Mastering the behavioral coding interview at non-FAANG companies

As the tech industry continues to grow, more and more companies are looking for talented software engineers to join their teams. While the FAANG companies (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google) often receive the most attention, many other non-FAANG companies offer great opportunities for developers.

However, landing a job at a non-FAANG company requires a thorough understanding of the behavioral coding interview process and the skills necessary to succeed. Mastering the behavioral coding interview is the key to unlocking new opportunities and taking your career to the next level.

This article will provide a comprehensive guide to help you understand the key components of a behavioral interview, prepare effectively, and showcase your skills to potential employers. So get ready to take your interview skills to the next level and impress your future boss!

What is a Behavioral Interview?

A behavioral interview is a job interview that focuses on the candidate's past experiences and behaviors to predict their future performance. The key components of a behavioral interview include specific job-related questions, which can include questions about teamwork, leadership, problem-solving, and more.

In addition, the STAR method asks the candidate to describe a Situation or Task, the Actions they took, and the Results achieved, allowing them to focus on specific behaviors and the candidate's fit for the company culture and work environment. Lastly, real-life examples which typically require candidates to provide specific examples from their past experiences that demonstrate the skills and behaviors being evaluated. 

Behavioral coding interviews have become a common practice in the tech industry. However, there are some slight differences that exist between the FAANG and non-FAANG companies in terms of the questions asked and the approach taken by the interviewer. At non-FAANG companies, behavioral interviews focus more on the candidate's past experiences and specific skills than their fit with the company culture.

Another difference is that FAANG companies typically have a more structured and rigorous interview process, with multiple rounds of interviews, technical and behavioral questions, and group problem-solving sessions. Conversely, non-FAANG companies may have a more relaxed and informal interview process, with only one or two rounds of interviews.

How to Prepare for a Behavioral Interview at a Non-FAANG Company: Tips and Best Practices

Making a Lasting Impression from the Beginning

A strong introduction is a powerful tool in any interview, regardless of the company size or industry. It can profoundly impact an interview's outcome and is critical to a successful interview strategy. By being well-prepared and confident, the candidate can make a lasting impression on the interviewer and increase their chances of landing the job.

To begin with, first impressions count; a strong introduction can help the candidate build rapport with the interviewer and establish themselves as confident and competent professionals. In addition, it helps establish the candidate's credibility and demonstrate their qualifications for the role.

For example, highlighting relevant experience or education can demonstrate the candidate's expertise and commitment to the field. Most importantly, it expresses the candidate's enthusiasm for the role and excitement about working for the company. It is important when applying to non-FAANG companies, where culture fit is often an important consideration.

As a developer, here are some effective techniques for making a strong introduction as a developer:

  • Highlight your relevant experience and skills, by being specific and providing concrete examples of your technical knowledge and experience, like sharing details about your projects and side hustles. It will showcase your skills and give the interviewer a better understanding of your capability.
  • Demonstrate or discuss your passion for coding and commitment to staying up-to-date with the latest technologies.
  • Explain why you chose a career in software development and what motivates you to do your best work.
  • Be confident and enthusiastic. Smile, make eye contact, and speak clearly. 

Following these tips can showcase your technical expertise and passion for software development. 

Telling Your Story as a Developer: Project Stories and Technical Expertise

Telling your story as a developer is an important part of a job interview, as it gives the interviewer a sense of your background, experience, and technical expertise.

Sharing project stories and giving specific examples of your work experience and accomplishments help demonstrate your technical skills and problem-solving abilities. Project stories can include challenges you faced, how you approached the problem, and what you learned from the experience. 

One of the best approaches is using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) model. It can help you to present your work effectively and demonstrate your skills, experience, and problem-solving abilities. You can begin by describing the situation or context of the project you were assigned, a problem you encountered, or a task you were asked to complete.

Then, explain the task assigned concisely, and focus on the key challenges you faced. Then, describe the steps you took to solve the problem. Next, you explain your thought process, showcasing your technical expertise and problem-solving skills.

Finally, discuss the outcome of your actions and what you accomplished. Focus on the results that matter most to the interviewer, such as increased efficiency, cost savings, or improved customer satisfaction. 

However, when telling your story, it's important to be concise, focused, and articulate. Make sure you clearly explain your experience and impact on the projects you have worked on. Avoid technical jargon, and make sure you're speaking in terms the interviewer will understand.

Understanding your Strengths and Weaknesses as a Developer

Self-awareness is a critical aspect of a behavioral interview, as it allows you to understand your strengths and weaknesses and present yourself in the best light possible. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses as a developer is essential to your professional development and can help you grow in your career. It's important to approach this process with honesty and an open mind.

Consider seeking feedback from coworkers, mentors, and peers, and be open to constructive criticism. It can only help you better understand your skills and abilities and identify areas for improvement to succeed in your career and reach the next level. Some strategies that can be used to identify and articulate your strengths and areas for improvement are asking for feedback from coworkers, managers, and peers, which provides valuable insights into your strengths and weaknesses areas and help you to identify patterns in your behavior and performance.

In addition, keep a record of your achievements, both big and small. It can build your profile, help you identify your strengths, and articulate them clearly and effectively during the interview. Most importantly, it will help you identify the fields that you can pursue in your career.

Building Effective Communication Skills

Clear communication is critical in any interview setting as it allows the interviewer to understand what you are trying to convey effectively and that ensures the interviewer has a clear understanding of what you bring to the table. Your body language can say a lot to the interviewer, so it is important to ensure that you are paying close attention to the interviewer and giving them your full attention by demonstrating your understanding and empathy by using nonverbal cues such as nodding or making eye contact.

In addition, do not hesitate to ask clarifying or relevant questions about the company or the job you applied for because it shows that you are engaged and interested in what the interviewer is saying. Lastly, allow the interviewer to finish speaking before jumping in with your response. After the interviewer has finished speaking, summarize their key points and reflect on how they relate to your experience. It shows that you have actively listened, understood the information, and respected their thoughts and ideas.

Good communication skills can increase your credibility with the interviewer because when you communicate clearly and effectively, you demonstrate your mastery of the subject matter and your ability to articulate your thoughts and ideas.

Furthermore, it is one of the most critical things the interviewer notices to judge your teamwork skills. By having effective communication skills, you will show the interviewer that you can collaborate with your team members and achieve the common goals assigned to the team. Lastly, good communication skills increase your chances of making a positive impression on the interviewer. 

Managing Emotions During the Behavioral Interview

Emotional intelligence, also known as emotional quotient (EQ), refers to a person's ability to recognize, understand, and manage their own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. It holds its advantage, which helps you during the interview. It allows you to communicate effectively and interact with others, which is especially important in a job interview as it can help you resolve conflicts professionally and effectively.

For example, in a behavioral interview, you may be asked to discuss your experience resolving conflicts in the workplace to see that you have the skills necessary to navigate challenging situations. Similarly, you may be asked to discuss your leadership experience, or you may be asked to discuss your experience handling stress and challenging situations, and therefore, demonstrating your emotional intelligence can help to show that you have the skills necessary to lead, motivate and remain calm under pressure to ensure that you can handle the demands of the job.

Most people suffer from Impostor syndrome, which refers to the feeling of insecurity and self-doubt, even in the face of evidence to the contrary, that one is not as competent as one appears. It is a common experience among many professionals, including developers. It is important to overcome this syndrome because it can negate all your improved communication, presentation, performance, and resilient characteristics.

To overcome impostor syndrome and build confidence, you must practice self-care for your mental and physical health, refrain from negative thoughts, prepare thoroughly, and, most importantly, surround yourself with supportive people who believe in your abilities and can provide encouragement.

Culture Fit: Evaluating Alignment with Company Values

Culture fit is one of the essential criteria in the hiring process because it helps to ensure that the candidate will be a good fit for the company's work environment and can work effectively with their colleagues. The three main components which define culture fit for the candidate are values, attitude, and behavior.

A candidate's values, attitude, and behavior should align with the company's. For example, the company values teamwork and collaboration. In that case, the candidate should demonstrate their ability to work effectively in a team environment, or if the company values innovation and creativity, the candidate should demonstrate their willingness to think outside the box and embrace new ideas, or if the company values punctuality and reliability, the candidate should have a track record of being on time and meeting deadlines.

To determine whether the company culture matches your goals, you have to research the company. Check out online reviews and testimonials from employees to get a more in-depth understanding of the company culture. If possible, reach out to current employees for their perspectives on the company culture and ask about their experiences working at the company, what they like and dislike, and what the company culture is like. In addition, attend company events to observe the interactions between employees and how they engage with each other.

After your research, evaluate your goals, align your thoughts about the company, and consider whether the company culture supports them, which as a result, will help you make your decision whether to work for the company or not.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid During a Behavioral Interview

There are many common mistakes that candidates tend to make, which results in failure in a behavioral interview. Here are some common pitfalls to avoid during a behavioral interview:

  • Not preparing adequately: Failing to prepare adequately for a behavioral interview can result in ineffective communication, missed opportunities to highlight your skills and experience, and a lack of confidence.
  • Not understanding the company's culture: It's important to understand the company culture and values to ensure that your behaviors, attitudes, and values align with those of the company.

  • Failing to articulate your experience: Failing to articulate your experience clearly and effectively can result in the interviewer not understanding the full extent of your skills and abilities
  • Not showcasing your problem-solving skills: Behavioral interviews are designed to assess your problem-solving skills, so it's important to provide specific examples of how you have dealt with challenges in the past.

  • Being overly negative: Avoid complaining about past jobs or experiences, as this can come across as negative and unprofessional. Instead, focus on the positive aspects of your experience and highlight how you have learned and grown from challenges.

By avoiding these common pitfalls, you can make the most out of a behavioral interview and increase your chances of being offered the job. 

Key Steps to Take After the Interview

The interview process does not end after the final meeting. There are several key steps you should take after the interview to increase your chances of getting the job offer. For example, send a personalized thank-you note to the interviewer to show appreciation and reiterate your interest in the position. Also, if you haven't heard back from the company after a few days or a week, reach out to the hiring manager to inquire about the status of your application.

In addition, take some time to reflect on the interview, think about the questions you were asked, and what you could have done better to prepare for a second interview and make an even better impression than before. Fortunately, if you receive a job offer, take the time to evaluate it carefully. Consider factors such as salary, benefits, job responsibilities, and company culture before deciding. On the other hand, continue your job search even if you are confident that you will get the job; it's important to continue your job search until you receive a job offer.

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Resources for Behavioral Interview Preparation

Fortunately, various online tools and platforms can help you prepare for behavioral coding interviews. Some popular ones include LeetCode, HackerRank and InterviewBit, the platforms for software engineers to practice coding and improve their technical skills. They also offer interview preparation resources, including mock interviews, tutorials, and coding challenges.

GeeksforGeeks is another website that provides resources for computer science students and professionals, including articles and tutorials on various topics related to software engineering and interview preparation.

Lastly, Udemy is an online learning platform that offers courses on various topics, including interview preparation. Furthermore, you can find courses specifically designed to help you prepare for a behavioral interview.

Final Thoughts

Mastering the behavioral coding interview at non-FAANG companies requires preparation and effort. You can increase your chances of success by understanding the key components of a behavioral interview, preparing effectively, and utilizing resources such as company websites, online tools, and professional development courses.

It is also important to focus on clear communication, emotional intelligence, and understanding your strengths and weaknesses as a developer. Finally, remember to be confident, persistent, and focused on your goals, as the job search process can take time. With the right preparation and approach, you can master the behavioral coding interview and take your career to the next level.