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Creating an Effective Developer Interview Process

Lesson 7 of 16

Behavioral Questions Overview

Gayle Laakmann McDowell

Creating an Effective Developer Interview Process

Gayle Laakmann McDowell

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Lesson Info

7. Behavioral Questions Overview

Lesson Info

Behavioral Questions Overview

screaming. I moved into the second section and talk about data types, interview questions. So have your questions and cultural fit and knowledge. And I've spent a lot of time on coding algorithms and then also to talk about design questions. First of those talk about behavior questions. So what we're looking for here pencil the company and this and that. But in the world, generally some technical technical expertise something you know, call culture, fit, personality, communication, skills, whatever label you want to put on that on communication. Ultimately, it was saying, is like, Is this the person you want on the team? I want to be clear that I'm not necessarily talking up. Sometimes people will describe this as a like the old beer test. Is this the person you want to grab a beer with? I'm not necessarily talking about that, like some companies do look at it that way, and that has its benefits. But also a lot of trade offs. Um, behavior interviews are more than just that. So there's ...

a couple of types of behaviour interviews you can dio on gonna lump a lot of the things together, But talk about, you know, open ended Discovery. I'm a talk, and I'll talk to tell you about what happened to finding into these and then, um, situational interviews another thing, and then what? I call self descriptions. So first of all, talk about is open to discovery. So these are the really broad questions. Walk me through your resume. Tell me about a project. Um, time about your job. What do you do? These are the really, really open into questions. And what's great about these is Candice like them. Nobody walks away from interview. They were asked about their project their their their job and feel. Feels like that was an unfair question. People like them cancer, happy about them. And that is actually a really good reason. Ask them, Uh, it also gives can see opportunity talk up what they want to talk about so people won't walk away thinking they never even gave me the opportunity. Talk about this thing, you know, they had the opportunity gave that opportunity. Doesn't talk with stuff that they want. You can. You can use them to find stuff, not in the resume. So, in fact, one question that I give to everybody wanna preparing them and you can take it as an interviewer is You know, I have somebody kind of give me a description, like walking to the resume themselves. And then I always if they didn't find this information up front, I always ask about, you know, if they do anything outside of work and make it very clear that I'm like, Hey, look, it's totally okay if you don't want If you you just do work and family friends, it's really find. But, you know, I like to ask this just because of those people. Hasn't really cool that they just want to mention you. Is there anything outside of work you want? Talk about any hobbies or anything you do for fun? And I want make it very clear that Yeah, Cautious when I ask the question, I don't want to someone to feel like they doing something wrong. You don't have any hobbies. Honestly, most people, if you actually doctor, like people. I know not Candace most Well, don't really have hobbies that there that passion about, um so I don't want to feel like bad hobbies, but I like to We welcome that because a huge number of candidates just don't realize they should talk about something. So somebody I was working with was a PM product manager candidate, and he had really no technical skills that were obvious from his resume. Um, which is your problem for a PM Not a deal breaker, but a property issue for a lot of other moles. And after, actually only at the second interview D did he mention that he's building. So he mentioned at first, actually, hobby of it has a chicken coop, and I was, like, Kind of random. Okay, cool. But you have a chicken coop. As it turns out, though, he was actually building a robotic arm toe like apparently, I don't know. I don't have it works. It's only like chickens have to be. Go back in the thing I don't know in the evenings. And so he's building this robotic arms. So, yeah, he didn't have, like, a software engineering or computer science degree, but who's building a robotic arm that's absolutely technical, but not something that he ever thought to list on his resume, and he actually showed up. It's pretty cool, but he didn't think to do it, and so there's a lot of stuff that, if you ask me, really starts listening information. You can find stuff out that maybe isn't on their resume. Uh, you never. People never get thrown off by these questions. You asked projects your their job. You ever could do this knowing this on off them. But of course, it's very unstructured, so you might not get the information that you want you want to have. It also makes it because of so instruction, because it's so wide open, people might not know what they want to talk about. They don't necessarily know the appropriate detail, so you need to take a more active role as an interviewer. Uh, one other thing that happens for a lot of these kind of like big, open ended questions as well as more specific situational questions. Are people just crediting the team with everything I'm and not really tickling their own role enough? And then sometimes people just feel uncomfortable, right? And that's just a downside of it. Really Open into question, um, or, you know, any behavior question, but it's something you want to be where people will be nervous sometimes, so when good people do badly. So some other are all the things you want to do is to some questions I like opening. What? Resume walkers. These are good and help people. One thing that's often useful here is setting the stage a little bit by doing it yourself. Give your own buyer so you'll have an idea of what you're talking about when you say so, that when you say telling about yourself, they don't go and talk about their partner and kids. So you know, expectation of here is roughly kind of what I'd like to talk about. So that's useful to dio think you ask about. I, like asked what hobbies and stuff? Not in their resume. Uh, so I give example of, you know, the guy Booth buildings of erotic arm chicken coop. There's another person I talked to talk to, who was Turns out he is. He runs and he actually had. That is rather because it turns out he had and he only tried this when I asked about it. He had actually signed up for 100 mile ultra marathon, was actually running 100 miles, just insane. Four miles marathons back to back. This is like through I guess I don't know. Must take all day or something. So is running 100 miles back to back. Sign up for this. He end up quitting, though at mile 60 because he, like, hurt his ankle in my 30. So this guy friend, 30 miles over a full marathon, then hurt his ankle, then this like I don't go keep running. About 30 miles later, common sense kicked in, finally was like, maybe actually running 30 miles and a hurt ankle is not a good thing for my long term health on. So you end up quitting, but you're having a man like you get this really interesting new perspective, Like this person is very adventurous, their risk taker there really take on hard challenges, like, and you get all this cool stuff that maybe you didn't know otherwise, it didn't really come out in the rest. But again, if you're going to go that on down this route, make sure you warn that it's okay to not have anything. I don't want people to feel like they let me down because I don't have a hottie. Most we don't have hobbies. That's totally fine. Um, and then you just any product of the past, past products and work. Good question asked. So when you ain't gonna be doing this because people aren't necessarily great candidates there, you know they might be great employees, but they're not silly. Good candidates. They may not know the art of interviewing. Ask really opening questions. Probe a little deeper. One thing I recommend people do. And this is something a lot people don't realize is that can add just a little bit of nervousness to the situation is a voice ProLogis. It just doesn't do any good. So rather than asking, tell about your hardest project. I'm not a hard project, a simple little change. What happens when cannons get asked about their hardest project? They're not. You know, if you think about hardest product for so hard project no one's going to say, Well, G, they didn't say it had be their heart, my hardest projects. And I'm gonna take a less hard one. It's gonna wind up with a sense of the same project in either case, but when you say hardest project now, they feel like they screwed up when they didn't weren't able to think of the hardest project. So just simple little thing adds, You, makes the situation a bit, were more easy, and it makes it actually more comfortable realizing that they don't have to say the ultimate hardest. You know, particularly start talking about things like Tell about your hardest bug Now you're like, Oh my God can 15 years experience. Can I think about the heart? Isn't really, you know, ask me the hardest one of all time. You just wanted something interesting challenging, So just avoid this relative very easy sent, fixed, make show interesting and encouragement even when it's not that interesting. Give that positive feedback. It's really, really important. You want Candice it feel comfortable more comfortably are not only will they have a better experience in the thing and then tell their in the day and they'll tell their friends more positive things, But they'll also be more likely to be able to be open and talk to you about stuff, so show in his encouragement. One thing to be aware of when you start asking these very, very open into questions is sometimes people can walk away feeling if you do in the wrong way, feeling like you weren't prepared so if you say, What do you do at work? Can't even sometimes read that as like, they didn't read my resume. So just make sure that if you gonna if you're gonna ask these questions like, tell me about what you tell about your background, would you study in school? Make sure that it's you're practicing it with, like already read your eyes tonight. But I love it here in your own words. Like walk me through your resume. Just make it clear that it's not a reflection you haven't read your resume.

Class Description

In this workshop led by Gayle Laakmann McDowell, former Google software engineer, interviewer and the author of the bestselling book Cracking the Coding Interview, you'll be hands-on, covering all the specifics you'll need to know about coding interviews. It will start with an overview of the hiring process and dive into more detail about types of interview questions (behavioral, knowledge, algorithms/coding, and design). You will learn how to create a hiring process that is efficient, sets a high and consistent bar, and attracts strong candidates.

Although sections of the workshop will be highly technical, non-technical people are encouraged to attend. You will learn:

  • Differences between assessing senior candidates and junior candidates
  • The goals and limitations of technology-specific questions
  • Selecting and asking appropriate algorithm questions
  • Mechanisms to evaluate coding skills, including whiteboards, laptops and code assessment tools
This class is your comprehensive guide to hiring the right developer for your company. 

In Partnership with Greylock Partners 



What an awesome opportunity to learn from one of the best on the topic! This course has value for anyone who's looking to hire or work with technical talent! I've attended tons of talent conferences and this course succinctly and tactically address how to effectively interview engineers. Highly recommended.

Kevin Scott

Terrific class with unique eye opening content. This class applies for any Dev. hiring team, whether startups or large, established companies. I recommend this training tool to anyone wanting to help others improve their own interviewing skill set and build dynamic hiring processes / plans.


This class was exactly as billed - I received in depth knowledge of how to create great developer interviews. Gayle was very organized and presented her info in a dynamic, inter-active environment. It was really great to be part of the studio audience.