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What Is a Structured Interview?

 

A structured interview is a process in which the interviewer uses standardized questions to determine each candidate's competency for a particular job. The questions are planned ahead of the interview and are posed, typically in the same order, to all candidates interviewing for the position.

After all candidates have been interviewed, the hiring manager assesses the responses according to a predetermined rating scale and then chooses the most suitable person.

Structured interview questions

The questions can be based on the candidate's prior behavior or how the candidate would respond in hypothetical scenarios.

For example, to understand prior behavior, you might ask candidates to describe a difficult situation they were involved in at work and how they handled it. 

Conversely, hypothetical questions are based on how candidates would respond in specific instances. The questions should be realistic and directly tied to the job. For example, "How would you respond to an irate customer who believes the company overcharged them for a service?"

Other questions can focus on how each candidate feels about the job they're applying for. For example: "What aspects of the job do you like the most?"

No matter what the questions are, they should be easy to grasp and delivered in a clear and succinct manner.

7 steps to developing a structured interview process:

  1. Perform a job analysis to identify the responsibilities and competencies of the role.
  2. Pinpoint the competencies that will be evaluated during the interview.
  3. Create open-ended questions to uncover behaviors and expectations.
  4. Develop probing questions to encourage clarity and thoroughness.
  5. Establish a standard rating scale, such as from 1 to 5, for each question asked. State what each grade means.
  6. Document the structured interview process.
  7. Give hiring managers a structured interview guide that they can refer to as needed.

Structured versus unstructured interviews

Structured interviews streamline the interview process and minimize subjectivity and bias. However, they run the risk of appearing too detached and inflexible. Further, interviewers may miss out on critical information that probably would have come out in a less structured environment.   

That said, many experts believe that structured interviews are more effective than unstructured interviews, which do not follow a strict format and allow information to flow freely. Due to their ad hoc nature, unstructured interviews can easily go awry. The candidate may take over the interview, for example, or the interview may run for too long.

According to an article published by the Harvard Business Review, dozens of studies have found unstructured interviews "to be among the worst predictors of actual on-the-job performance — far less reliable than general mental ability tests, aptitude tests, or personality tests." The article goes on to say that unstructured interviews "are fraught with bias and irrelevant information."

As stated in a report by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the straightforward approach of structured interviews "makes it easier for the interviewer to evaluate and compare applicants fairly." Moreover, it "can be crucial in defending against allegations of discrimination in hiring and selection, because all applicants are asked the same questions."

 
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