Behavioral Interview Preparation

Learning Goals

  • Approach an interview by thinking like the interviewer
  • Consider the themes of questions and the top skills they are assessing
  • Begin categorizing your experiences (still using the STAR method) so you’re ready to answer any question

Warm Up

  • What do you think are the top 2 goals of an interviewer during the behavioral interview?
  • What are some ways that people can prepare for behavioral interviews?

*Note: behavioral interview refers to the non-technical interview.

Thinking Like an Interviewer

Note - your interviewer won’t always say it, but you can and should ask questions throughout the entire process. Given a code challenge in a language you aren’t familiar with? Ask to complete it in Ruby or JS. Unclear about what they are looking for in the challenge? Ask them to clarify.

Many people approach interviews with the mindset that they need to improvise their answer for every question they are asked. This approach can lead to lots of nerves going into the interviews because you’re thinking:
What if I can’t think of a good answer on the spot?
It can also lead to you leaving an interview thinking:
Oh shoot, I should have said THAT when they asked me that question! Why didn’t I think of that earlier?

Today we are going to talk about how you can prepare for a behavioral interview by thinking ahead and preparing your answers before the interview.

You can’t possibly predict all of the questions that you may get asked in an interview. But you CAN predict some of the main ideas and themes that the interviewer may ask you about. For example, it’s safe to say that you’ll get asked about your professional background. You’ll also probably get asked about how you learn, how you collaborate, and how you overcome obstacles.

You do not have to have a different answer prepared for every possible question you might get asked. Instead, should prepare answers that speak to the broad themes of what you may be asked about.

Let’s consider an example. Take a moment to think about all of the different ways an interviewer might ask about your collaboration style. Make a list of at least 5 questions someone might ask you that would get you to talk about how you collaborate.

Some examples:

  • What role do you tend to take on a team?
  • Explain a time when you had to work on a team to accomplish a task.
  • Describe your teamwork experience in a coding environment.
  • Tell me about a time you had a disagreement with a colleague and how you resolved it.
  • Describe a time when you worked successfully on a team.
  • What is important to you when working on a team?
  • At our company, collaboration is important to us. If hired, how will you contribute to your team?

Notice that many of those questions are extremely similar, just worded differently. How many different STAR method stories would you need to have prepared to answer those questions? Two? Maybe three? That’s the point! Instead of preparing an answer for every question above, you might prepare a story that highlights your strengths as a teammate and another that demonstrates your skills in conflict-resolution and empathy. Then, you’d be prepared to answer any question on the list!

We are going to work through some activities to solidify this concept.

Activity 1: Categorizing Questions

First, take 15 minutes to complete part A of this activity in breakout rooms. Note that you will all want to have your own copy of this document.

Next, take 15 minutes to complete part B of the same activity independently. As you jot down tangible examples, remember to leverage the STAR method

Activity 2: Mini Mock Interview

Solo Reflection

Consider the following questions about your group project from mod 2.

  • What about that project sticks out to you the most?
  • What was the most memorable moment from that project?
  • What is something you did well during that project?
  • What is something you wish you had done better?

Now, think about the themes from the questions in the previous activity.

  • Which theme do you think you could speak to best using that group project from mod 2 as your tangible example?

In Breakout Rooms

In pairs, you’ll practice answering one question by using that group project from mod 2. Determine who is taking the hot seat first and follow these steps:

  • Applicant will tell Interviewer what theme/category they’d like to focus on.
  • Interviewer will then choose a question from that category and ask Applicant.
  • Applicant will answer that question and use the project experience to anchor their STAR method answer.
  • Interviewer will give feedback on their answer.
    • Your feedback should focus on Applicant’s ability to convey the skills the question is assessing and Applicant’s ability to anchor their answer in the tangible project example.
  • Switch roles and repeat!

You will have 20 minutes total, so be sure to watch the clock and switch roles after 10 minutes.

Wrap Up

Take some time to reflect on the following questions:

  • What theme do you feel the most prepared to discuss? The least?
  • How will you practice moving forward?

FE ONLY: Stretch Tech Evals

For your stretch tech project evals, you will have a mini-mock interview with an instructor. You will be able to choose the category/theme of your behavioral question and then the interviewer will ask you a question on the spot within that theme. You’ll be expected to use your experience from the Stretch Tech project to answer your question. You’ll get feedback from the instructor on your response.

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