Behavioural interviews take a look at your personality and work-related history, and consider things like how you work in a team or how you handled challenging work situations in the past.
At these interviews you may get asked questions like "What was the most challenging project you worked on and why?" or "What was your biggest failure during the time at your previous company?". An interviewer may also go through your resume and ask very detailed questions about your work experience and past projects.
A behavioural interview can be a separate round of interviews, but it is also common to be asked similar questions during the coding or other interview rounds. For example, you may be asked to "briefly describe your previous experience" or just to "introduce yourself".
To prepare for the behavioural interviews, you should understand the interview format and what is expected of you, and prepare answers for a number of possible questions you may be asked. It is also a good idea to go over your resume and make sure that you really know everything written there.
For a great introduction of the behavioural interviews, how they are done, and what interviewers are looking for, watch this video by Jackson Gabbard:
During the behavioral interviews, interviewers are looking for genuine answers and the right work attitude from you. They expect you to be able to clearly describe your past experience, and display a good judgement of it. Basically, they are trying to evaluate if you will be good to work with.
While this all may sound vague, it is probably easier to list some red flags that the interviewers are looking for. Be aware of them:
Be honest. Interviewers often can see when you lie or are not being completely honest. This is a huge red flag, as this questions your integrity. Telling the truth, even if it is not the most flattering, is always the best approach.
Don't blame others. Blaming or criticizing others is also a big red flag. Focus on yourself. If some mistakes happened, think about what you or your team could have done better, but don't try to cover it up by shifting the blame to others.
There are some common questions that often appear in behavioural interviews. It makes sense to review them and prepare your answers in advance. This will help if similar questions appear in the interviews, and you will also practice coming up with answers to these types of questions.
Here is a list of 15 common questions appearing in the behavioural interviews. Preparing your answers for them in advance will be great practice before the actual interviews:
“Tell me about yourself”, or “Describe your previous experience”, or “Please, introduce yourself” are very common behavioural-style questions. They often appear in the coding or system design interview rounds as well, just to break the ice before an actual technical interview, and to allow your interviewer to know you better.
What would a good answer look like? Don't make it too long, but don't make it too short either. Three to five clear sentences will do. Talk about some relevant things about you: where you work right now, what is your previous experience, and what you are looking for in the next job. An example of a good answer can be something like this:
My name is John, and I am currently a backend engineer at the company Next Stack Computers. I have been at this company for three years and was mostly working on the payment systems.
Before that, I was for two years at the company Pear Technologies working on the messaging services, and before that, I graduated from the Westeastern college.
Currently, I am looking for backend positions at some bigger tech companies, just like your company.
Don't worry about your answer too much, but keep it relevant and short. Your goal is not to impress your interviewer, but to simply introduce yourself and show that your background is relevant to the position you are applying for.
During the behavioural interviews, you may often also be discussing your background and the experience listed in your resume. You are expected to be able to explain your past projects and roles in great detail. This will show that you really understand everything that's written in your resume, and you can clearly explain it.
To prepare, it is a good idea to revisit your past experience and review your past projects and jobs. What did you do there? What have you learned? What were the difficulties?
It also helps to include only the most relevant and important details and projects in your resume. You should stand behind everything you are claiming to have done, and to be able to explain it well.
For each job, position, and project answer the following questions:
- What were you working on? What did you accomplish?
- What did you learn?
- What were the challenges and difficulties?
- What did you enjoy the most?
- What were some mistakes or failures, and what would you do differently?
- How did you work with other people? What went well, and what didn't?