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Behavioral Interviews: what you need to know

Adeline Ionescu

June 23, 2020

Canadian Companies need highly skilled technologists to innovate, take risks, experiment, and own a piece of something that can have a real impact on the world. However, it's not enough to only excel at technical skills. Soft skills play a significant role in the interviewing process, and developers will need to keep up with the expectations on the employer side.

Before Interviewing for a company, interview yourself!

It's great to find out that a particular employer wants to interview you, but is this employer good enough for you?

Before interviewing, you should do your research on the company and start asking yourself questions:

  • Do they fit with my working style?
  • Can I satisfy my career goals there?
  • Do I see myself working there for the next 2 years?

Of course, the answers to these questions might come after the first conversation with a representative of the company, but you have to keep them in mind and see if you want to continue.

During the process, you should also seek for:
  • Opportunities for growth
  • Team fitting
  • Signs of growth (of the company) 

Knowing what you are searching for in a company, and comparing it with what they have to offer, helps you decide if you want to continue taking part in this process or not. To reach a definitive response, you have to prepare some questions based on your interests. Gather as much information you need and decide whether or not this employer is a fit for you.

Rejecting a job due to mismatched values and interests is better than working in a company and leaving in a few months. 

Anyway, in case your values match with theirs, you'll be much more motivated to prepare for and pass the interviews and ultimately work in that company.

Components of an Interviewing Process:

Interviewing processes usually have around 3-5 steps. Of course, the order might vary from company to company, as every company is free to decide how to evaluate their candidates. 

The pattern we observed while working with our clients is:

1. Screener Interview - You should interview with someone from HR 

The primary purpose of this interview is getting a quick pulse-check on your genuine interest in the company and role. Besides that, they are interested to see what your communication abilities are, and whether or not you have the right technical frameworks. 

This meeting helps you build a relationship with the company. Prepare yourself with as much information as you can gather about the company.

If you are a part of our community - before the interview, we'll share a Preparation Kit so you can have some general information about the company. Even so, you need to do your own research. You need to understand what kind of product you're going to be working on, and what technology stack you're going to be working with.

2. Behavioral Discussion - You should interview with someone from HR again

 Sometimes this comes as a separate conversation to the technical screening, sometimes they combine them together. What they are looking for in such a discussion are core competencies (leadership, managing conflict, teamwork, problem-solving, communication, organization).

3. Technical Discussion - You should interview with the Team lead 

 They're looking for a profundity of technical knowledge, technical communication, how you think technically, and what your past professional projects, successes, and lessons learned were.

The most common questions are topics regarding computer science fundamentals. Algorithms and Data structures are key here.Check out our discussion with an expert on how to prepare for technical interviews.

4. Problem Set + Presentation - You might interview with the Team lead or even team members.

Some companies, depending on how rigorous their interview process is - might ask you to solve a problem set and do a presentation. You'll either get a "take-home" or you'll be doing it live. 

Essentially, what they're looking for is to assess your coding abilities, technical thought process, creativity, problem-solving skills, and how effectively you communicate your results.

5. Cultural Fit Discussion - You might be interviewing with the Hiring Manager, a member of the Executive Team, the Team lead, or even the Founder of the company

 This call's purpose is to assess for alignment with the company vision, values, and whether or not you can cohesively work with their team. Sometimes, this part is embedded throughout the other sections.

Along with high technical skills, the Canadian companies are looking for someone who is also: 

  • Adaptable
  • Collaborative
  • Strategic
  • Proactive
  • Authentic
  • Curious

Startups are always growing and changing. In case you interview for a company to relocate, the fact that you're moving to a new environment also highlights the fact that you're adaptable. 

What you could do demonstrate how adaptable you are:

  • Emphasize stories that show your adaptability when it comes to relationships in the workplace. (ex: how you can work effectively across different cultures)

Startups are looking for candidates that can demonstrate how they take the initiative. They are looking for you to come upbringing solutions, not to wait for people to come to you with issues and problems. 

What you could do to demonstrate a proactive attitude:

  • Tell stories about a time you took the initiative in a project
  • Ask questions during the interviewing process

How you function in a team is going to be really important, and it's going to be evaluated at some point during the conversation. They want to see different signs that show how you behave in a team and what's your attitude towards your teammates. 

What you could do to showcase your collaborative personality:

  • Make sure you emphasize how this is a core component of how you operate in teams
  • Talk about what your overall value was in different companies

Being authentic has heightened importance when interviewing - it's the ability to confidently project your true self, which creates trust and a closer connection with the interviewer.

What you could do to show your authenticity

  • Not focusing on saying the right or correct thing in the interview, but rather focus on expressing ideas and stories that mean something to you
  • Focus on who you are and the parts of your career which show that best

Most of our candidates have an Intermediate or Senior Level Position and will be joining teams in Canada that will require much more than just scientific thinking. 

What you could do to show your strategic thinking is:

  • Demonstrate a forward-looking mindset and big-picture perspective by asking thoughtful questions with the company or product 
  • Show that you can make important decisions, you can take direction and you can guide the piece that you own

You need to be able to tell stories about yourself that can portray this trait. Demonstrating curiosity is also showing that you have other characteristics, such as empathy, creativity, and innovation.

What you could do to show your curiosity is:

  • Exemplify how you love to learn 
  • Talk about your interests and hobbies aside from work

How to Prepare for an interview:

  • Use the product (If you can) - It helps you understand better what they do and how you can create value for its user base. You might also be able to find demo videos or articles about the product if it’s not something you can download for free.
  • Research the Industry - Spend time researching the competition, different industry trends, and be able to articulate why you think this product is superior to its competitors.
  • Research the Company - Spend time by reviewing their website in detail. An idea is to scan their social media accounts, review their cultural comments on GlassDoor.ca, review Angellist, and any other recent news. By doing this proper research, you can understand what they are looking for and if you could be a fit for them. 
  • Research the Interviewers - If you are a part of our community, GSH will help you understand who you're going to be speaking with. If not, make sure to spend some time researching the interviewers on Linkedin and identify various commonalities - it helps you build rapport with them in the interview.
  • Prepare some ideas - Spend time thinking of how you would solve this company's problems and even improve the product. 
  • Prepare some questions - The questions could be about Role expectations, Company growth, or Company culture. Also, if you want to understand if a company is right for you, you have to look at their behavior. You could discover this by asking your interviewer questions and find out how they feel about the interactions with their team, their company culture, or how they think about working there.

What to do throughout an interview:

  1. Show passion and vulnerability - It's important to showcase what you're interested aside work, what are your passion projects. This helps to show your enthusiasm and curiosity. Don't also forget to be prepared to be vulnerable and admit what you don't know.
  2. Display your entrepreneurial spirit - All the traits from above, are making up the concept of an entrepreneurial spirit. Demonstrate your desire to grow the business yourself alongside and what your ambitions are in your career.
  3. Adopt the right kind of tone - You'll quickly get a sense of whether or not the interviewer is formal or a little more friendly. (GSH will also help you understand what kind of tone to take) Be able to adapt to it on the fly. 
  4. Avoid being vague - Make sure you have concrete examples when making claims regarding your skill sets, to boost your credibility

Behavioral Discussion

The Behavioral questions put the candidates to recall a past experience and to describe how they handled it. They help your interviewer understand what your thought process is and what your past behaviors were, which to them - indicates how you're going to behave in the future. 

The questions help interviewers discover your traits, and each item has a target trait they want to discover, such as:

  • Tell me about a time when you: Made a tough decision / Evaluated 2 potential options / Approached a new problem - These questions help interviewers discover whether or not you are good at Decision Making.
  • Tell me about a time when you: Involved others in a decision or to fix an issue / Took a lead role - These questions help interviewers discover if you have Leadership Skills.
  • Tell me about a time when you: Took control of a situation / Fixed a tricky problem / Prepared for something - These questions help interviewers discover if you Take The Initiative.

For more examples, please visit http://upgradereality.com/star-model/

How should your answers to the Behavioral Questions look like?

Use the STAR method:

S(ituation)= Describe the Situation that you were in or the task that you needed to accomplish

T(ask)= Describe the goal you were working toward 

A(ction)= Describe the actions you took to address the situation with enough detail (focus on yourself, not the team)

R(esult)= Describe the outcome of your actions (accomplishments, learnings, success measure)

You can find questions to practice on at the end of our Foundational Interview Prep PDF

Prove you are a cultural fit:

A company's culture is defined by the values, practices, and beliefs shared by the members of that company (their hiring process, how they make decisions, how they resolve differences of opinion,etc.)

Essentially, all of these ladder-up to what is the unwritten, but genuine, rule of behavior for this company. 

You can prove that you are a cultural fit by:
  1. Demonstrating how you can solve the company's problems and get results - They're looking for that alignment whether or not you understand how this company can move forward.
  2. Showcasing your passion for the company's mission, values, and goals - This will come through if you do your research on the company and understand what their purpose is. Find ways to demonstrate why this makes sense for your passions. 
  3. Expressing your intrinsic motivations (purpose and mission in life) 
  4. Making it clear you are in for the long haul.
  5. Demonstrating your ability to perform more than one role.
  6. Mentioning your side/entrepreneurial projects.
  7. Proving that you've taken risks for something.
  8. Showing that you love a challenge.

Keep in mind: They are looking for you to express

the "real you", not "resume you".

This being said, good luck with your interviews!

If you are a Software Developer seeking opportunities in Canada, don't hesitate to contact us. We’d love to help you pursue your dream job!


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