Interview Advice

8 Behavioral Interview Questions I Was Asked over 30+ Interviews

Even though they're often overlooked, behavioral interviews are a crucial part of recruiting. Keep reading for a list of important behavioral questions – and how to answer them!

Michael Yan
Published: (Updated: ) - 5 min read
Michael Yan is the co-founder & CEO of Simplify. Previously a software engineer at Meta, Michael dropped out of Stanford to found Simplify. He is a part-time career coach & Y Combinator alum.

Photo by charlesdeluvio / Unsplash

Even though they're often overlooked, behavioral interviews are a crucial part of recruiting–that can make or break your impression with a hiring manager–and can be the difference between walking out with an offer or a rejection.

Before starting Simplify, I applied to over 150+ internship positions and manually logged every application I submitted and interview I took in a Google Sheet – as you can see below.

18 out of 150+ roles I applied to when recruiting for internships in 2019

After bombing my first few behavioral questions (I didn't even get to the technical interview), I realized that the questions were much more subtle than I expected. So, without further ado, here's the list of behavioral questions – and how to answer them!

Tip: Don't use a Google Sheet to track your applications – Simplify's extension does it for you automatically :)

What motivated you to apply to [company]?

This question is often used to filter-out candidates that don't have a strong interest in the company. Generic answers like, "I think [company] does interesting work" and "I think I would learn a lot at  [company]" are red flags that scream "I don't actually care about your company!"

You'll want to think internally about this – what makes this company special or interesting to you? Take Meta for example. A good answer would be:

I spend a lot time using of Meta's products – probably more than a healthy amount. I use Messenger to keep in touch with my friends, Instagram to share photos, and Facebook to save me time when logging into other services. Honestly, as much as I love these products, I think there's a lot of room for improvement – I have a bunch of ideas about how I could make Instagram more user-friendly, particularly to older audiences like my parents and grandparents. I think this internship would be super fun, and I'd learn a lot!

Describe your ideal job/internship.

This is your chance to emphasize your interest in learning and working on a product you care about. It's also a great chance to show off your knowledge about the company's culture (or an aspect about their internship program). No need to be dramatic, but a subtle note about the company can be a good thing.

Using Meta as an example again:

I really value being able to make an impact on the end user. I know that a lot of internships have interns piled in a back-office working on tools that will never get to a user (or even another human). I know that Meta interns are put on high-impact projects (I've heard the zoom-in feature on Instagram was built by an intern!) and that's definitely something I care about.

Another thing I value is a company culture that fosters community among employees and interns. Networking events, a speaker series, and fun happy hours are things that I really value in a job!

Are you a user of [company's product]?

This. Honestly, if you aren't user of the company your interviewing for's product, it's kind of a red flag. It takes 5-10 minutes to get familiar with the companies product and even figure out some points of feedback you might have. It shows that you actually care about the company and aren't just an unaffected third-party.

Obviously for companies like Boeing, this question might not be as relevant, but for consumer companies (Duolingo, LinkedIn, Spotify, etc.) it's definitely an important question!

Want to work at Simplify? Apply here – just make sure you're a user first 😉

Tell me about your experience at ....?

This isn't a chance for you to list off every single thing you did at your last company. It is a chance for you to demonstrate a quality that you have through the lens of a previous work experience. Use this question to talk about interesting things you did at your last job and things you've learned. You can also use this to segue into a reason why you're interested in the role you're currently applying to.

A good rule of thumb is to not repeat anything listed on your resume. Let's say you previously interned at Amazon – here's an example of a good response:

Last summer, I worked on Amazon's Alexa team. I went into the internship not knowing anything about voice recognition but had always been super interested in the field. I ended up getting really familiar with Python, particularly some of the machine learning libraries like SKlearn, numpy, and pytorch. I got the chance to work with really smart people and ultimately build a machine learning model from the ground-up that is still being used by the Alexa team today.

I had a great time, but have always wanted to work on something more user facing – and something that I use on a daily basis. That's what makes me so excited about applying to Spotify!

Tell me about the biggest challenge you've faced at your previous internships.

This is a classic question. Use this again as a way to subtly flex your strengths. Here's an answer that I've used:

When I was interning at Facebook, I was tasked with building an internal tool that would be used by both our machine learning team and data entry employees. Obviously, the concerns and needs from a machine learning engineer are drastically different from someone copying-and-pasting data. I had to figure out and balance the "wants" and "needs" of both parties – a process that took a lot of negotiating and Zoom calls.

At the very end though, I was able to build an MVP that both groups were (mostly) happy with, and is still being used by the team today. I even got some data entry experience along the way!

Tell me about your proudest accomplishment.

This is also a common question that you should prepare for. Try to find something unique that demonstrates either an important quality about you, or a skill that you have. Unique is the key word here – I've heard many candidates say things like, "in my computer science class, I worked for 24 hours to build a tic-tac-toe game – it was super cool and we ended up doing really well in the class."

Not to burst your bubble, but your interviewer has probably heard answers like this hundreds of times. Try to find something out of the box, maybe the time you helped your parents build a website for your family restaurant, or something of that nature. This answer should be unique, so I won't provide a sample answer.

Do you have any questions for me?

Usually the last question in the interview, I like to think that this is one of the most important questions of the entire interview. It's your time to show your thoughtfulness and genuine curiosity about the company or role you're interviewing for, and it give the interviewer a chance to talk about themself (who doesn't like talking about themself?).

I like to start with a personal question like "how do you like your job at [company] compared to your last job?" This helps me get an idea of what it's like to work at the company, and give the interviewer a chance to pitch their own company – a win-win. You can take this question a million ways, but it's definitely something you should prepare for!

Feel more prepared for the interview? Check out this list of exciting internships and new-grad roles for great companies to start applying to!