Sitting in front of your interviewer while giving all the “right” answers is not an easy task. Should you tell the truth or make up a nice story about how you pulled your team through a difficult journey? Well, the answer is ….. it’s complicated. You will have to adeptly find a way to show who you really are as a person by not coming off as uninspiring. It is a skill that anyone can develop over repetition and time. Here are a few very honest tips on how to navigate through common behavioral questions during software engineering interviews.
1. Walk me through your resume
This is one of the most common questions that people come across. Although the question seems pretty straightforward, you need to ensure that you do not fall into the trap of reading through your resume. Anybody can simply read your resume if that’s what they really wanted, so give a very short introduction about yourself and take your resume as a skeletal guide. For example, if your resume says you worked on a java backend project, tell the interviewer something interesting that you learned while working on it and how you contributed to the team. Avoid going over your entire work history for this question. Once you go over these two points for each of your work experiences, ask the interviewer if they want you to explain anything further. This will leave time for any questions that your interviewer might have.
2. Resolving a conflict
Resolving conflict questions test how you behave when you are put in an uncomfortable situation. These questions may come in the form of “Tell me about a time when you had a conflict at work” or “Tell me about a time when you had to respond to an unhappy colleague”. You might encounter different questions but they are all the same. Have a structure about how you are going to answer these:
- Describe the situation that arose along with enough context
- Explain what you did to resolve the difference in a professional manner
- Review how your actions shaped the outcome of the entire situation
Try to think of a situation where you were most effective and always try to paint a picture so that the interviewer is more compelled to listen to your story.
3. Your strength and weakness
In most cases, there will be a question that asks what your strengths and weaknesses are so be prepared for this one. The strength section is pretty much self-explanatory. You could talk about your technical strength or your communication skills or whatever you believe is your forte. However, read your situation and tailor your strength accordingly. If a company values communication more, talk about your technical strength but also say that you value your communication skills even further. Remember, a slight brag is okay, sometimes even required, but do not start going on and on about your strength. Avoid coming off as a braggart.
Weaknesses are trickier however since you don’t want to come off as dumb but also don’t want to say something as clichéd as “My biggest weakness is that I am a perfectionist…” That is ensuring that you never get into the office building again. Talk about an honest weakness about yourself, so try not to fake it because people can tell. A good point of reference is to talk about a weakness that does not have a direct or profound impact on your job. Say, if you are interviewing for a frontend job, you might say that your weakness is databases (if that actually is true). Continue by saying that you are aware of your weaknesses and are trying your best to learn more about it and improve. This will show that you are someone who is constantly challenging yourself, which can be impressive.
4. What technology fascinates you the most
This question is pretty straightforward in the sense that you can talk about almost anything. There is no right answer. However, it would be better if you could geek out about something related to your job as it would show that you truly are passionate about your work. But then again, even if you are talking about something completely different than your job, it can still mean that you are someone who loves technology in general so as I mentioned earlier, there is no “right answer”. Just be prepared to talk about something technology-related that is probably new and something that you are very interested in that is not on your resume.
5. How do you handle failure
Questions like Talk about a time you handled failure or Talk about a situation where you got a lot of negative feedback is actually a great time for you to be honest and tell your story. Don’t try to be cute and tell how you felt sad but got motivated when you got a C in your high school group project. Pick an actual failure and analyze it well. Your failure does not have to be some big, disastrous moment but something that impacted you deeply. Share your story and tell how you handled it. You may have handled it poorly but you can reflect on it and say what you would have done differently now or you may have handled it well and share that. These questions are all about handling your failure gracefully and showing that you have come out of the situation by learning something important.
These questions are not an exhaustive list but will provide you with a good foundation to prepare and get started with your interview process and get your technology career started!
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this post are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.
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