Question: Tell me a time where you helped solve a problem that wasn’t yours.
Answer: Sometimes, I am over perfectionist. I do that for credibility. If people ask me for help, I help.

Q: Specific example?
A: I like to help people to know how to solve a problem. Multiple times people will ask me about a private table. I will sit down with people and educate people and explain the underlying concept.

Q: How about a specific case where you noticed an issue and jumped in to fix it?
A: At my previous company, I was doing ETL, which was done by Unix shell. I noticed that the system was connected to the test environment instead of the prod environment. So I worked on fixing it.

Q: How did you notice the problem?
A: Just by manually reviewing the code.

Q: Why were you reviewing the code?
A: I was working on the script and add some SQL procedures and noticed the issue.

Q: How did you resolve the problem?
A: Disabled prod environment. Restructured the code, changed the variable etc.

Q: What was the impact on the prod system?
A: 1 million rows of records was in the wrong format.

Q: How did you help in mitigating the customer impact?
A: The use of the record was for a debt collector. Run a bunch of tests.

Analysis

Competency asserted: Ownership
Job title: SDE II

Vote: Mixed

The candidate gave an example of fixing a bug he found in a shell script while working on a feature that was unrelated to the bug. The candidate could have ignored the bug, ship his feature, without worrying. Instead, the candidate took ownership to fix the bug and help diagnose the bug’s impact on the production system.

I was hoping to hear about what he did to prevent the same issue from happening again, which could have been bar-raising data points. Unfortunately, the candidate was not able to come up with anything substantial.

Learnings

This candidate’s first answer was cliché. Similar to another cliché interview question: “what is your greatest weakness?”

– I’m just a bit of a perfectionist.
– If anything, I just work too hard. I don’t know when to stop.
– I just care too much about my job.

The interviewer is looking for a particular anecdote or story. Here the candidate wasted time by giving vague examples until the interviewer refocused the conversation (twice) asking for a specific example to eventually rephrase into: “How about a specific case where you noticed an issue and jumped in to fix it?”.

There is a difference between meeting the bar (meeting expectations) and raising the bar (exceeding expectations). While the candidate demonstrated ownership by fixing the issue for the short term, he did not work on a long term solution for this problem or more in-depth root cause analysis.

Examples of Behavioral Questions and real-life interviewer feedback. Learn from the mistakes others made!