When you are in the application process with jobs, getting an email from a recruiter asking to schedule a phone interview or an onsite, can make you feel both excited and nervous. That’s completely normal!
A lot of people think that they don’t need to prepare for behavioral interviews because they are just talking about themselves, but that is not true. There is a lot that goes into behavioral interview prep and so we are sharing our top tips that we use with our fellows, hundreds of whom have landed great jobs in tech.
The first time you interact with a recruiter will usually be an introduction phone screen. The purpose of this call is to get an understanding of your experience and interest. This will likely be casual, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare! This is your first opportunity to talk to someone who works there and show you are excited.
To prepare, do research on the company’s mission and values by looking at their About page and additional culture pages if they exist. For example, if you are preparing for your interviews with Stripe, there are a few different places where you can find information that will help you show your excitement, interest, passion, and culture fit.
This is where you can learn about the company mission, history, the solutions that they are using to accomplish their mission, and their goals for the future. When you are preparing your elevator pitch, include how you fit into their mission as your conclusion.
For example, with Stripe, their mission is “to increase the GDP of the internet” by building “economic infrastructure for the internet.” So, here is an example of how you can conclude your elevator pitch with a connection to Stripe’s mission:
With my experience as a software engineering intern in the financial industry, I know I would be a valuable addition to the team, making an impact with Stripe’s mission to build economic infrastructure that will increase the GDP of the Internet.
You can also make use of the company jobs or careers page to find information about what kinds of candidates they want and the qualities that go into successful candidates. If they don’t explicitly link to a Culture or Life page, they might make mention of it on this page. Use this information to get a better sense of what is important to them in employees and how the company is organized. They might also mention if they have mentorship opportunities or diversity and inclusion commitments, which you can bring up in the interview as elements that are important to you in your next job.
Sometimes these pages are called Culture or Life at Company Name, like Life at Stripe, but you can usually pick them out fairly easily. Navigating to these pages will give you an even better sense of what they feel is important in an employee. Your job is to show them you are a good fit with those values. Craft some responses to popular behavioral interview questions with these elements in mind.
For example at Stripe, they say, “Stripe is for the versatile, the supportive, the impatient, and most of all, the obsessively user focused.” So, when they ask you a question like “Why are you interested in Stripe?” or “What is the most important thing when you are working on a product?”, you should make sure that you highlight how you are user focused and give examples from your past experiences and projects.
Once you have done research and gotten a good sense of the company’s mission and values, you can prepare your responses so that you go into the interview with confidence. We’ve compiled a list of 47 behavioral interview questions from real tech companies that you can use to practice. We recommend writing down your responses and then saying them aloud to yourself in a mirror or a friend. Just be careful not to memorize too completely because you want it to sound natural.
When preparing your response, remember to be succinct and avoid rambling. Rather than continue talking for too long, curb yourself by offering to go into more detail. That way, it is on the interviewer to decide if they want you to speak more on that subject. This will also help you be more specific because you want to say the most interesting part of the answer and then pause.
You should also be careful to avoid negative language when speaking about former coworkers, experiences, and projects. Even if they are asking a question about a project that didn’t go well or a disagreement with a coworker, make sure that you remain positive and solution-oriented while giving examples of what you learned from the experience. They want to see that you handle sticky situations efficiently and professionally.
With the above tips, you should feel prepared for your behavioral interviews and go in with confidence.
Pathrise is a career accelerator that works with students and young professionals 1-on-1 so they can land their dream job in tech. With these tips and guidance, our fellows have seen their interview performance scores double.
If you want to work with any of our advisors 1-on-1 to optimize your interviews or with any other aspect of the job search, become a Pathrise fellow.