A few notes about the behavioral interview

I like Mike Hall’s tips for interviewers in his notes about behavioral interviews. The crux of the behavioral interview style is this:

I’d rather know what you’ve done than what you think, and I have adjusted my style a little to help candidates. I try to explain my process up front. “I’m going to ask you about times you did things because I really want to get down to how you work and what your experience is.”

It is, however, very important to realize that adjacent or related experiences are completely valid and should be encouraged:

If you want to build a diverse, vibrant team, or if you’re not one of those disasters of a manager who doesn’t understand that you need people at several levels of experience on a well-rounded team, then you need to think of a behavioral style not as a way to narrowly insist on stories that describe the exact thing you need done. Instead, you need to think in terms of the competencies the thing requires, and think of examples to ask for that reflect those competencies, not an exact task.

This is a good tip for candidates as well—don’t talk in generalities. Be specific about the ways in which you have solved a particular challenge in the past, what worked well, and what you have learned/would do differently next time.