Behavioural Event Interviewing is a competency based assessment method that uses customized questions related to the Executive Leadership Competency. Behavioural interviews may also be referred to as behavioural event (BEI) or descriptive (BDI) interviews.

It is a process by which an interviewer gains specific understanding of the knowledge, skills and attributes brought by a candidate. It involves asking applicants for specific examples (open ended questions) of past behaviours that relate to the requirements of the job, because past performance is considered as a predictor of future behavior. It helps the interviewer learn about the candidate's past performance in a key skill area that is critical to success in the position for which interview is being conducted. However, care is taken that general answers about behavior are not what the employer is looking for but on a particular event, project, or experience that the candidate has dealt with and check out for the outcome. The approach is somewhat different than tratditional interview techniques as here the interviewers must truly understand the situation that the candidate faced, what the candidate did, said or felt, and why they did so, and the consequence of the action. Because of this requirement, interviews will often take the form of a conversation where the candidate does 80% of the talking.

In short, behavioural interview can be explained as a structured interview that is used to collect information about past behavior through face to face questioning approach or it is a technique used by employers in which the questions asked assist the employer in making predictions about a potential employee's future success based on actual past behaviors, instead of based on responses to hypothetical questions.

Difference between BEI and Traditional Interview

The traditional approach is unstructured, relies on hypothetical situations, or the candidate's opinion of their work or skills. Hypothetical or opinion questions are unreliable indicators of performance because they provide the candidate with the opportunity to articulate what he/she thinks the interviewer wants to hear. Even assumptions are made that people can be good performers and do better at the things they like to do or if they agree with our philosophies, but in reality it cannot be always true and as a result traditional interview is not considered as a valid indicator of future performance in the job.

BEI questions, on the other hand, focus on the premise that the best predictor of future performance is past behavior. Answers to BEI questions are drawn from the applicant's actual experiences. By focusing on personal experiences that directly relate to the requirements of the job, the selecting official can better assess how competently the candidate will perform in the position. In addition, with BEI, a more defensible selection decision is seen because they are based on job-related criteria.

Use of BEI by organization

There are several reasons that so many companies have chosen this method of interviewing:

§ They can design specific behavioural questions to determine which candidates possess the particular competencies required.

§ They are interested in whether candidates have demonstrated these competencies in past work experience and how past performance relates to the requirements of the current position.

§ They can use reference checks to validate the specific situations, events and examples that candidates provide in the interview.

Basic Structure of the Interview

A. Preparation Stage before conducting BEI

Interviews where BEI questions are asked can be conducted in a variety of formats. One-to-one interviews where one person does all the interviewing and evaluating are quick and efficient, but only offer the perspective of one person. Yet another method is of BEI panel which is a process involving 2 or more interviewers (no more than 3 are recommended) where each interviewer asks the candidate different BEI questions. Using a panel process allows the benefit of multiple perspectives. All interviewers see/hear the same thing which, when evaluating, helps to enhance the objectivity of the process. However, because more than one person is involved, the cost is very high in terms of time and resources. In addition, in a panel interview, fewer questions are asked than if each interview is conducted separately.

The use of One-to-one Interview or Panel Interview:

It depends upon the employer decision as to what format of interview is to be used. However, before selecting the format, the merits and demerits are studied thoroughly.

1. One-to-One Interview:

This method is typical for most positions. One person, normally the selecting official, conducts and evaluates the interviews.

Advantage: This method is more efficient because one person does all the interviewing and evaluating. Also, it is less intimidating to the candidate because most candidates are used to one-on-one interviews.

Disadvantage: One perspective may not be enough to accurately evaluate candidates for highly complex jobs.

2. Panel Interview:

A panel interview involves two or more interviewers (no more than five) where each asks the candidate one or more questions. In a modified panel interview, one member asks the questions and the others observe and take notes.

1. All panel members participate in evaluating the candidates.

2. The panel may include a facilitator who explains the interview process, introduces the panel members, clarifies any questions, monitors the time allotted, and facilitates the evaluation process.

3. The selecting official responsible for the selection decision receives the applications, interview notes, and evaluations.

4. Panel interviews are typically used to interview a large number of candidates and to fill multiple and complex positions.

Advantage: The panel interview enhances objectivity by providing multiple perspectives.


1. Can be intimidating to candidates and may adversely affect their performance during the interview.

2. Expends more in human resources and administrative costs for items such as scheduling and coordination.

B. Qualification for the Interviewer:

1. Be at the same or higher grade as the position being filled.

2. Decline participation if personal knowledge of the candidate precludes a fair and objective assessment of the candidate's responses.

3. Respect the privacy rights of all candidates and not discuss the interview proceedings with others, except as required for official business.

4. Consider and evaluate only the information discussed during the interview. Do not consider information not presented in the interview.

5. Give the selecting official the interview results on all candidates to ensure that each receives full and proper consideration.

Interview panels, when used:

1. Should be diverse to the extent possible (e.g., gender, ethnicity, or disability).

2. May include a facilitator. The facilitator:

a. Describes the interview process to the candidate(s).

b. Monitors the time allotted for each question and the entire interview.

c. Facilitates the evaluation process by guiding the panel towards a consensus rating.

d. Records the panel's consensus rating.

e. Documents justification for the rating.

f. Is helpful, but not required. A member of the interview panel or another individual in the organization who is trained in the BEI method may also serve as the facilitator.

Once the interview format is selected, an interviewer first reads the lead question for the first competency, and then proceeds to obtain an overview of the event. A lead or opening question (sets the context and the stage for subsequent probing questions) followed by a series of probing questions elicit responses containing detailed information on roles, situations, actions and outcomes from past job-related experiences, events, or accomplishments. They go beyond hypothetical "what would you do if.." situations by asking for real life examples. It is believed that more the recent and longstanding past behaviour, the greater the predictive power. Hence, the questions asked should be based on the job description, the performance indicators, the skills/personal qualities required and the interviewer's knowledge of operating in the role because the interviewer is interested in

(a) The thought process used and

(b) The values of the candidate and the outcome of the situation.

Thus, the major step in the BEI interview is to elicit behavioral events. The interviewee is asked to describe, in detail, the five or six most important situations he or she has experienced in a specific job. The situations should include two or three high points, or major successes, and two or three low points, or key failures. The candidate is asked to answer five key questions.

"What was the situation? What events led up to it?"
"Who was involved?"
"What did you (the interviewee) think, feel, or want to do in the situation?"
"What did you actually do or say?" Here you are interested in the skills that the person showed.
"What was the outcome? What happened?"

The interviewer looks into the following aspects:

particularly interested in the person's perceptions and feelings about the situation and people involved in it.
How was the person thinking about others (e.g., positively or negatively) or about the situation (e.g., problem-solving thoughts)?
What was the person feeling (e.g., scared, confident, excited)?
What did the person want to do - what motivated him or her in the situation (e.g., to do something better, to impress the boss)?

C. Guidelines for Interviewer:

a. Base questions for the interview on the KSAs for the position being filled and use the same questions for all candidates.

b. Ask the candidate to clarify or explain any information provided in the application.

c. May ask a mix of technical knowledge, experience, and self-evaluation.

d. Require the candidate to describe, in detail, what he or she did in a particular situation that is relevant to the position being filled.

e. Probe for specific information.

f. Take notes on the candidate's responses throughout the interview.

g. Evaluate the candidate's responses immediately following the interview.

h. Do not use the numeric code until it is validated meaningfully.

i. Do not provide questions in advance of the interview as it may change what is being measured from an assessment of an individual's competencies to an assessment of the interviewee's ability to prepare a formal presentation.

Other Important Issues Considered Based on Questions:


The question should be open ended but not designed to lead to specific answers that may advantage some candidates.
Question should not limit an candidate's response to the criterion by being too specific or by combining two selection criteria into one question.
Avoid general hypothetical questions but encourage answers based on the candidate's past behavior.
Keep questions brief and to the point.
Interview questions should aim at eliciting information, not intimidating or catching candidates out.
General questions typically generate only positive responses. In behavioral interviews, the interviewer also wants to know the potential negatives to understand the circumstances in which the candidate will not be able to demonstrate the required competencies.
Questions should be agreed by the panel before commencing the interview and all the candidates should be given the same questions in the same order.


1. Avoid questions which make it easy for candidates to bluff their way through the interview such as "What is your greatest weakness?

2. Don't inadvertently screen candidates out because they don't fit your non-job related pre-conceived notions about your ideal candidate (e.g. Caucasian, attractive, mid thirties, plays golf, no foreign accents)

3. Make sure that you don't inadvertently telegraph the right answers to the candidates (e.g. "We are a very fast-paced company. How well do you deal with pressure?") This is a very common interviewing error.

4. Don't get so caught up in the thrill of high growth that you fail to do some long term manpower planning. Decisions made in haste because filling a particular position is left until the need is urgent can be costly.

5. Don't leave the bulk of the hiring up to inexperienced managers and then fail to give them adequate training or tools.

D. Steps involved in BEI:

1. Development of BEI:

Step #1. Identify what you are looking for by completing a job analysis and/or reviewing a recently updated position description.

Step #2. Write behavioral questions to gather information.

Step #3. Identify what constitutes successful demonstration of the competency.

Step #4. Create a user-friendly rating guide.

Step #5. Prepare the interview panel members before interviewing candidates.

Step #6. When the interview process is concluded, review all of the information gathered in a fair and objective way.

2. Obtaining the event's overview:

The event overview is the road map that the interviewers need to structure how the candidate (the interviewee) will provide the information. The best way to obtain events overview is to use the STAR technique:

Situation - describe a situation or problem that have been encountered.

Task - describe the task that the situation required or ideas for resolving the problem. Care should be taken by the candidate to describe the situation or task in detail so that the interviewer can analyze the skills properly. The candidate can refer to an event from his/her previous job, from a volunteer experience, or any other relevant event.

Action - describe the action taken, obstacles overcome. Here the candidate should talk of what was done by him/her and not what the team has done or what was supposed to be done.

Results - highlight outcomes achieved that is, what happened? How did the event end? What was accomplished? What was the learning?

The candidate needs to answer all 4 elements, to get full marks for the question. Action is the most important because it describes what he/she did, what steps he/she took etc.

2. Probing for Details:

Once the overview is obtained, the interviewers can go back and probe specific milestones or steps undertaken by the candidate to explore behaviours in more detail.

3. Time and Recording:

BEIs are very focused, clinical-type, tape-recorded interviews which can take from 2-2½ hours to complete. They require working with a candidate to develop a series of "behavioral events." After each interview, the tape is analyzed for evidence of competencies. The total process of tape recording the interview, creating transcripts and analyzing them for competencies can take up to six hours per interview.

Merits of BEI

The benefits of undertaking a behavioural style interview include:

§ Removing the impact of misunderstandings about past experiences as the candidate can describe in detail the situation and their performance.

§ Reducing the impact of personal impressions and therefore allowing the candidate to highlight good performance regardless of their projected image.

§ Reducing the chance of the candidate faking the interview as they are required to provide real-life examples of what they have done, not what they would do.

§ Allowing the panel to hear information about the candidate's performance and not just theory from a textbook.

§ The interviews provide an in-depth perspective of the job's challenges and the competencies needed to master them.

§ When average and low performers are interviewed as well as high performers, BEIs clearly discriminate between the competencies required for top performance and the baseline competencies needed for acceptable performance.

§ BEIs are an excellent method for identifying the interpersonal and management competencies that are often difficult to define.

§ The very specific descriptions of effective and ineffective behaviors produced in BEIs can be used to develop behavioral examples for competency models or case studies, role plays, or other simulations for training.

Demerits of BEI

• BEIs are time and labor intensive. Up to a full day can be required to conduct an

interview and then analyze the data.

• A highly trained and skilled interviewer is essential to obtain accurate information. The interviewer must have strong analytical ability and experience in competency identification to accurately infer the competencies.

• BEIs are not practical for analyzing a series of jobs because of the time, expense, and expertise required for administration and data analysis.

• BEIs focus solely on current and past behaviors, which may be different from those needed in the future.

• Because BEIs focus on critical incidents, the competencies needed for the more routine aspects of work may be missed.

• The data collected may not be widely accepted by stakeholders because it is provided by a small number of interviewees.


Comments are closed.