“Structured interview” is a common term when talking about recruitment. But what does it really mean? And what is the difference compared to an unstructured interview? Below, Asker clarifies the term and delves into what the research says about different interviewing methods.
For many companies, hiring a new employee without an interview is unthinkable. It is not only employers who recognize the great benefits of the job interview, researchers have also spent a lot of time analysing the interview as a selection method. Recruiters and hiring teams often talk about two types of interviews – structured and unstructured interviews.
What is a structured interview?
A structured interview consists of pre-established interview questions. Every candidate gets to answer the same questions in the same order. Their responses are then scored using a scorecard or other assessment criteria (that have been created beforehand).
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The structured interview falls under two categories: structured behavioural interview and structured situational interview. A behavioural interview involves learning about the candidates’ past experiences by asking the candidate to provide examples related to their past behaviour and skills. The interviewer looks for examples of how the candidate has dealt with different challenges, tasks and collaborations in previous roles.
A situational interview has many similarities with the behavioural. What makes them different is that in a situational interview you may ask the candidate hypothetical questions about how they would act in different situations. If you are interviewing a person for a job in customer service, an appropriate area to evaluate would be how the candidate would handle different situations with customers.
What kind of questions do I ask in a structured interview?
In a structured interview (which includes both behavioural and situational interviews), you ask questions that relate to the skills and competencies that are important for the role.
- Can you tell us about a situation where you needed to work with others to achieve your goals?
- Can you give me an example of a situation where you had to do something that was not appreciated by everyone?
What is an unstructured interview?
Where structured interviews follow a certain format, unstructured interviews do not have a particular template or structure. When conducting a structured interview, it is important that you stick to your flow and script, whereas in an unstructured interview you can speak freely and act spontaneously. For this reason, an unstructured interview may feel more like a relaxed conversation.
Common questions in an unstructured interview may include “Can you tell me about yourself?” or “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”.
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The advantages of a structured interview
So, if the unstructured interview creates a more relaxed environment and conversation, why not just go with that? Well, one of the most established insights about the job interview is that structured interviews are much more reliable and valid than unstructured interviews.
Structured interviews create a fairer process because they help you assess your candidates more objectively. By asking everyone the same questions and evaluating your candidates against predetermined criteria, you minimise the risk of bias influencing your decisions.
Another strong advantage of the structured interview is that it is often much quicker to conduct because you follow a ready-made template. At the same time, you can feel confident that biases such as the halo effect and the similar-to-me effect will not affect your decisions. Moreover, after the interview, you will have collected qualitative data that will help you make an informed decision.