Tech Hiring Managers Answer Common Behavioral Interview Questions
“Why do you want to work for our company?”
Anyone making a career change soon? We used our platform to ask senior FAANG employees, heavily involved with the hiring process, about behavioral interview questions.
This post might get a little long, so please feel free to skip to the part you’re more interested in! Let’s get started:
Common Behavioral Questions
- Tell me about a project you’ve worked on.
- What do you do if you disagree with your boss?
- Why do you want to work for our company?
- Why do you want to leave your company?
- What’s your weakness?
1. Tell Me About a Project You’ve Worked On
For all significant projects you’ve worked on, explicitly highlight what you contributed and what you built, even if it was as part of a team. We want to understand your contributions and what value you delivered to the project.
Have concrete metrics, understanding of the timelines involved, as well as trade-offs made. The best answers also reflect what you could have done differently to better improve the outcome of the project.
Make sure you focus on what the challenges were and how you overcame the challenges. The tricky part is to describe your project in such a way that is easy to follow and at the same time sounds complex enough.
My personal experience is, many candidates’ challenges were either hard to follow or did not sound challenging enough. Give enough context and avoid acronyms — the hiring manager may not be an expert in the area of your project!
In the end, talk about what your takeaway is. What did you learn from the experience?
2. What Do You Do if You Disagree With Your Boss?
Use data to win arguments. Can you tell a story about using product data to bring objective data to a subjective debate?
Express empathy. Good answers will sound more like: “I think doing it this way is more in-line with our goals, and here’s why,” and less like “I think you’re wrong and that’s a bad idea.”
Highlight that debate and disagreement are healthy and improve teams. Of course, there is a healthy debate and unhealthy debate. Make it really clear that you use disagreements as an opportunity to learn or influence others, not to win arguments.
Step back and understand everyone’s point-of-view. Perhaps there’s a good reason for the disagreement that you can learn from. Maybe there are other factors worth considering. This will help take some of the emotion out of the conversation and bring you back to a rational place.
This is a time to show how you are able to resolve conflicts at work and drive consensus with someone who is a power figure.
To answer this question, you should first set the context on:
- What you disagreed on with your manager’s position.
- How you didn’t confront them immediately but rather took a small pilot test to verify your hypothesis.
- How you used data to convince them that your idea’s worth exploring.
For example, the manager says to focus on sales and acquisition of new customers when you want to woo existing customers as well. You notice an attrition of customers after the first few days, so you try an experiment to engage the existing customer base through product feature emails.
You observe that these customers have much higher retention and revenue in the long run. Ultimately, this allows you to convince your manager that the strategy should focus on both acquisition as well as engagement.
3. Why Do You Want to Work for Our Company?
The one thing that you need to show is how much you know about the company.
A lot of times, managers ask this to gauge the interest of a candidate. If a candidate is highly interested in the company, the person should know a lot about what the company does and the latest news about the company.
Make sure you read through the company’s website, social media page, and blogs. You can pick certain examples from what you read and expand around those examples.
Aim to have a specific and rehearsed answer. What about our company uniquely and specifically interests you?
Are we using a cool piece of technology at scale? Building a product that you care about more than anybody else?
4. Why Do You Want to Leave Your Company?
My strategy to answer this question is always very simple: stay positive and avoid the negative.
I tell them that I do not want to leave my current company as I am enjoying my job a lot. Having said that, I am keen to learn more about the bigger scope, higher complexity, and the interesting challenges in the role offered by the other company.
I always mention my excitement after reading the job description, how it felt like a great next step in my career, and how I am using the interview opportunity to better understand the details.
Finally, even if there are other genuine reasons to make the switch (higher pay, better location, etc.), this is not the right time to mention them.
5. What’s Your Weakness?
You need to pick just one weakness, and when thinking about your answer, keep in mind these two overarching principles:
- Your weakness is fixable and you need to let the manager know that you know how and are actively working on improvement.
- Your weakness should hint about your strength. Weakness does not necessarily mean you are not good, it can be because you are so good at something at the expense of another, which is your weakness. Simple examples: productivity vs. quality; great team player vs. speaking up.”
Please don’t take the Michael Scott approach and turn this into a backhanded compliment (“My biggest weakness is that I care too much”). I’d highly recommend giving an honest answer, and one that is as specific as possible and not handwavy.
This shows that you’re self-aware and are able to independently identify areas for personal growth. Everyone has areas they need to work on and the interviewer knows this.
Some potentially good answers:
- “I’ve been happy with my unit tests for regression coverage, but would like to invest more in systems-level integration testing to protect against things like service downtime and API version changes.”
- “As a manager, I’m learning how to strike a balance between delegating enough, and not too much or too little. I want to stay hands-on and trust in my own ability to deliver, but it’s also important that I give my team technical opportunities. On the other hand, I don’t want to delegate too much since I like to lead from the front.