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Quantify, clarify, and share relevant candidate data by using structured interviews. Whether you are assessing candidate ability (skills), alignment (culture, mindset, behavior), or growth potential, you can use structured interviews to guide your interviewers through a less stressful, fairer, and equitable candidate experience. The result: a more confident and defensible hiring decision, every time.

What is a Structured Interview?

A structured interview is not a specific type of interview. It’s about a necessary level of planning and organization. You can add small or large amounts of structure to any interview to transform it from an unstructured to a structured interview.

So what counts as “structure” in an interview anyway?

  • Create competency-based interviews. You can complete a job analysis to determine what skills and qualities are required for the role. Create scorecards with questions and success indicators that match specific competency needs. Each interview should cover 2-3 required qualifications. So if you have 9 requirements, you should have an interview process that takes 3-4 interviews.
  • Use the same questions for all candidates. The simple act of asking the same questions for all candidates adds structure and helps you compare candidates better.
  • Require scoring during the interview. When you require interviewers to evaluate candidate answers during the interview (instead of waiting until afterward), you add another level of structure.
  • Compare and contrast candidate interview data. Have only relevant data structured to easily stack and rank candidates. This provides a more fair and equitable analysis that results in a more confident and defensible hiring decision.

Are Structured Interviews Beneficial for Companies?

Structured interviews outperform unstructured ones for predicting a candidate’s success and reducing bias during the candidate selection process. “Research has shown structured interviews are better at predicting actual job performance when multiple candidates are interviewed,” (Levashina et al., 2013)

Structured interview techniques ensure a transparent and equitable experience that is free of bias and full of trust, efficiency, and respect. By hiring with structured and aligned interview techniques across your organization, you remove a lot of stress from the interview experience.

Effective and consistent organization-wide interview techniques also remove the fear that you might get reported for asking illegal questions and ensure you hire right consistently. Effective interviewing techniques help you hire faster, increase your retention rates and decrease your hiring costs.

Pros of Structured Interviews

  • Bias mitigation. With prebuilt scorecards, interviewers are guided by predefined success indicators to listen for in candidate answers, thus avoiding “gut feeling” or “instinct” to determine the validity of an answer.
  • Equitable evaluation. Every candidate can and should be asked the same questions to gather relevant data that can be equally compared across candidates.
  • Real-time documentation. By capturing every interview during the interview, interviewers can avoid the negative impact of recall bias which generally occurs when interviewers try to recount relevant candidate data several days after the interview. What is often documented after several days is why we liked or disliked a candidate, not why they would be a good fit for the role.
  • Time and cost savings. With a structured interview, you don’t spend time thinking about new questions. Instead you’re able to listen to the candidates, record their responses and analyze the collected information. This doesn’t just help you make better decisions about the candidate; it also makes the interviewing process more efficient and allows you to remain transparent with every candidate and make a hiring decision faster.

Cons of Structured Interviews

  • Less flexibility. Structured interviews can leave little room for going in a different direction based on candidate answers. However, as you’ll see below in our question example, you can anticipate potential clarifying questions ahead of time to ensure nothing is missed.
  • What about getting to know the candidate? It may feel like you don’t get to know each candidate with chit chat or open-ended conversation when you have to stick to a structured interview. However, as a reminder, the structured interview is meant to gather relevant data about their ability, alignment and growth potential for the role and your company. As long as you don’t allow irrelevant data to be considered in the decision-making process (such as where someone went to school or if they like beer), you can get to know a candidate all you want.
  • I can’t assess personality or behavior. At first glance, it seems that structured interview questions probe for situational data with clear, “Yes” or “No” answers. However, you can still use interview questions that predefine certain behaviors that align with success in a role. These traits are often shared by your high performers. The candidate can talk about a situation and how they handled it, and the interviewer can listen for specific behaviors that clearly demonstrate what the team is looking for in the right candidate.
  • We will hire less diverse candidates. It is often thought that because you’re asking every candidate the same questions, you won’t discover unique differences that could contribute to company diversity. The truth is, asking every candidate the same questions and evaluating them equally helps you to assess a diverse group of candidates and hire the right person, no matter their skin color, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. This helps you avoid token hires. You can construct questions that help you find skills and behaviors that your team is lacking in candidates who can bring that diversity to your company. This can develop naturally-grown diversity instead of forcing it.

How to Conduct a Structured Interview

Structured interviews are much easier and less stressful to conduct. Interviewers find that they don’t have to rely on their “gut feeling” or “instinct” to evaluate every candidate’s answers. Instead, they can focus on listening, clarifying, and scoring while maintaining a human-to-human connection, even on a virtual interview.

Step 1: Establish Trust Through Introductions and Context

Before formally starting the interview, feel free to introduce yourself, “break the ice,” and provide context about your role, the company, and the job. It is important to establish trust with every candidate whether they get hired or not. Those who are not hired will still speak very highly of your company if you create a great candidate experience for them.

Step 2: Follow the Structure

The power of structured interviews is in following the questions laid out for you. Use any context and clarifying questions (see next section) if needed and score accordingly.

Step 3: Continuously Check Your Biases

Structured interviewing doesn’t completely remove all bias from the process. When scoring, for example, an interviewer may score one candidate lower based on their biases even if they answered better compared to another candidate. Therefore it’s imperative to examine biases and what triggers them prior to and during every interview.

Step 4: Document Everything During the Interview

Be sure to document the relevant data, any notes and scoring during the interview.

Step 5: Provide Your Final Recommendation

It is important that every interviewer’s voice be heard throughout the process. Provide your final notes and recommendations about every candidate at the end of each interview.

Example of a Structured Interview Question

While the question is the most important part of the interview process, a question without context, predefined success indicators, and scoring criteria leaves the door open for misinterpretation and biased decision making. Below is an example of a “question bundle” that provides the basis for powerful structured interviewing:

Example:

Question: Have you ever worked a hybrid role with part-time remote and part-time in the office?

Context: Remember to tell the candidate how this question is relevant to the role.

Clarifying Question:

What worked well?

What didn’t work for you?

Indicators:

Seems willing to try new approaches.

This candidate is able to go with the flow.

This candidate is sensible in their actions.

Notes:

Score:

No Evidence

Poor

Areas of Concern

Satisfactory

Excellent

Following a similar structure and scoring methodology, any hiring team can implement structured interviewing techniques to instantly provide greater visibility and predictability of any candidate’s job performance. This will make your hiring decision that much easier.

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Questions You’ve Asked Us About Structured Interviews

These interviews, if structured correctly, should take 30-45 minutes.

They can be conducted by both. In a panel interview, each interviewer should get assigned questions, but every interviewer should take notes and score every answer.

The main difference is the objectivity and accuracy of the information collected about each candidate. Structured interviews are more objective and accurate, therefore leading to greater predictability of a candidate’s actual job performance and making it easier to pick the right candidate when multiple candidates have been interviewed.

UB leads interviewIA’s marketing and business development strategy through a constant state of innovation and “outside the box” thinking. He has taken his deep experience in client and customer solutions to build a company focused on people first, the value that every human brings to the table, and centered on belonging. UB is the “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” in the HR world. In the Malcolm Gladwell framework, he is the ultimate connector. UB has an intrinsic ability to span many different worlds through his combination of curiosity, self-confidence, sociability, and energy.

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