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Behavioral-Event Interview Questions

Give me a specific example when you had to resolve a difficult team situation?
Behavioral Event Interview questions have been used for over 20 years and are widely used by
skilled interviewers. In today's job market, you're likely to encounter an interviewer asking this type
of question.

During the interview, you are asked to describe how you dealt with a difficult team situation in the
past. Asking you about the past indicates this is most likely a behavioral-event interview (BEI)
question. Responding requires you need to recall an example when you dealt with a specific
situation. BEI have been used for over 20 years and is widely used by skilled interviewers.
BEI questions focus on the past while theoretical questions focus on the future. The response
strategy for a theoretical interview question is similar in structure but different in content.

Behavioral-Event Interview Question

The purpose of BEI questions is to solicit evidence or examples of a specific competency or skill
you process.
BEI is based on the premise that a person's past behavior is the best predictor of their future
performance. Interviewers are tasked with predicting your likelihood of success in a given position
and use your past behavior as one indicator of your future performance. BEI questions have two
parts, the introduction and the focus. The first part of a BEI question (introduction) has phrases like
the following:
"Tell me about a time when you ..."
a) "Describe a situation when you ..."
b) "Walk me through a situation where you ..."
c) "Give me an example of a specific situation when you ..."
The second half of the question focuses on the situation with which the interviewer is interested.
For example, if the interviewer was seeking information about your analytical skills they might ask
the following question.
"Give me an example of a specific situation when you had to formulate a detailed analysis of a new
product, new project or new market."
If the interviewer was seeking information about your ability to collaborate on a cross-functional
team under tight deadlines they might ask you the following question.

"Tell me about a time when you participated on a cross functional team that had to deliver project
outcomes within a tight deadline."
Interviewers asking BEI questions want to hear about actual events in your past, rather than how
you might handle a situation in the future.

Relevant Experiences
You have many experiences that you can discuss to demonstrate different dimensions of your
competencies and skills. Work experience is just one form of experience. However, if you don't
have work related experience, you can highlight other experiences to demonstrate the skills the
interviewer is seeking. Evidence of your talents can come in many forms. Projects done in an
academic setting, volunteer work, professional associations and other life experiences each may
provide relevant evidence of your abilities.
Whether you got paid or not is of secondary importance to the content and context of your actions
in a specific situation. For example, you may have experience building and leading a six-person
volunteer team that analyzed how a local community funds recreational projects. During this
summer project, this team may have also formulated and presented recommendations to local
government officials on how to improve funding allocations. This team experience is just as
meaningful as any business-grounded team situation. Your response to BEI questions needs to be
structured and easy to follow. Interviewers are seeking a detailed and interesting story about your
past. Interviewers want to know what you did, obstacles overcome and results achieved. They want
to learn what you did versus what the team did, hence you'll want to balance your description of
what "we (the team) did" versus what "I did."

Response Strategy
It is suggested that you structure your response using the STAR technique.
The STAR response technique is as follows:
ST Describe the Situation or Task
A Describe your Actions and Approach
R Describe the Results

What You've Learned

After you respond, it's effective to describe what you learned from an event and what you may do
differently in the future. Describing "what you learned" communicates that you reflect on past
events and seek to identify areas of improvement. The STAR structured response, coupled with
"what you learned," demonstrates your focus on constant learning and performance improvement.

Immediate Feedback
You may also want to complete your response by asking a question to ensure you have answered
the interviewer's question effectively. To solicit immediate feedback you can ask questions like:

"Was that the level of detail you were looking for?"

"Was that the kind of example you were looking for?"

Interviewer Follow-up Questions

Interviewers are likely to ask follow-up questions to get more details. For example, an interviewer
might ask the following questions:
a) What did you do?
b) What did you say?
c) What were you thinking?
d) What was your role?
e) Who else was involved?
f) What challenges did you face?
g) What do you feel this event indicates about you?

Sample Response
The following STAR structured response demonstrates how to handle the question covered in this
module, when describing an academic project.
"Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult team situation?"
Your Response:
Situation or Task: (ST)
"The situation was that our four-person team was tasked with developing models for field operation
of our company. The task was to identify initiatives to improve efficiencies using different methods.
Two team members focused on one analysis approach while the other two members worked on
another method. We had to formulate three initiatives to improve operations."
"One team member wasn't showing up for meetings, despite constant reminders and
encouragement. His lack of participation was affecting team efforts and needed to be resolved
Action and Approach : (A)
"My approach was to meet with the problem team member in private and explain the team's
frustration and how his actions were affecting the project. I asked if there was anything I could do
to help. Before taking this action I discussed my intentions with the other team members to get their
"The problem team member told me he has burdened with another difficult project. I proposed we
find resources to help him with the other projects. He agreed. I also asked him to commit to specific
actions toward our project and to attend team meetings."

Results: (R)
The results were: "After I found other resources and employees to assist him with his other project,
he was able to invest more time on our team's project and focus on specific milestones. The final
team result was that we finished our project on time, and presented our recommendations to the
company's operations leadership team."