What Is a Structured Interview?

Your guide to the basics of structured interviews, how they work, and their benefits in recruiting.

What is Structured Interview Hero

A structured interview is a type of interview format used in recruiting that helps to support a fair and equal experience for all candidates. Hiring teams like to use structured interviews over unstructured interviews as the process allows for fully-comparable responses, meaning it’s far easier to evaluate and confidently move the right candidates forward.

We’ve answered your main questions about structured interviews, from explaining what a structured interview is, some of the main benefits of using a structured interview, and the types of questions used in a structured interview.

When to use Structured Interviews

What is a structured interview?

A structured interview is a standardized interview method that’s commonly used in recruitment. In a structured interview, every candidate is asked the same standardized questions in the same order. In pre-recorded video interviews, candidates are also given the same amount of time to prepare time and respond. Candidates are then evaluated using a rating scale, which is supported by a rating guide to ensure every interview is rated to the same standard.

The opposite of a structured interview is an unstructured interview. Unstructured interviews are also commonly used in recruiting but don’t rely on preset criteria that shape the interview. Instead, the interview is more like a conversation. Each candidate will be asked different questions based on how the interview flows, and there isn’t a standard rating scale. Oftentimes, candidates are evaluated more subjectively in an unstructured interview.

What are structured interview questions?

A structured interview relies on pre-determined questions, so recruiters first need to create a vetted list of questions. Typically, the interview questions should fit into two categories – general and job-specific. General questions are often more subjective in nature. They help teams find out more about a candidate’s soft skills (such as communication skills, teamwork skills, and time management), their work ethic, and ultimately, whether they’d make a good fit. Job-specific questions – the more objective type of questions – leverage the requirements of the role and verify whether the candidate is qualified.

If it’s expected that an answer may lead to additional detail that needs its own question, it’s important to include a preset follow-up question. This gives interviewers the opportunity to explore the candidate’s answer further while sticking to the constraints of a structured interview. Follow-up questions can also help the conversation flow better, encouraging a smoother interview for the candidate.

What are some examples of structured interview questions?

Structured interview questions aren’t dissimilar from any other type of interview questions, they are simply pre-determined before the interview to ensure all candidates are asked the same questions.

Questions should be relevant, clear, and concise to make it easy for candidates to understand the ask, and help hiring teams evaluate answers fairly. Additionally, the questions should be cleared by HR/recruiting teams first.

Here are some examples of general and job-specific interview questions that may be used in a structured interview:

General structured interview questions

  • Can you tell me a little about yourself?
  • What do you know about [company name]?
  • How would this position assist your long-term career plans?
  • How do you deal with tight deadlines?
  • What’s one fact that’s not on your LinkedIn profile/resume?
  • Do you enjoy working alone or as part of a team?

Job-specific structured interview questions

  • What made you decide to apply for the role?
  • How has your past experience prepared you for this role?
  • This role requires knowledge about X, could you tell me about your experience with X?
  • Could you explain the difference between [job-specific term] and [job-specific term]?
  • Could you walk me through some of your previous work that’s relevant to the requirements of this role?

What are the benefits of a structured interview?

According to LinkedIn, structured interviews are the most commonly used interview type amongst HR professionals. Additionally, 88% of HR professionals rate structured interviews as “effective”. Why? Their predetermined framework benefits everyone involved in the hiring journey, including the candidates. Let’s explore some of the main ways structured interviews help to create an effective recruiting process:

Creates a fair and equal candidate experience

A recent report by CareerBuilder shows that 68% of employees believe their experience as a candidate reflects how the company treats its people. Businesses can showcase the value they put on creating an equitable workplace by using structured interviews in their hiring process. In a structured interview, each candidate is asked the same questions, given the same probing points or follow-up questions, and has the amount of time to answer. As every candidate is given the same interview, they’re given a fully comparable and fair opportunity to share why they’re right for the role.

Adds more objectivity to the hiring process

Both objective and subjective questions have a part to play in an interview – objective questions help to uncover credentials and qualifications, subjective questions help to ensure the person will fit in the organization). However, too much subjectivity in a hiring process can make it unfair or biased. In a structured interview, questions are preset and typically vetted by the HR team, ensuring there is a good balance between the types of questions asked, controlling the amount of subjectivity in an interview.

Helps hiring managers stay compliant

In a traditional, unstructured interview, hiring managers often don’t have the hiring expertise to conduct a fully effective interview. Left to their own devices, they may ask questions that are unhelpful or potentially even illegal. Structured interviews provide hiring managers with a predetermined, pre-vetted list of questions to ask, allowing recruiting teams to control the parameters of the interview. Additionally, structured interviews rely on rating scales and rating guides for all evaluations, helping hiring teams to rate candidates on a fair and comparable scale.

Supports a diverse workforce

Hiring bias is a very real issue in the workplace. According to a report by BrightTalk, 79% of HR professionals agree unconscious bias exists in recruitment. Oftentimes, people aren’t even aware they’re being biased and they may treat someone differently due to their age, race, gender, or another distinguishing feature. Structured interviews help to mitigate bias and promote diversity with their preset structure – every candidate is getting the same interview and will be evaluated based on the same scale.

Structured interviews that are recorded (either via a pre-recorded video interview or a live video interview) can be watched back and evaluated by multiple, additional decision-makers. These decision-makers can be made up of a diverse group, based on their skills and backgrounds, creating an even fairer chance for all candidates and supporting a diverse workforce.

Improves the chances of a good hire

Backed by years of research, structured interviews are actually one of the most effective hiring practices. A structured interview helps teams to increase the predictive validity of a hired candidate by up to 65% – meaning, a candidate’s interview is a likely indicator of how they’d perform if hired. For reference, unstructured interviews have a predictive validity of only 22%, meaning teams may hire someone who doesn’t meet their expectations based on their interview.

Structured interviews provide more predictive validity than other interviewing methods

Statistics comparing Structured vs Unstructured interviews

When should you use a structured interview?

When to use a structured interview depends on the hiring process and the job role in question. In the majority of circumstances, it makes sense to use a structured interview in the preliminary interview (this may be a pre-recorded interview or a phone screening) and the subsequent interviews. Using a structured interview will help to fairly narrow down the applicant pool. In the final interview, when a decision is being made between 2 or 3 candidates, the flexibility of an unstructured, conversational-style interview may help hiring teams get a deeper understanding of what each candidate could bring to the company.

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