask then the things you felt comfortable or uncomfortable answering because none of these questions are inherently biased none of these questions are inherently trying to get you it really is where you taken and we’ll even talk about that in a minute in more detail you might say that architecture interviews are a way for the team to find people who are going to help shape the architectural future of the company behavioral interviews really are about finding the people who will help shape the interpersonal the sort of company cultural direction of the company over time and that’s really important this is a chance for you to show what you would bring to a team what a team means to you who you want to be for a team and I can’t come back to this enough there’s one point that I hope you take away from this more than anything else the top most point of a behavioral interview that this sort of gigantic summation of your parts leads to and that is answering the question is this person a net positive contributor that’s what every company is trying to understand are you going to come in and do awesome things it’s not about finding the perfect drinking buddy they’re asking you personal questions they might be making you somewhat uncomfortable but really their fundamental goal was like would this person come in and do good work here okay let’s talk about the process of these interviews a behavioral interview is actually quite a lot like the other interviews in structure in the sense that you will be in a room probably and that a person who is maybe the manager of the team you are going to join or thinking about joining maybe a higher level person in the team like a senior manager or director depending on the size of the company typically the person is going to interview is going to be somebody who is well calibrated on building teams in fact that’s the person that you want what you don’t want is the brand new person who doesn’t really understand the company culture and who doesn’t really understand how to how to evaluate people on these dimensions that’s the person who is most likely to give you an incorrect result either positive or negative if it seems like a fairly senior person whether they’re an individual contributor or a manager that’s good that means that you’re interviewing at a company that understands the value of these interviews many tech companies will break this interview into at least a couple of parts one part personal the other part technical I’ve always found this a bit strange because it just never has made sense to jam in a small amount of code in an interview that’s really about you and your background as a person but the reason tech companies do it is because they want to make sure they get the maximum amount of signal about your technical ability that they can so they do the phone screen they do a couple of technical interviews and they’ll even put some in the behavioral interview just to get the fullest possible picture of you with the two parts one part like we said will be technical the other part will be personal and this part is really the part that is the heart of the behavioral interview it’s all about you your experience the team’s you’ve worked on projects you’ve completed hard problems you’ve faced the thing to remember is there’s no right answers here all of these questions are going to be open-ended questions like talk about something you worked on talk about a team that you worked on talk about a time you did something you didn’t think you could do explain a time where you tried to do something and failed explain a time where you and the people around you disagreed about something and how you resolve the disagreement questions like this there’s no right answer there’s no here is the correct thing that I did that made the situation amazing like it’s never like that it’s really more about the person who’s asking the questions getting a holistic genuine coherent sense of who you are as a sidebar I’d like to talk about reverse engineering these questions if you’re very smart and perhaps somewhat calculating you might think oh I know one of our question they give me I will instantly parse the question make sense of what the answer is that they’re looking for and I will tune my presentation of the answer to that expectation my strong strong strong strong strong strong strong advice is don’t do this why simple answer you will probably end up looking like a dumbass I okay here’s why the person is asking you this question they have probably asked it of dozens of people at least they know all of the nuances of all of the possible answers they’ve seen so far they know what a real answer looks like and a fake answer looks like satisfactory looks like they know what an answer that’s not good enough looks like there’s a study the while ago about people who commit financial fraud and how the numbers they sort of put into their log books that are just made-up numbers to them they look random but they actually don’t fit the natural pattern of randomness and the numbers of humanity and it’s really glaring to somebody who knows what they’re looking for bullshitting these interview questions is just like that you might think oh yes I know exactly the answer you’re looking for in that I’m just going to give it to you and the reality is like you probably look really really stupid in doing this enough I mean no for instance this classic example is like some might ask you a question like talk me through one of your flaws talk me through something that’s held you back and you might think oh I know this this is a trap as soon as I tell you what I suck at you’re going to tell me you’re not going to hire me so what I’m going to do is I’m going to take a strength and I’m going to wrap it in flour wrapping paper and hand it to you and the answers to this sometimes go something like this oh you know my biggest flaw is um you know I’m just so hard-working I just like it just works so hard that like sometimes I lose track of everything around me and you might think crushed it this person thinks I’m a super hard worker when they were looking for something to criticize me about boom the reason you’re going to look like a dumbass because of this is any good interviewer is going to hit you back on the next beat and say okay so you work too hard can you give me a concrete example of where you working too hard has hurt you in some way or taking away from the team in some way like specifically what makes this a flaw and if you’re that person who was like oh I got this your response to that second question is probably like oh how do I answer this question because how did my amazing strength somehow hurt the team you can’t usually answer that in a way that doesn’t sound worse than the first piece of and if you start building up a big pile of bricks you build a brick before they the interview and you don’t get hired anyway I can give you another example from my own personal experience about this I once asked the person to tell me about their biggest success the thing that they did the best at their previous job and they explained a project they worked on and it was good so I asked the person ok what didn’t go well about this project which I think is a pretty good questions pretty balanced it gives them a chance to talk about the good things and the bad things be self-critical and I’m pretty sure the person that I was interviewing thought that this was like a chance for me to catch them out I think I think that this person was trying to run from the personal accountability that I was sort of forcing on her and she she then basically proceeded to throw her teammates under the bus for aspects of the problem that weren’t her doing basically saying like oh we would have been even more successful if these other teams hadn’t held us back you can easily see how this is actually worse than being self-critical you think maybe you’re dodging a bullet by not saying something bad about yourself but if you take it as an opportunity to sure to trash-talk your previous team you look even worse you look even worse than if you had said I personally screwed up in specifically this way that cost us two people weeks and the interesting thing is the thing that you probably should keep in your head and heart if it’s not already there is that saying things that you have failed at to any reasonable company is not going to cost you the interview I mean ok it could if you say I maliciously did a bad thing to this company because I wanted to hurt them and that’s what I did then maybe that would cost you the interview but but if you say I was on this team I did these things and I made this mistake in my decision-making maybe you said we should hire a person who ended up being a bad fit or you made a technical decision that seemed right at first and then later on proved to be way more complex than what the alternative was like maybe that’s what happened for me as an interviewer seeing that someone can face up to their previous shortcomings seeing that someone can think critically even if the project went well and explain something that could have gone better some way in which they themselves have learned from the experience that’s not like that’s not a flaw the interview that is a requisite if I don’t see that if someone just like no I’m pretty I’m pretty good I’m pretty pretty much everything’s been great that tells me either a they’re not being self-critical or or be there they’re bullshitting and either one of those is not good premise oh hey I can reverse engines false premise don’t do it another anti pattern of sort of correct answer giving that I’ve seen is to take massive credit for something and I understand the temptation so much like if you’re if you’re feeling insecure about working at the company that you’re interviewing at if you feel like your accomplishments aren’t enough I absolutely understand the temptation to say oh yeah I did this other really huge thing just because you think I got to give them something good and fundamentally what I’m offering isn’t good enough but if you on this one it will it will spectacularly backfire so for instance of this might be something like maybe the interviewer asks you hey talk me through a project you worked on something that you directly like had your hands in coated on and helped deliver if you immediately think of the biggest thing you possibly worked on and sort of implicitly take full credit for it you’re going to look like a chump it like immediately because the follow-up question to you saying oh I shift this big crazy thing the follow-up question is going to be oh cool huh so I know something about systems like that here is a detail that’s pretty deep down in a system like that that I would expect to have to be there can you explain to me how this fit into your system because your interviewers are smart they are technical people they’re often very senior technical people who have shipped lots and lots of things if you take massive credit for something when they ask you a sort of checksum question about that experience if your answer isn’t right they’re down in the weeds of it they’re going to know that you were bullshitting they’re going to know that you were probably at best not as directly involved as you would like to think that you were and at worst actively taking credit for other people’s work and both of those things are so much worse than just saying the specific stuff you did work on that you know I work on this system and most of my work there was fixing really hard to find bugs that might sound like a junior answer you might think I just worked on bugs I didn’t ship anything cool you might be surprised to learn that at a company like Facebook for instance there is an entire class of engineer sometimes referred to as the fixer archetype engineer whose sole responsibility in life pretty much is finding crazy deep down in the low-level bugs and some of these bugs that have been found by these engineers have saved the company literally millions of dollars so I know very very senior engineers who are fixer types they just sort of crawl through the deep bowels of the system and find crazy things and fix them so like if you haven’t shipped crazy features or whatever it is that you feel insecure about it is unwise to discount yourself and it’s even worse way way less wise to discount yourself and offer something that’s bigger than you sort of you know immorally instead so avoid that it might sound right now like I’m just giving you a list of don’ts and in some ways I am giving you a list of don’ts and the reason I’m doing this is because I I see a lot of anti patterns I see a lot of common behaviors in these interviews that really hurt people who could otherwise be good and it sucks it really sucks to see this go down and you might be wanting me instead to be telling you here are the things you should say here are the right things to say here are the smart things to say the reason I can’t is because I don’t know what you have done this is a personal interview it’s a behavioral interview about you the behavior of you so the right answers here are be genuine be authentic say what you think and feel that’s the right answer we’ll talk a little bit more about that at the end I want to talk specifically about the signals that the interviewer is trying to get so you’re sitting across from someone and they’re asking you questions these are not random questions they are in fact a set of questions specifically designed to a very very crisp set of signal about you it’s actually the skill of the interviewer to make it feel just like a conversation and not like an interrogation if someone said to you hmm are you a good collaborator it is the very very rare brutally self-critical person will say hmm no I’m not a good collaborator if they’re not a good collaborator if someone said to you are you a net positive contributor you would have to be kind of crazy to say no I don’t I don’t think I really am I think I’m kind of a net negative contributor right like people people just don’t work that way so instead of that the interviewers are going to ask you indirect questions questions that are hard to understand the sort of the tendrils of what they what they are really looking for so it’s going to feel like an open-ended conversation bear in mind that they have specific goals and that they are trying to proceed through these questions in a way that they get the complete signal they need so don’t waffle on and on about random stuff you are not there to talk about the football match that was on the day before or what amazing movies you saw or the TV series that you both love like stay on track so anyway let’s talk about the things that the interviewer is going to be looking for a competent interviewer of this sort first and foremost is going to be looking to check some your own personal history they’re going to look at the first job that you had in your CV they’re going to look at the most recent they’re going to look at everything in between and try to understand what the progression of you is in this story so for instance if I were to pull Overton pull open someone’s resume or CV and see that they have been the same level engineer for six years at the same company I would I would I would wonder I would think who is this person growing is this person topped out or if I open up their CV and I see that they were a director of something from the first job they’ve had all the way until the president think well what happened before director like who nobody is born a director of something did you start your own company is that what this was whatever the signals there are there I’m going to do my best the interviewer – look at them form my own mental model of how they would have to connect together to be true and I’m going to walk into that interview trying to confirm those things the thing for you to remember as the interviewee is that your entire work history is all on deck you could be asked a question about literally anything that you put in your CV or even that’s online about you if someone goes to your LinkedIn page or looks at your open source contributions or whatever you should be ready to answer questions about any of that and that’s not because they’re going to like try to trip you up and find something sneaky in your past that you’re not ready to answer it’s because they’re trying to make sense of your personal story and it might be that the thing they need to ask you about is this open source project that you contributed to six years ago it might be that so know what you’ve worked on go in ready like know your own presentation of yourself to the companies that you’re talking to if I interview a candidate and say hey I see that you did a lot of mentorship before and they go what do you mean and I say oh you know five years ago when you worked with the widget Factory like one of your key responsibilities was mentoring and the person goes oh yeah I guess I did to me I’m thinking what like if you can’t even remember doing it and it’s in your CV like are you just feeding me like did you actually do any mentoring or is it just so long ago that you forgot like what’s that about so avoid this problem for one make sure your CV contains factual things that you actually did and to know what you have told the people who are sitting across from you they’re going to be asking you stuff that’s way deep part of this history check sum process is also to really get a clear sense of the specific contributions that you made when I talk to somebody for a behavioral interview one of the things that I want to hear them talk about is a technical something a deep in the weeds technical something that they directly themselves worked on and lead I want to hear about the project that they tech led or the feature that they helped get released I want to hear about the algorithm that they had to put together to solve some nitty-gritty specific thing I want to see them with the wheels spinning the gears turning I want to see their brain grinding trying to think through something they’ve worked on and how to communicate that to me effectively it tells me two things one would be how good of a technical communicator they are if you’re explaining to me in three minutes the deep deep dirty algorithmic complexity of something you’ve worked on and if I can understand it then that means that there’s a high bandwidth conversation here it also tells me that they definitely did this work like don’t forget the person you’re talking to has probably no way to know that anything that you’ve said is true they want to assume that it’s true and this interview is a way for them to get clear signal that it all makes sense on the other hand if someone says I coded the deep dark algorithm of the you know convex hull widget thing in my last company and if I ask you hey you know how do I through that like what were some of the challenges like what was the what was the architecture you were building this algorithm on and if the answer is fuzzy if the answer contains a lot of things like we did this and my team did that I’m going to be thinking okay hmm this doesn’t add up I don’t think this person actually was as technical as they are telling me that they are if on the other hand there was a goes oh man the crazy thing was you know when you traverse all these vertices we really thought that we would be able to take advantage of level 2 cache but what we kept finding was that there were too many vertices so we’re bumping up to level 3 and so all of our assumptions about the time we were wrong and I had to get in there and figure out a way to keep a shorter list of the vertices that we cared about that’s going to tell me okay this person was in there solving the problem knows the details of it like this is good one caution about this and I just mentioned it already but we we is a dangerous word in these interviews it can be very uncomfortable especially for humble people and especially for women to say I did this I delivered these things it was me it was I I have a half of ha ha ha ha ha ha ha it’s so much nicer it feels so much more like humble to say my team and I did this thing and realistically most of the time it is you and your team it is the set of these people building something it is great to say me and the team we did this thing my team and I shift this feature don’t stay there only though you have got to get to I specifically did this the sooner you can get there the better and don’t be afraid of that like don’t be afraid to say no no I did these things it’s it’s so unnatural for so many people and I totally get that nobody wants to be the person who walks in and takes credit for everybody else’s work actually I’ve seen people who do but very few people who actually good want to take credit for other people’s work most people want to give credit where it’s due that’s great but you also have to remember this is you trying to get the job you’re not getting your team the job so talk about your own work directly don’t be afraid to dive right into the specific technical work that you did it’s a requirement for this interview the notion of trying to check some of your work history isn’t just about making sure you’re not lying about your work it can also reveal amazingly interesting and important details about you as a person just by looking at the work you’ve done in the way you describe it I can tell you a story of this for my own interviewing experiences where I once interviewed a person who looking over his CV I saw that at a previous company he was a manager of 20 people and spent 90% of his time coding and of course this isn’t like bolded and highlighted and wrapped in marquee tags it just when you read a CV and you see something like that if you’ve been doing a lot of interviewing you know okay this doesn’t make sense like this is not a real thing that you can be you can’t be someone who has 20 reports and spend 90% of your time coding and I was trying to give the benefit of the doubt I thought okay this is a CV edit like he was a 90 percent timecode or became a manager and had 20 reports and just munched it together that’s what this means I hope so I go into the interview and I’m chatting with the person and I say hey you know your CV you list that you have 20 reports right now he’s like yeah a lot of reports I was like oh yeah cool and it also says you spend quite a lot of your time coding he’s like yeah you know I try to keep about 90% of my time for coding and so we talked through it a bit and sure enough this guy just thought of himself as a 90% of this time coder with 20 reports no problem there even though for me as an interviewer and as someone who has had managers with too many reports or who has had managers who didn’t put spend any other time on coding like knowing the spectrum of what that feels like as a report I know that 20 reports and 90% time coding is completely impossible unless you are a shitty manager if you just don’t spend any time thinking about the career trajectories and critical feedback and unblocking the way of the people who are working for you that you know then yeah totally you can do 20 reports but if you spend even an hour per report per week one hour per week that’s going to be half of your time so this gave me the signal like okay this guy is really really unrealistic about what it means to support people and that tells me even if he’s a great engineer that this blind spot is a big concern we should make sure to be cautious about this and it’s just interesting because that tumbled out of talking about his past I talk that that tumbled out of talking about his his CV and the stuff you’d worked on behavioral interviews can also play a direct part in determining what kind of offer you get what money what equity what-have-you from the company that you’re trying to join and that’s because behavioral interviews are an excellent place to get signal about your trajectory you know are you four years into your career and topping out are you four years into your career and just chomping at the bit for the next big challenge maybe you’re two years into your career but you are ion pulse thrust during on to the next dimension of your your sort of existence whatever position in the arc of your career trajectory you’re in this interview is the chance for the company to get that signal and to factor that into what money to offer you you know if you’re the person who has been leading teams of people and can do really really high-level work that is signal it will readily come out of this interview with confidence and check sums and things that help the person understand just exactly how you behave in those teams and so whenever they go and say hey how much should we try to pay this person they have that exact signal to make that decision based on or if you’re brand new from University and super green but super hungry you know that’s like another very very clear piece of signal they can use to determine what money to offer you a very big component of behavioral interviews is assessing your communication ability and it might sound kind of like I don’t know not that important really to think how well can this person communicate but it actually matters a ton and it matters more over time especially in a growing company if you’re trying to join an a-list company they’re probably on a trajectory they’re probably hiring aggressively they’re building teams rapidly your ability to share the knowledge you acquire with new people is huge your ability to give the people above you clear signal about what work you’re doing what progress you’re making what issues you’re facing that’s huge it turns out that actually your ability to communicate matters a ton across a bunch of dimensions of your career even if you just want to be a head down coder and I don’t just mean communication isn’t like can you write good emails or do you speak English well enough to communicate effectively with the people around you like that’s like entry level communication stuff the level of communication I’m talking about is things like can you effectively communicate your frustration can you identify and communicate with the frustration and other people can you work across multiple teams across multiple levels of understanding of different people and give people the correct things they need to understand to know what you’re up to and like in my own career this is mattered massively like my ability to communicate with people who are in sales and in policy and illegal and product management and product design matters a ton and the way you communicate with each of those people was pretty different to how you might communicate with other engineers one thing that becomes a big expectation of you once you reach a certain level of your career growth is you have to give critical feedback to the people around you to help them improve just a fact of life like if you’re able to see other people not doing as well as they could at some point it becomes your job to give them that feedback and if you can’t communicate effectively when someone’s not doing what they ought to do that’s a problem this interview should flag that if that’s who you are and have a sort of interesting anecdote about this for my my career I once interviewed a super like crazy talented very young guy he was it was a leading a project and you know super young for it surprisingly big project for a surprisingly young person and I was talking about communication skills no saying like you know tell me about things that haven’t gone well maybe and he said you know sometimes people just get frustrated with me because I’m too honest with them and I was like too honest hmm this is worth exploring I was like what do you mean by too honest and the candidate explained you know like they just do things wrong and how am I supposed to like I just have to tell them that it’s wrong and I was thinking yeah that’s true you do have to tell them what’s wrong when it’s wrong he’s like yeah but you know people just get upset when I ride just tell them when their stuff is wrong and then he since I think I’m amazing he said I I’ve tried to get better about that though so I try to put like more emojis in my emails oh man I still laugh about that today Oh such a sweet such a sweet and naive thing like this brilliant young coder was frustrated by people who were not as good as him who were blocking him who are making decisions that he disagreed with for completely solid technical reasons but he lacked the communication ability the personal empathy to like understand where they were coming from to understand that they weren’t on his level and the best he could come up with was I’m just going to like give them more emojis because that makes it friendlier from my from my abstract understanding of friendliness you know we ended up hiring the guy but it was it was an amazing anecdote that it completely exhibits the kind of communication signal you can get from an interview like this and for a very young super talented person that is a completely acceptable answer that shows how much room to grow this person has on the other hand if I had been interviewing that person after 5 or 6 years of their career and they said something like that probably even after 3 or 4 years of their career if they cannot understand other people being frustrated with them and they only know how to soften the problem with like token happy things that tells me that this person is difficult to deal with and that they are not growing in that direction and they desperately need to and that would give me pause I would think I don’t know if we should hire that person based on exactly that character of their personality okay so we’re getting down to the last couple of major points here we talked about history checksumming we’ve talked about communication skills another component of these behavioral interviews is your ability to be collaborative and this does overlap massively with communication a huge part of collaboration is communication the simplest way to frame the signal that the interviewer is trying to get is to say does this person get along well with others which is I don’t know very like developmental psych kind of speak for like is this person alright is it alright to be around this person but in fact it’s a really important piece of signal if you’re the kind of person who can jump into any team and find your footing and be a net positive contributor that indicates that you are a very successful collaborator if on the other hand you’re the kind of person who like needs a very very specific team to make you successful you need the right kind of manager supporting you you need the right kind of technical people around you to take best advantage of your skills that makes you a harder person to hire you know if you’re the kind of person who reads every carelessly worded email as a personal affront and has that sort of narcissistic injury about it like you’re going to be a harder person to hire if you’re the kind of person who can take someone being aggressive toward you verbally and tease apart what they actually mean from the frustration and address the content of what they’re saying rather than the method about it of they’re saying it that means you’re you know probably a good contributor and that’s exactly the sort of thing that can come out of a question like hey talk about a time where you and your team disagreed about something you’d be surprised how many times people will say things like I knew I was right and other people disagreed and I couldn’t make them see it and the reality is yeah totally there are times where one person sees things clearly other people don’t see things as clearly and that’s how it works out and sometimes that means that the wrong decision gets made now the healthy collaborator will say okay fine maybe at some point it will be obvious that I was right this doesn’t matter that much this is not going to ruin everything it’s one decision along the way move on or they’ll say actually guys this is a critical decision that has to be right and I want us to spend more time evaluating it they will sort of take that negotiation forward in a very sort of direct and formal and open way the bad collaborator just takes personal offense – it doesn’t say anything it’s brood it’s just sort of builds hatred towards the team based on this and this is super common I cannot iterate it up how common this is for people to feel that their opinion wasn’t respected and that the people around them are jerks and it sort of plays into the sort of victim mentality that we talked about earlier but good contributors that you know even when things don’t go their way that’ll get fussed about it they you know life goes on like I have my own code to write maybe this isn’t the right decision for now and we’ll deal with the consequences of that later I’ll be magnanimous about it whenever it does go bad that’s the that’s the person that I want my on my team an interesting thing about collaboration is that it’s also very much company specific like what a good collaborator means at company a could be very different to what a good collaborator means that Company B so you know maybe you’re the kind of person who really thinks that good collaboration means writing amazingly high-quality API Docs for the API is that you allow other teams to consume and maybe you’re going to go to a company that does api’s as a service and you are the perfect collaborator for them you’re the person who’s going to make other people’s lives easier and be a super positive contributor on the other hand maybe you’re that same person and you’re trying to join the super young super informal team where all of the critical communication happens like over lunch or at 5:00 p.m. over beers at the pool table in the office like maybe that’s where you’re trying to go and on that team your preference of like coming up with a brilliant API and documenting it super well it’s not going to work you are the wrong person for that company and these things change over time like what a what person a company needs at their third hire is very different from their 30th hire which is way different from their 3000th hire so factor that in like don’t think of collaboration is like an abstract correct or incorrect thing it really depends on the culture of the company that you’re joining and because of that it’s also a thing you can’t easily get right or wrong there are some like emotional maturity emotional poise questions that sort of have pretty clear good answers but that doesn’t necessarily mean like having those specific skills doesn’t mean that you will be a successful collaborator in every single company so two last points one is about passion and the other is just some direct advice that I would like to offer you as you go into behavioral interviews before we get to advice let’s talk about passion passion is really important and I don’t mean that in like the sort of ego driven I am just so motivated by my passions that I will move worlds right like that’s not what I mean I don’t mean that you are the sort of person who acts rationally or egotistically or dangerously because you are so fueled by passion the passion that I’m talking about is long running over weeks and months and years running enthusiasm for stuff and any company that’s doing behavioral interviews well is going to be getting a read of your amount of passion passion is super varied some people are amazingly passionate about transcribing ancient texts texts some people are amazingly passionate about refactoring API is to be the most coherent version of the API they can possibly be it varies there’s no correct passion the only question that’s that’s the only two questions that matter are is their passion their and is this passion applicable at all to the environment that we’re in you know Google not too long ago released some you know interesting facts about their hiring and one of the signals of someone being a potentially awesome Googler was if they had a world record at something now of course you know you have like the world record for like the most bees you’ve ever held in your mouth or whatever that in no way means you will be a brilliant coder but it does mean you must have a hell of a lot of passion to deliver some crazy thing like if you want to be the world record holder at something or if you’re just so into something you become the world record holder that’s really fascinating that really says something about you as a person and while I disagree with some of the things that Google hires based on I think that is spot-on the question then becomes is whatever it is that you’re enthusiastic about transferable and a funny anecdote about this from my own experience is I once interviewed a guy who was pretty mellow pretty chilled out across the interviews and like I just couldn’t really get a read of passion from him and I you know a sort of thing like there’s got to be something he’s got to have some passion somewhere he wouldn’t be here otherwise and we stumbled onto the topic of bird-watching and this dude met up he showed me his application that he’s writing to help people keep track of the birds that they’ve seen he like showed me how he’s like buildings visual gallery of all of the birds that are in their geographic region that he lives in so he can make it easier for people to he was insane like he was so passionate about it the downside was he didn’t seem to be able to transfer that passion at all to the job that he was interviewing for so we ended up not hiring him but the important part is like it can you find the passion and is it clear that the passion could be applicable to the circumstances you’re in and if those things are there it probably means that you’re good so come with your passions like what this means is if you are excited about something bring it to the interview whatever it is you know maybe you are a champion juggler or maybe you are so into the banjo that you like wear overalls and go on banjo tours like whatever your passion is bring it because that is signal that the people interviewing you are going to be looking for and specifically trying to understand if that same spark that’s in you for that is present at all in any of the contexts that would make you successful at the company okay to close out this video I’m going to offer some advice this is direct advice from my own experience interviewing people for the kinds of jobs we’re talking about it’s hard to give good advice for behavioral interviews because so much of it is so personal it’s so much of like who you are as a person what do you care about what are your passions what are your flaws what are your strengths so it’s hard to give you specific do this do this do this advice but these are some things that are at least sort of tangible that you might be able to take away and make a use of to score better in these interviews the strongest piece of advice I can give is be genuine be genuine I’ll say it again the best strongest piece of advice that I can give you is be genuine I mean if you don’t if you are not bought into that thesis by this point in this video and you’ve made it this far in this video I probably can’t convince you of that now but it just matters so much so much more than you could possibly realize because any amount of hurry only takes away from who you actually are and makes it harder for the company to understand if they should hire you and so maybe you think by fudging who you are sparkling up who you are a little bit you will improve your chances when in fact you could actually literally hurt them by being more what you think you ought to be rather than who you actually are so just be yourself advice number two think critically before you get to the interview think critically about your own career your intentions for trying to work for this company and what you want in your career next then critically about it think critically about every company you’ve worked at what went well what went poorly what major lessons you learn to that company what major skills you acquired there how you were different when you left that company versus when you got there this kind of introspective self-awareness matters a ton helps you be more you in the interview also if you can be really genuine with yourself about why you want to be at this company that will show through and even if it is hey look this company pays super well I got kids to feed that’s why I want to work at this company that doesn’t mean you won’t get hired that in fact means like I would say hey this person is being really forthright about why they want to be here we can take that signal into consideration that’s not a answer that tells me this person is genuine in a way that will make them a more valuable team member than somebody who tells me what they think I want to hear if you go into the interview with a perspective about what you want out of your career next it is so much easier to talk about the future it’s so much easier to talk about how you would fit in with this company and maybe the answer is I don’t know what I want next I know that I want to learn a lot and like be exposed to a company like this and figure out what my place in it is if that’s you that’s great be that person but if you do have actual things you want out of your career be honest with yourself about it if you want to make a certain amount of money if you want to have a certain level of success in terms of stuff that you have built and shipped if it’s all about a title for you like whatever that thing is like be honest with yourself about what it is and if you can be honest with the interviewer about that I mean I would say definitely be honest with the interviewer about that but like sometimes that’s hard if the answer is I hate this company but it’s the only one I can work out here so I’m going to tolerate it like you know maybe you don’t want to say that I don’t advise number three is a as an important one it is own your strengths and your weaknesses and by extension own your successes own them own the things you have done that are good and own what you have failed at this is a bit counterintuitive we’ve talked about it some that people often don’t want to talk about the things that they fail that but for me as an interviewer and for any competent interviewer hearing what someone failed at and what they learned from it can be a massively positive signal it can massively increase your chances in the interview what I find is that people who can’t talk about their failures often are so embarrassed by them that they will hide them and people who hide failures put the company at peril all it takes is a certain number of people who are willing to skirt their failures under the rug for the company to fail and nobody knows why on the opposite side people who fail and fail publicly and spectacularly they often help the entire company grow because they will have failed for the same reason that a bunch of other people in the company are about to fail and it gives the whole team an honest dialogue around that thing so come with that don’t be ashamed of things you have failed at if I walk into an interview I would gladly talk about the glaring mistakes I’ve made in my career and there are many of those also don’t be afraid to talk about the things that you feel particularly strong in if you are an amazingly good debugger you can say I’m pretty strong a debugging hey I am a I have had my best success in my career as a debugger or maybe you’re an amazingly good product feature person and you can say the thing that I love to do and that I do the best on a team is show up figure out the features of a product and build them maybe that’s you whatever that thing is don’t be afraid to own that don’t be afraid to just directly present that in the interview you don’t have to be a braggart to show what you are good at you can show instances you can say here’s what I did on this team here here’s the specific thing that we delivered here’s the timeline and if your interviewer is competent they’re going to go oh that’s like that’s non-trivial that’s a consequential contribution they will it will wring through to them but that can only happen if you are genuine about your strengths being too boastful or too humble will land you in not enough signal and not enough signal is a default no hire at most companies my last point is about questions every interview I’ve ever been in and every interview I’ve ever led has always ended with so do you have any questions that’s that’s the thing that you do that is so customary it would be shocking for it not to happen now what happens next varies massively some people say I have no questions I have literally asked everything that I’m curious about this company about oh my go okay well cool or someone will be so exhausted or so head spun from all the questions they won’t even know what it was that they had questions about to begin with I recommend writing your questions down would never walk into an interview without in my headaches super coil myths that I know I won’t lose or a physical clearly written list that I know I won’t lose and then I you know I go in ready I can ask the people the the really tough questions that I want to know and don’t shy away from tough questions if a company has a bad reputation of some sort it should not be a sin to say hey you guys have a reputation for this what’s that about an honest interviewer will be able to answer you honestly and if they give you a shitty bullshitty answer then you can know oh man maybe this is not the company that I want to work at like if they’re being disingenuous with me whenever I ask them concretely about important things from their story wrong place good to get the hell away you know they they wouldn’t hire you if you would exhibit those traits and you shouldn’t work for them if they exhibit them back at you so ask tough questions I would never avoid questions like you know what’s the work expectation here how does that balance with life how much of my life do you expect me to be here how much did the people on the teams tend to work I think it’s a super important thing to understand before you walk in the door because you might be joining some insane eighty-five hour a week beast where nobody says that until you walk in the door or I would another question I would typically ask about is like hey how does how does the reward structure work not how much am I going to get paid that’s not what I want to know not what’s my equity package going to look like I don’t care let me know do care about like not at this stage what I want to know is when people do good work how does this company reward them that’s what I want to know and I will ask that question outright to the interviewer and see what they say because if they give me an answer that doesn’t jive then hey that tells me this is the wrong company for me the questions portion is your best chance to interview the company back and also senior people tend to ask better questions so a question you shouldn’t ask please don’t ask this question is hey what would what programming languages you guys code in so frustrating if after all of this talk you’ve had your introspecting deeply you’re talking about your projects you’ve solved you know in number of difficult technical problems if the only thing is burning in your mind is what programming language do you code in to me it says you have no idea what’s important you are caught up in trivialities and I cannot expect you to come in and do high-level decision-making that’s what that one question would tell me and I say that because I’ve been asked that question which really like a hundred times and it’s always followed by like oh I hate that I hate that language or oh I love that language and it’s like you should be able to acquire a new language in like somewhere between three weeks and three months like how on earth is that the most important thing here like shouldn’t you be worried about whether or not you like fit on this team whether or not this company is the company for you not oh I hate Python like come on anyway some are down so I think that’s about it I think that’s a pretty thorough discussion of like the high level of a behavioral interview we could of course go through you know 50 questions and say here’s a question here’s all of the little details that might tumble out of this question but it’s actually impossible to do that because each of these questions is so dependent on the answer and that answer comes from you that answer comes from your experience and your perspective and the way you think about your job and your work and your past and all of those things so the best I can give you is here’s the map of how these interviews work here are the pieces of signal they’re going to try to get and I hope I’ve done that here as always if you have questions or comments if you think this was a stupid episode if you think this is an amazing episode whatever whatever thoughts are in your mind now please put them in the comment box below subscribe if you enjoyed this I don’t do videos as often it may be as I should but I do them regularly it and thank you for watching if you made it all the way to the end of this thank you very much for watching