3 Tough Interview Questions for Employers

These 3 interview questions are often not asked, but I find very helpful to identify the best candidate to hire.

Let’s back up a second. Interviews offer a micro-opportunity for you – an employer – to assess a prospective employees’ abilities and compatibility with the work, the organizational culture and the customers / clients. During the interview you are looking to hire a person who will:

A: Go above and beyond, be creative, be dependable, be respected by co-workers/customers/clients.
B: Manage their responsibilities well, be respected by co-workers/customers/clients.
C/D: Nobody wants to hire a C or D option, so I won’t even talk about the employee that just gets by.

A or B would be great… but really, we want to hire the A employee every time – and we want them to stay with us for more than 2 years.Storytelling Word Mix By Bruce Mayhew

These examples follow the Behavioral Event Interview (BEI). What is a behavioral interview question? A BEI is a structured interview usually used when selecting employees. It gathers information about the history of an applicant as a means of predicting future performance. A Behavioral Event Interview asks for examples of a candidates past actions / behaviors… not answers to hypothetical situations.

A BEI can easily have 10 to 15 prepared interview questions that the interviewer asks every candidate. The following are 3 interview questions I find very helpful to find A-class candidates.

Behavioral Event Interview (BEI)

1: Tell me about a time when you have been promoted or given more responsibility?

A-class employees are hard workers who look for opportunities to grow and do great work. This often leads to being promoted – or at least frequently being given more responsibility and greater challenges.

Sub-Questions Level II:

  1. Why did your supervisors / leaders give you this promotion / more responsibility?
  2. How did you feel about being given this promotion / more responsibility?

2: Share a large project or challenge you have led.

A-class employees often find themselves running large or important projects; even introverted A-class employees. Why? Because they are creative, collaborative, dependable and have a high work-quality ethic.

Sub-Questions Level II:

  1. Please share the key deliverables and what you did to achieve them.
  2. Discuss any crisis that came along and what you did to correct it.
  3. Share experiences you had with delegating tasks and/or collaboration. Questions b&c explore leadership abilities/qualities in forming, leading and mentoring teams.
  4. What did you do to create something new? Here you are looking for them to demonstrate that they are a thought leaders… by either coming up with a new idea/process… or repurposing something that exists into a new format/purpose (like taking blog posts and creating a webinar from them for team training).

3: Are you committed to continual learning??

A-class employees love learning – especially Millennials; they want to gain experience. In addition, most exceptional employees also want to meet new people to add to their professional network. Learning can be books they read, courses they took or Professional Development they participated in… or a combination.

Sub-Questions Level II:

  1. How do you learn best? What is your learning style?
  2. Describe something that pushed your limits – engaged you to learn in your previous role.


Interview questions are critically important and often not given the forethought they deserve.

It’s important employers look beyond a list of credentials and education and discover how candidates will act in the future by explaining what they’ve done in the past. Look for how they think, their personal and professional values and how they communicate.

Encourage candidates to share stories about their past experiences – both work experiences and perhaps (especially for Millennials), experiences they’ve had elsewhere (volunteering, education, vacation etc). Look for their expressed behavior in situations – because if they can tell you how they handled a stressful situation in the past, it’s a very good indicator that they will handle stressful situations in a similar way in the future.

Happy communicating… interviewing… mentoring… and training.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Time Management and Mindfulness.

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Increase Employee Loyalty In 1 Step. Hire The Right Person

Employee Loyalty is a growing challenge for organizations.  And while many organizations struggle to increase employee loyalty, I believe a significant part of the challenge is that the wrong people are being hired.  As employee needs and choices increase, it’s increasingly difficult to find the right fit to match the competencies for the job you are hiring for AND your corporate culture.  When a poor selection is made, it’s like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole… so no wonder the employee loyalty (and employee satisfaction), drops as employees are often the first to realize the fit is poor.

Behavior Event Interview Can Increase Employee Loyalty

A Behavior Event Interview (BEI) is a very powerful tool for employee assessment and selection that is structured, formal, measurable and consistently delivers exceptional hiring results. Since the best indicator of future behavior and performance is past behavior, BEI explores a persons past behavior.

Behavior Event Interview questions usually begin with: ‘Tell me about a time when…’ or ‘Describe a situation where…

Behavior Event Interview training (BEI training), guides participants through the steps to be able to prepare and conduct an interview where they:

  • Measure key competencies
  • Identify performance strengths
  • Identify performance gaps (and potential training needs), of high potential candidates
  • Forecast a candidates future behavior
  • Create a standardized framework that can be used by one person or a interview panel
  • Deliver consistent results
  • Eliminate bias in assessment
  • Provide quantitative and qualitative feedback which can be referred to days, months or years later

Being measurable is increasingly important for all employers as it provides consistent, quantifiable proof that the best candidate has been chosen and the final decision is defendable. The root of a BEI is therefore in the development and delivery of standardized questions that allow each candidate to be measured based on their own responses.

Creating BEI Questions:Increase Employee Loyalty

Whether you are creating BEI questions to be used by one person in one location – or many people in many locations, to increase employee loyalty each question should have a specific purpose to measure a pre-identified, desirable behavior and competency that is in line with the job deliverables.

During a BEI interview, candidates should always refer to ‘I’ to demonstrate their personal involvement.  This is not a place for ‘we’. While team involvement is often a desirable trait, this is one place you are looking to identify and measure individual achievement and potential.

As you prepare your interview questions, consider the core competency you need.  For example:

  • Managing multiple priorities
  • Sharing responsibility as part of a team
  • Resolving conflict
  • Demonstrating leadership
  • Mentoring one or more people
  • Increasing ROI

What Do Behavior Event Interview Questions Look Like?

When developing your BEI questions use the STAR model as your guide: “S” – situation, “T” – task, “A” – action, “R” result. Note: The following are not properly phrased interview questions.

Situation – Ask the candidate to describe:

  • What happened?
  • Who was involved?
  • How did you feel?

 Task – Ask the candidate to describe:

  • What needed to be done?
  • How did you arrive at that assessment?
  • How did you feel?

Action – Ask the candidate to describe:

  • What did you do to solve the situation?
  • Why did you choose that option?
  • How did you feel?

Result – Ask the candidate to describe:

  • What was the end result?
  • What did you learn from the situation?
  • How did you feel about the outcome or your participation / decisions?

You will note in my attempt to improve employee loyalty I like to explore how a candidate feels about the situation, assessment and their actions.

The following are ‘Situation’ based examples of Behavior Event Interview questions:

  • Describe an example when you were faced with problems involving an important client deliverable.
  • Give an example of a time when you had to quickly make an important decision.
  • Describe how you prioritize multiple projects.
  • Tell us of a time when you could not make a client happy despite your best efforts.

What Should The Candidates Answers Look Like?

The candidate is guided to describe successful (and unsuccessful) outcomes. Outcomes can be:

  • Business experience
  • Personal experience

While business examples are preferred, personal outcomes are also valid for two very good reasons:

  • A candidate may not have the professional experience (Millennials and Generation Z for example), but may still be able to describe events that demonstrate the fundamental values, behavior and/or desirable core competencies you are looking for.
  • People are… people.  More and more businesses are recognizing that employee loyalty and employee satisfaction increase when we embrace feelings like pride, respect and empathy.

Conclusion to Increase Employee Loyalty:

A Behavior Event Interview is the first step your organization can take to increase employee loyalty by enabling you to hire the right person – the first time. A happy, motivated employee stays longer, works harder, makes clients happy, expresses positive energy and decreases hiring and overall training (retraining), costs.

For more information on our Behavior Event Interview training and how BEI improves employee loyalty, please click here.

What BMC Can Offer Regarding Behavior Event Interview.

Would you like to know more about how to plan, lead and evaluate candidates or existing employees using BEI?

Do you want to assess and evaluate candidates using Behavior Event Interview but don’t have a trained staff or free time? We can:

  1. Train your staff
  2. Conduct the interview
  3. Partner in the planning and execution including creating the questions and evaluation matrix

Happy communicating.

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If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

Click on the image to watch us on Canada AM.

I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

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