What is Behavior Event Interviewing?

Behavior event interviewing can be one of the most reliable tools in predicting an applicant’s future on-the-job performance.

The theory of behavior event interviewing (BEI) is simple. It considers the best way for an organization to predict an individuals future behavior and performance is to have the individual talk about their past behavior and performance.

Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This interview style is based in the belief that hypothetical responses – which are what most people give and what most interviewers ask for – do not predict how a person will act in a future situation. In fact, most of the time the answers an interviewee provides are what they believe the interviewer wants to hear.

Employers need to hire the candidate who has the best skills for the job, therefore, BEI’s also provide the opportunity for HR departments and interview panels to use a standardized assessment method to measure the responses and qualifications of their prospects. Being measurable is important as it provides consistent, quantifiable proof that the best candidate has been chosen and that the final decision is defendable. The root of a BEI is therefore in the design and the delivery of standardized questions.

What are your responsibilities… if you are interviewing?

Prior to the interview all of the questions should be designed and (if you are part of a small panel), agreed upon. Each question should have a specific purpose to measure a desirable behavior and competency that is in line with the job deliverables. It should go without saying that BEI questions are open-ended questions. BEI questions should be designed so they evoke responses that are based within the interviewees’ own personal experiences and abilities, and hopefully the interviewee will offer concrete examples of their past achievements.

The interviewers must also review and agree upon the measurement form they will use during the interviews. You can design a form based on your offices requirement, however, a sample of a very simple form is as follows.

Name of Interviewee _______________________ Position _________________________

Names of Interviewers 1. _______________________ 2. __________________________

Names of Interviewers 3. _______________________ 4. __________________________

Date _________________________________


Response Rating
1 2 3 4 5

Notes (Strengths / Weaknesses)


During a behavioral interview, and interviewee should be informed their responses should be in relation to their own real life events. I recommend this as much as a courtesy as well as a time saver for the interviewers. An interviewer may to need to guide personal responses at first as by nature, many of us commonly downplay our own achievements and offer credit to others or discuss the goals of ‘the team’.

What are your responsibilities… if you are being interviewed?

In behavior-based interviews, you need to be prepared to give specific examples of when you demonstrated particular behaviors or skills. You should describe in detail a particular event, project, or experience. You should elaborate on how you dealt with the situation, your feelings and observations about your feelings, what the outcome of the project were, and if appropriate what you learned from the experience. If it was a negative experience, describe what you learned from the negative experience. Your responses should also be relevant to your potential employer’s industry and market whenever possible.

Focus on actual past behaviors rather than on hypothetical actions or hypothetical behavior. General answers about behavior are not important and will likely detract from your overall BEI measurement score. If you don’t have an example, consider the skill they are looking for and suggest a solution, but tie your solution to your behavior in another situation. For example, if you don’t have leadership experiences at work discuss your leadership experience volunteering.

During the interview you want to impress the interviewers by providing brief, to-the-point answers that relate your skills and experience to their needs.

Note that during a BEI interview, candidates that always refer to ‘we’ or ‘they’ or ‘I would’ demonstrate that they either do not listen to instruction, can not adjust to new environments, or even do not have the experience required.

Practice for the interview by addressing several questions most interviewers ask.

As you prepare for your interview, consider situations where you:

    • Demonstrated leadership
    • Mentored someone
    • Solved a problem
    • Increased company profits
    • Made a good decision/made a poor decision
    • Worked through organizational change
    • Met a deadline/missed a deadline
    • Worked as part of a team

What do Behavior Event Interview questions look like?

Behavioral questions usually begin with a statement like: ‘Tell me about a time when…’ or ‘Describe a situation where…’

The following are some examples of behavioral questions:

    • Describe a time when you were faced with problems or stresses that tested your coping skills.
      • What did you do?
    • Give an example of a time when you had to be relatively quick in coming to a decision.
    • Describe the system you use to keep track of multiple projects.
    • Tell me about a time when you came up with an innovative solution to a challenge.
      • What was the challenge?
      • What was the outcome?
      • What role did you play?
      • What role did others play?
    • Describe the most creative work-related project you have completed.
    • Tell me about a situation where you worked with an upset customer or co-worker.
    • Describe a difficult problem that you faced.
      • How did you identify the problem?
      • How did you go about trying to solve it?

Happy communicating… and happy interviewing.

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About Bruce Mayhew
Bruce Mayhew is a Leadership Coach, Keynote Speaker and Corporate Trainer who builds strong client and co-worker relationships that give clients a competitive advantage. Our training and development programs include: ■Generational Differences ■Effective Business Email Writing ■Email Etiquette ■Phone Etiquette ■Behaviour Event Interviewing (BEI) ■Mindfulness ■Using Linkedin to Build Client Relationships ■Objective Setting Made Easy

4 Responses to What is Behavior Event Interviewing?

  1. Pingback: What Is Appreciative Inquiry? « Bruce Mayhew Blog: Business Communication

  2. Manimozhi Ragupathy says:

    Hello sir, Behavior Event Interviewing is a good method for choosing the best person for the organization.But in a case, where an interviewee is trying to give cooked up experiences, will the interviewer be able to judge the interviewee correctly ?

    • Bruce Mayhew says:

      Great question.
      If someone is going to “cook” their responses one of the best ways to uncover this is with BEI.

      Typically, a BEI interview may have approximately 10-12 relevant questions that will all be asked (and measured), to each of your interviewee candidates. Because questions explore their personal actions / contribution as they are directly related to the job responsibilities, the natural overlap often identifies true knowledge / experience vs. ‘cooked’ knowledge / experience.

      To be quite clear – BEI is a single interview tool and an excellent way for you conduct your question period of an interview. The evaluation ability is one of its key strengths. That said, I strongly urge potential employers to also do:
      • Background / reference checks (although past employers are restricted to some of the information they can provide).
      • Practical assignments – like outline a project plan for someone interviewing as a project manager.

      I hope this helps.

  3. Pingback: 2 Steps To Hiring And Retaining The Right Millennial | Bruce Mayhew Blog: Business Communication

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