Blog Archive: career

How to Interview Successfully

A few weeks ago a friend of mine asked me what he should expect in an upcoming job interview. I shared with him a few thoughts from my interviewing experience during my Senior year of college.

When I began interviewing, I learned that companies want to see not only that a candidate has the ability to perform the tasks required in doing the job, but also that he knows how to work well on a team and will fit well in the company. Over the past few years, companies have learned that behavior-based interviewing is the best way to accomplish this. In behavior-based interviewing, an interviewer will ask questions about an interviewee’s past experiences, rather than hypothetical “how would you act in such and such a situation” questions. An individual’s past actions generally more accurately predict his future behaviors than do his explanations of how he would act in a certain hypothetical situation.

Following are some examples of questions that I was asked in my interviews:

  • Tell me about a time you were on a team and someone didn’t pull their weight. What did you do?
  • Tell me about a time you didn’t finish a project in time. How did you deal with not meeting your professor’s or boss’s expectations?
  • When working on multiple projects at once, how do you prioritize the work that needs to be done?
  • Have you ever taught yourself something on your own, without having someone to help you along the way?
  • How do I know when you’re listening to me when I’m talking to you?

With a quick Google search, you can find all sorts of other examples.

Technical interviews will often include a mix of the behavioral questions and technical questions. Many of these questions for me were also based on past experience, rather than a simple rehashing of what I know. For example, I remember being asked, “How do you go about identifying the cause of a defect in an application?”

If you’re interviewing for a technical position like I was, you might get the question, “Have you ever built your own computer?” That question always resulted in an interesting discussion for me because it had been six years since I’d built a computer. In recent times, it has become more cost effective to purchase a pre-built system, unless perhaps you’re looking for something top-of-the-line.