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.

Click here to join our priority list to receive our latest Business Communication blog posts.

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

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

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

Click on the image to watch us on Canada AM.

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

Call us at 416.617.0462.

View Bruce Mayhew's profile on LinkedIn

Bruce Mayhew Consulting

I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

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.

Click here to join our priority list of people who receive our latest Business Communication blog posts.

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.

%d bloggers like this: