Many employees prepare and practice only for technical interviews when applying for tech jobs. They think they can make their way out of any non-technical questions and let their amicable personalities do the rest. And many of them regret it!
The fact is that many tech job applicants underestimate the difficulty and the importance of behavioral interviews.
Nobody wants an employee who can only perform technical tasks on their own and not have proper motivation, team-playing abilities, and communication skills.
And even if you do have all these, you should still take time to prepare and rehearse your answers for common interview questions. Why is that?
Behavioral interviewers often ask questions that refer to your previous experiences, which may have happened in distant past. If you haven’t thought through an answer prior to the interview, you will need to recall a relevant event in your past, tell it as an interesting and coherent story, and present yourself in a positive light, all under the pressure of attending an interview.
As you can understand, this is not a great idea. That’s why we’ve made this guide to answering behavioral questions in tech interviews, along with 18 examples of most commonly asked questions and how to answer them. Let’s dive right in.
What Is a Behavioral Interview, Exactly?
A behavioral interview is a type of job interview that focuses on your past experiences and behavior in different situations. This helps the interviewer understand how you react and make decisions in various scenarios, which is often predictive of how you will behave in your next role.
As a candidate, it gives you an opportunity to showcase how your unique skill set and experiences would be an asset to the company.
During a behavioral interview, the interviewer may ask you questions that prompt you to describe specific events and actions you took in the past, such as “Tell me about a time…” questions.
Questions may include topics such as dealing with conflicts, working in a team, or meeting tight deadlines. Your answers will give the interviewer valuable insights into your problem-solving skills, communication style, and capacity for leadership.
Typically, a behavioral interview doesn’t have a set duration and will depend on the interviewer and the company’s specific hiring process. It might take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or more.
A behavioral interview is your chance to let your personality and experiences shine. So, embrace the opportunity and show the interviewer why you’re the ideal candidate for the job.
How to Do Well in a Behavioral Interview for a Tech Company
Prepare Using the STAR Method
To succeed in a behavioral interview, you should get familiar with the STAR method. This stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result, and helps structure your responses. Begin by describing the situation, then your specific task, followed by the actions you took, and finally the result achieved. More about this in the section below.
Know About the Company
Before the interview, learn as much as you can about the organization and research the position you’re applying for. Being knowledgeable about the tech company and its business model will demonstrate your passion and help you connect your experience to the role. Try to learn what you can about the interviewer as well by using search engines and LinkedIn.
Pay Attention to Body Language
During the interview, be in your active body. Maintain eye contact, sit up straight, and refrain from crossing your arms. This will show that you’re engaged, confident, and actively listening to the interviewer. Learn more about how to maintain a proper body language here.
Even in a casual tech environment, dressing appropriately is crucial. Aim for business-casual attire, like a well-fitting button-down shirt and slacks or skirt. This shows professionalism and respect for the company culture, leaving a positive impression.
Practice Answering Common Questions
To prepare, practice answering common behavioral interview questions asked by top tech companies. You may be asked about your favorite projects, handling conflicts, or overcoming challenges (see sample questions and answers below). Tailor your answers using the STAR method and focus on skills relevant to the role.
Be Yourself and Be Honest
Don’t forget to be genuine and honest throughout the process. Speak to your strengths, but don’t shy away from discussing areas where you’d like to improve. Demonstrating self-awareness and an eagerness to grow will be appreciated by interviewers.
Remember, being well-prepared and authentic will set you up for success in a behavioral interview at a tech company. Good luck!
How to Answer Behavioral Interview Questions for a Tech Company
When preparing for a tech interview, it’s essential to anticipate behavioral questions and know how to answer them effectively. These tips should help you ace your next tech company interview:
- Research the company: Get a good understanding of the company’s values, culture, and typical work environments. Tailor your answers to align with their expectations and requirements.
- Be specific with examples: Showcase your experience in tackling various situations that resemble the behavioral questions asked. Use real-life instances from your past projects, roles, or responsibilities.
- Be concise: Keep your responses to the point while still giving enough context and detail. Avoid unnecessary jargon or lengthy explanations.
The STAR Method
The STAR method is a highly recommended way to structure your answers to behavioral interview questions. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. It helps make your response well-organized, clear, and easily digestible for the interviewer.
Example of using the STAR method:
SITUATION: Describe the context or background of the situation. For instance, mention any challenges your team faced or goals you aimed to achieve.
E.g., “In my previous role as a software developer, we had a tight deadline to release a new feature in the application.”
TASK: Explain your specific role in the situation, focusing on your responsibilities.
E.g., “As the lead developer, my job was to coordinate the work of my teammates and ensure we met all requirements within the deadline.”
ACTION: Describe the steps or actions you took to address the situation and problems.
E.g., “I broke down the tasks into smaller milestones, assigned each team member a specific responsibility, and held daily progress meetings.”
RESULT: Share the outcome of your actions, highlighting any accomplishments, learnings, or improved processes.
E.g., “Using this approach, we managed to deliver the new feature on time and received positive feedback from our clients.”
18 Most Common Behavioral Interview Questions and Answers for Tech Companies
Question #1: Tell me about yourself.
- Why Interviewers Ask This Question: Interviewers ask this question to get an overview of your background, skills, and experiences.
- How to Answer: Start with a brief personal introduction, then highlight your relevant professional experience, skills, and achievements.
Question #2: Why are you interested in this role?
- Why Interviewers Ask This Question: Interviewers want to assess your motivation and alignment with the role you are applying for.
- How to Answer: Demonstrate your genuine interest in the role by discussing specific aspects of the position, such as the company’s technology stack, projects, or mission.
- Example Answer: “I am highly interested in this role because it offers an opportunity to work with cutting-edge technologies like [specific technology] and contribute to innovative projects. I’ve been following your company’s success, especially in [specific area], and I admire how you are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. Being part of such an innovative team and having the chance to make a significant impact is truly exciting to me.” (It helps to give more specific company-related details here based on your research.)
Question #3: Describe a challenging technical problem you faced and how you resolved it.
- Why Interviewers Ask This Question: This question assesses your problem-solving skills, technical expertise, and your ability to overcome challenges.
- How to Answer: Describe a specific technical problem you encountered, explain the steps you took to address it, and highlight the outcome or solution.
- Example Answer: “In my previous role, we faced a critical performance issue in our web application, resulting in slow load times. After analyzing the codebase, I identified a database query bottleneck. I optimized the query by restructuring the database schema and implementing indexing techniques. Additionally, I introduced caching mechanisms to reduce server load. These optimizations resulted in a 40% improvement in load times and significantly enhanced the overall user experience…”
Question #4: How do you stay updated with the latest trends and technologies in the tech industry?
- Why Interviewers Ask This Question: Interviewers want to assess your commitment to continuous learning and professional development.
- How to Answer: Discuss specific methods you use to stay updated, such as attending conferences, participating in online communities, or engaging in personal projects.
- Example Answer: “I believe in the importance of staying up-to-date with the rapidly evolving tech industry. I regularly attend industry conferences like [conference name] and actively participate in online communities and forums like [specific online community]. I also dedicate time to personal projects where I explore new technologies and experiment with innovative ideas. Additionally, I subscribe to reputable tech publications and follow influential thought leaders on platforms like Medium and Twitter to stay informed about the latest trends and breakthroughs.”
Question #5: Can you describe a time when you faced a conflict within a team and how you resolved it?
- Why Interviewers Ask This Question: This question evaluates your interpersonal and conflict resolution skills, as well as your ability to work collaboratively.
- How to Answer: Choose a specific example of a conflict, explain the situation, discuss the actions you took to resolve it, and emphasize the positive outcome.
- Example Answer: “In one project, our team encountered a disagreement regarding the choice of a technology stack. To resolve the conflict, I facilitated an open discussion to understand everyone’s perspectives and concerns. We decided to evaluate the pros and cons of each option objectively, considering factors like project requirements and team expertise. Ultimately, we reached a consensus by selecting a stack that aligned with our project goals and addressed the concerns raised. The resolution not only strengthened our teamwork but also resulted in a more efficient and successful project implementation.”
Question #6: How do you prioritize and manage your workload when faced with multiple projects or tasks?
- Why Interviewers Ask This Question: Interviewers want to assess your organizational skills, time management abilities, and how you handle work under pressure.
- How to Answer: Describe your approach to prioritization, such as using productivity tools, breaking tasks into smaller manageable parts, and effectively communicating with stakeholders.
- Example Answer: “When faced with multiple projects or tasks, I prioritize based on deadlines, project impact, and stakeholder expectations. I use productivity tools like Trello or Asana to create task lists and set reminders. Breaking down complex projects into smaller, actionable tasks helps me manage my time effectively. I also regularly communicate with stakeholders to ensure alignment on priorities and provide realistic timelines. By following this approach, I have consistently delivered projects on time and maintained a high level of productivity even under demanding circumstances.”
Question #7: Tell me about a time when you took the initiative to improve a process or solve a problem.
- Why Interviewers Ask This Question: This question assesses your proactivity, problem-solving skills, and ability to drive positive change.
- How to Answer: Share a specific example where you identified a process or problem that needed improvement, describe the actions you took, and highlight the positive impact of your initiative.
- Example Answer: “In my previous role, I noticed that our team’s code review process was inefficient, leading to delayed feedback and decreased code quality. To address this, I proposed implementing a code review checklist and establishing clear guidelines for reviewers. I collaborated with team members, gathered feedback, and created a comprehensive checklist that covered code readability, performance, and best practices. After implementing these changes, we observed a significant improvement in code quality, faster turnaround times for reviews, and enhanced collaboration among team members.”
Question #8: How do you handle feedback and criticism?
- Why Interviewers Ask This Question: Interviewers want to gauge your ability to receive feedback constructively and grow from it.
- How to Answer: Demonstrate your openness to feedback, describe how you actively seek feedback, and discuss how you have used feedback in the past to improve your skills or work.
- Example Answer: “I believe feedback is essential for personal and professional growth. I actively seek feedback from colleagues, mentors, and supervisors to gain different perspectives and identify areas for improvement. When receiving feedback, I listen attentively, remain open-minded, and ask clarifying questions if needed. I view feedback as an opportunity to learn and develop, and I have used it in the past to refine my skills and deliver better results. For instance, in my previous performance review, I received feedback about my presentation skills, and I proactively enrolled in a public speaking course to address this area.”
Question #9: Describe a time when you faced a tight deadline or a project with demanding constraints. How did you manage it?
- Why Interviewers Ask This Question: This question evaluates your ability to handle pressure, meet deadlines, and adapt to challenging circumstances.
- How to Answer: Provide a specific example of a time when you faced a tight deadline or challenging project, explain the steps you took to manage it effectively, and highlight the successful outcome.
- Example Answer: “During a critical project, we encountered unexpected delays that compressed the timeline significantly. To manage the situation, I first analyzed the project requirements and identified non-essential tasks that could be deprioritized or temporarily postponed. I then communicated the revised timeline to the team and ensured everyone was aligned on the new plan. To expedite the process, I worked closely with team members, delegated tasks effectively, and provided necessary support and resources. Despite the constraints, we successfully delivered the project on time, meeting all key objectives and ensuring client satisfaction.”
Question #10: Can you describe a time when you had to work with a challenging team member? How did you handle it?
- Why Interviewers Ask This Question: This question assesses your ability to work collaboratively and manage interpersonal conflicts.
- How to Answer: Share a specific example of a challenging team member situation, explain how you approached the situation, and emphasize the steps you took to address the challenge while maintaining a positive work environment.
- Example Answer: “In a previous project, I encountered a challenging team member who consistently missed deadlines and had a negative impact on team morale. To address this, I initiated a private conversation with the team member to understand their concerns and challenges. I offered my support and discussed strategies to improve their workflow and meet deadlines. Additionally, I proactively involved our team lead to provide guidance and mentorship. By maintaining open communication, setting clear expectations, and offering assistance, we managed to overcome the challenges, and the team member started meeting deadlines and positively contributed to the project.”
Question #11: How do you approach complex problem-solving?
- Why Interviewers Ask This Question: Interviewers want to assess your problem-solving skills and your ability to tackle complex challenges.
- How to Answer: Describe your problem-solving methodology, including steps like gathering information, analyzing the problem, generating and evaluating solutions, and implementing the most effective approach.
- Example Answer: “When faced with complex problems, I approach them systematically. First, I gather all available information and clearly define the problem to gain a comprehensive understanding. Then, I break down the problem into smaller components and analyze each part individually. I brainstorm potential solutions, evaluating their feasibility, risks, and benefits. I also seek input from colleagues or subject matter experts to gain diverse perspectives. Once a solution is identified, I create an action plan and implement it, monitoring the progress and making adjustments as needed. By following this structured approach, I have successfully solved complex problems and delivered effective solutions.”
Question #12: Can you describe a time when you had to learn a new technology or programming language quickly? How did you approach it?
- Why Interviewers Ask This Question: This question evaluates your ability to learn and adapt to new technologies, which is crucial in the tech industry.
- How to Answer: Share a specific example of a time when you had to learn a new technology or programming language quickly, explain the approach you took, and highlight the successful outcome of your learning process.
- Example Answer: “In one project, we needed to integrate a new third-party API that required me to learn a programming language I was not familiar with. To approach this challenge, I started by gathering learning resources, including online tutorials, documentation, and video courses. I created a structured learning plan, dedicating specific time each day to study and practice. Additionally, I reached out to colleagues who had experience with the language for guidance and mentorship. By applying a focused and disciplined learning approach, I was able to grasp the basics of the language within a week and successfully integrate the API, meeting the project requirements.”
Question #13: How do you ensure the security and privacy of data in your development process?
- Why Interviewers Ask This Question: Interviewers want to evaluate your understanding of data security best practices and your ability to implement them in your work.
- How to Answer: Discuss your knowledge of data security principles, such as encryption, access controls, vulnerability assessments, and secure coding practices. Provide specific examples of how you have incorporated security measures into your development process.
- Example Answer: “Data security is a top priority in my development process. I ensure the security and privacy of data by implementing industry-standard practices. For example, I consistently use encryption algorithms to protect sensitive data at rest and in transit. I apply access controls, ensuring that only authorized individuals can access and modify data. I also conduct regular vulnerability assessments to identify and mitigate potential risks. In terms of coding, I adhere to secure coding practices, such as input validation and parameterized queries, to prevent common vulnerabilities like SQL injection or cross-site scripting. By following these practices, I have successfully developed secure applications that protect user data and maintain compliance with relevant regulations.”
Question #14: Describe a time when you had to explain complex technical concepts to a non-technical audience.
- Why Interviewers Ask This Question: This question evaluates your communication skills and your ability to convey technical information in a clear and understandable manner.
- How to Answer: Provide a specific example where you had to explain complex technical concepts to a non-technical audience, describe the approach you took, and highlight the positive outcome of your communication efforts.
- Example Answer: “In a previous role, I was tasked with explaining the benefits of a new software solution to a group of non-technical stakeholders. To make the information accessible, I prepared a presentation using visual aids, simplified language, and real-world examples. I focused on highlighting the business value and how the solution would address their specific pain points. During the presentation, I actively engaged the audience, encouraged questions, and ensured that everyone understood the concepts before moving forward. The stakeholders were impressed with my ability to translate complex technical details into understandable terms, and it resulted in their buy-in and support for the project.”
Question #15: How do you approach code reviews and providing constructive feedback to your peers?
- Why Interviewers Ask This Question: Interviewers want to assess your ability to provide constructive feedback, work collaboratively, and contribute to the overall code quality.
- How to Answer: Describe your approach to code reviews, emphasizing the importance of providing constructive feedback, balancing praise and criticism, and fostering a collaborative environment.
- Example Answer: “I consider code reviews as opportunities for collaboration and knowledge sharing. When conducting code reviews, I focus on providing constructive feedback that helps improve the overall code quality. I begin by acknowledging the positive aspects of the code and the problem-solving approach. Then, I provide specific suggestions for improvement, explaining the reasoning behind each recommendation. I always ensure that my feedback is respectful, clear, and actionable. Additionally, I encourage open dialogue, allowing the developer to ask questions or seek clarifications. By adopting this approach, I have seen positive results, such as increased code quality, improved team cohesion, and professional growth for my peers.”
Question #16: How do you handle technical disagreements or conflicting ideas within a team?
- Why Interviewers Ask This Question: This question evaluates your ability to handle disagreements professionally and find resolutions that promote teamwork and collaboration.
- How to Answer: Describe your approach to resolving technical disagreements, such as active listening, considering different perspectives, fostering open discussions, and working towards a consensus.
- Example Answer: “In a team environment, it’s natural to have technical disagreements, and I believe in addressing them through open and respectful communication. When faced with conflicting ideas, I actively listen to all viewpoints and encourage team members to explain their reasoning. I seek to understand the underlying concerns and evaluate each approach objectively. I then foster an open discussion, where we explore the pros and cons of each idea. If a consensus cannot be reached, I propose conducting small-scale experiments or creating prototypes to test the feasibility of different solutions. By embracing this collaborative approach, we have been able to find common ground, learn from each other, and arrive at the most suitable solution for the given context.”
Question #17: Describe a time when you made a mistake or faced a setback in a project. How did you handle it?
- Why Interviewers Ask This Question: This question assesses your ability to take responsibility for mistakes, learn from setbacks, and demonstrate resilience in the face of challenges.
- How to Answer: Share a specific example of a mistake or setback, explain how you took ownership of the situation, the steps you took to rectify it, and the lessons you learned from the experience.
- Example Answer: “During a project, I made a mistake that resulted in a critical bug being deployed to the production environment. Recognizing the severity, I immediately reported the issue to the team and took ownership of the mistake. I worked closely with my colleagues to investigate the root cause, identify a fix, and deployed a patch as soon as possible. I also conducted a thorough post-mortem analysis to understand the factors that led to the mistake and implemented preventive measures, such as enhancing code review processes and implementing additional testing protocols. This experience taught me the importance of thorough testing and reinforced the value of effective communication and collaboration within the team.”
Question #18: How do you handle tight feedback loops and frequent changes in requirements or priorities?
- Why Interviewers Ask This Question: This question evaluates your adaptability, flexibility, and ability to work effectively in an agile and dynamic environment.
- How to Answer: Describe how you handle tight feedback loops and changes, emphasizing your ability to quickly adapt, reprioritize tasks, and maintain open communication with stakeholders.
- Example Answer: “I thrive in fast-paced and dynamic environments where requirements and priorities can change rapidly. To handle tight feedback loops and frequent changes, I prioritize clear and frequent communication with stakeholders to stay updated on changing needs. I am adaptable and flexible, readily reprioritizing tasks based on the evolving requirements. I embrace agile methodologies, such as Scrum, where I regularly engage with the product owner and the team to refine and reprioritize user stories. Additionally, I focus on maintaining a mindset of continuous improvement, seeking feedback, and using it to enhance my work and deliver value efficiently in a changing landscape.”
How to Prepare for a Behavioral Interview for a Tech Company
To get ready for a behavioral interview at a tech company, start by studying the job description. Make sure you understand the key requirements and skills needed for the role. This helps you identify the types of behavioral interview questions that might come up and lets you think about how your past experiences align with the job.
Next, take some time to review major projects you’ve worked on. List out your professional accomplishments and think about the challenges you faced, how you overcame them, and what you learned. This way, you’ll have plenty examples to draw from when answering questions during the interview.
Finally, don’t forget to be open and honest in your answers. Tech companies value authenticity and want to learn how you genuinely worked through challenging situations and solved problems.
In preparing for tech behavioral interview questions, it’s essential for you to focus on the key areas that interviewers typically concentrate on. These areas include teamwork, problem-solving, adaptability, and communication skills.
Use the STAR method to help you structure your answers effectively, allowing you to showcase your unique experiences and abilities.
To further enhance your preparation, practice examples of common behavioral interview questions you might encounter, like the ones we outlined above. Familiarizing yourself with different types of questions and answers can provide you more confidence when faced with similar inquiries during your interview.
Lastly, don’t forget to be yourself and uphold a positive attitude throughout the interview process. Interviewers appreciate genuine and candid responses, as opposed to exaggerating or making false claims about your experiences. In the end, your ability to express honesty and authenticity in your answers will leave a lasting impression on potential employers.
Now, go out there and show them what you’ve got!
Elmar Mammadov is a software developer, tech startup founder, and computer science career specialist. He is the founder of CS Careerline and a true career changer who has previously pursued careers in medicine and neuroscience.
Due to his interest in programming and years of past personal experience in coding, he decided to break into the tech industry by attending a Master’s in Computer Science for career changers at University of Pennsylvania. Elmar passionately writes and coaches about breaking into the tech industry and computer science in general.