How to Handle Skilled Job Interviewers & Behavioral Interview Questions

Give me a specific example when you had to resolve a difficult team situation?

Behavioral Event Interview (BEI) 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 ty13  pe of question. The following article describes how to recognize and handle skilled interviewers who ask BEI type interview questions.

During the interview, you may be asked to describe how you dealt with a specific situation in the past. Asking you about the past indicates this is a most likely a behavioral-event interview (BEI) question. Responding requires you to recall an example when you dealt successfully with a specific situation. BEIs 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 is 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) are phrases like the following:
– Tell me about a time when you…
– Describe a situation when you…
– Walk me through a situation where you…
– 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 what 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
6It is suggested that you structure your response using the STAR technique.

The STAR response technique is as follows:
S T – 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, interviewer might ask the following questions:

– What did you do? – What did you say?
– What were you thinking? – What was your role?
– Who else was involved? – What challenges did you face?
– 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 members wasn’t showing up for meetings, despite constant reminders and encouragement. His lack of participation was affecting team efforts and needed to be resolved quickly.19

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 consensus.
The problem team member told me he was burdened with another difficult project. I proposed we find resources to help him with the other project. 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.

Best of luck on your next interview.
Michael R. Neece, CEO Interview Mastery


Michael is CEO and author of [] the top job interview software in the world. This unique program has been developed and refined over the last 20 years and is now used by job seekers in 68 countries. provides software, e-book and downloads so you can be your best during the most important moment of your job search.

As a former VP of Recruiting at several Fortune 50 companies and a headhunter, Michael has seen what it takes to succeed during interviews. Michael analyzed 10 years of research and 3,000+ job interviews to discover the secrets to succeeding in job interviews.

He also trains corporate interviewers at every level to improve their interviewing skills.

Michael is also a founder of Neece appears regularly on television, radio, and in major newspapers. He was most recently featured in the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal and Boston Business Journal. He speaks and writes regularly on recruiting, interviewing, and candidate selection.

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