Interviewing

Getting Started With Structured Interviews

This guide explains what structured interviews are, how they go hand-in-hand with competencies, and how to implement them in your organization.
Daniel Jakaitis
Daniel Jakaitis
This guide explains what structured interviews are, how they go hand-in-hand with competencies, and how to implement them in your organization.

Most startups throw interviews together at the last minute. HR or a hiring manager gives interviewers a brief heads-up and a candidate’s resume, expecting the interviewer to come up with a coherent set of questions. Once that scramble is over, there’s a long, ceremony-like meeting where interviewers debate and pick who gets hired, often leaning into their gut feeling about a candidate.

There are so many problems with this approach: From seeming wholly unpolished as an organization, falling prey to not-so-subtle instances of bias, and flat out hiring the wrong person for the job because you forgot to ask something important.

Even if you’ve started to nail down your core competencies, they don’t do any good if they’re just sitting in an excel sheet collecting dust. They need to be the nucleus of your interview process.

So, how do you do that? By creating structured interviews. This guide explains what structured interviews are, how they go hand-in-hand with competencies, and how to implement them in your organization.

What is a Structured Interview?

A structured interview is a discussion in which an interviewer poses specific, prepared questions in order to assess the interviewee. Every question is designed around a competency model. This guarantees the interviewer gets the necessary holistic picture of a candidate’s characteristics and qualifications.

As you can imagine, after answering multiple questions based on multiple competencies, interviewers can more objectively tell whether or not a candidate has the potential to fulfill a role’s requirements.

And interviewers are expected to keep track of what’s happening during the interview. Throughout the conversation, interviewers note interviewees’ responses and rate them according to an already-decided-upon scoring system.

Using this structured methodology ensures that: (1) each interviewee has a similar experience, and (2) interviewers are evaluating candidates based on their true competencies, not just gut feelings.

Where Did Structured Interviews Come From?

Structured interviews come from survey research and are considered an effective, quantitative tool. Because the same questions are asked in every interview and interviewers grade responses on the same scale, answers can be accurately aggregated and compared with a high confidence level.

Structured interviews have been adopted by large companies as well as government agencies due to their reliability. The United States Postal Service has even publicized a guide on how to give structured interviews, and Google began using structured interviews after data-driven research found them to be more beneficial than other interviewing techniques.

Why Should You Use Structured Interviews?

We’ve touched on a few benefits already, but structured interviews have many distinct advantages over an unstructured interview, namely:

  • Preparedness - Interviewees can sniff out a disorganized process when they see one, even if people are good at hiding it. After all, you’ve sourced smart candidates, right? But when interviewers already know what questions they will ask in what order, the process becomes much smoother — for them and the interviewee.
  • Easier decision-making - Structured interviews collect the most relevant data you need to select the best candidate.
  • Speed and consistency - Often, interviewers are scrambling to think of questions right before the interview. Pre-made interview templates save interviewers time. Plus, running through a clear process enables your team to get faster and better at interviewing, ultimately enhancing your recruitment branding.
  • Less bias - The interview process will become less about how much interviewers like the person, and more about how candidates respond to the same scripted questions. This also makes it easier to compare the responses of multiple candidates.
  • Scalability - When you’re undergoing rapid growth, it’s easy to let things slip. But if you have a structured process for each role, hiring for many positions at a time becomes much more organized.
  • Better hires - Research shows that structured interviews are more predictive of job performance than unstructured interviews across all functions and levels.
  • Happier candidates overall - Candidates feel like more thought went into a structured interview, and they appreciate being judged fairly. Even rejected candidates have a better experience一at Google, rejected candidates who had a structured interview were 35% happier than those who did not.

How to Prepare a Structured Interview

With so many benefits, why aren’t more companies adopting structured interviews?

Well, there’s no getting around the fact that laying the groundwork for structured interviews takes effort, especially if you're creating them for multiple types of roles. But it’s well worth the time and money you’ll save by hiring top-notch candidates at a faster clip.

Let’s dive into the overall series of steps that go into preparing and implementing a structured interview:

1. Nail Down the Competencies for Each Role

Think about the six or seven technical and behavioral competencies needed to excel in this position (for help, refer to the end of the previous chapter). Add these competencies to the job description and have them ready as you’re brainstorming questions. This will ensure that you’ll gather the data you need in each interview to make a sound decision in the end.

2. Write the Structured Interview Questions

As you might imagine, determining which questions interviewers will ask is the most important part of structured interview development. You want to ask open-ended questions that give candidates an opportunity to provide context and showcase how they think. Their responses should help you suss whether they would score highly for each competency needed for the role as well as organizational competencies. We’ll give some examples in the next section to give you a sense of how they might look.

3. Create Your Structured Interview Rating System

Rating candidates on the same scale is another way structured interviews equal the playing field. Your rating system could be as simple as a 1 - 5 scale, totaling up the points for a final score. The less complex, the better, as the rating should be a quick way to see which candidates are performing the best after each interview.

Whatever your system, keep it consistent for every question and make sure interviewers complete their ratings immediately post-interview. Otherwise, you risk interviewers not remembering what candidates talked about when it comes time to discuss who should move on to the next round. You can also use your rating system to set thresholds candidates must hit to progress to each stage of the interview process.

4. Train Your Interviewers on Structured Interviewing Techniques

Most of your employees have never been trained how to properly conduct a structured interview. Provide the questions ahead of time, explain what competencies each question relates to, and reiterate that questions need to be asked in the same order for every candidate. Use this time to talk about the benefits of doing structured interviews as well to get everyone on the same page and excited to be a part of the process.

Keep in mind that it can be awkward for interviewers to go back and forth between different screens or pieces of paper when doing an interview, so consider using a tool like Chatkick. Within the Chatkick platform, you can configure questions ahead of time and rate candidates’ answers as soon as they are given. With interview recordings, you now have a simple way to coach and improve your entire team’s ability to run interviews.

5. Gather Feedback on Structured Interviews From Your Team

Your questions and rating system won’t be perfect right away. You’ll probably need to make some adjustments based on the feedback you get from your team and candidates. Knowing this from the beginning gives you an opportunity to find ways to collect constructive criticism, whether it’s a candidate satisfaction survey, a monthly or quarterly meeting with hiring managers, or both. Then, of course, make sure you have a plan to follow up on those suggestions and iterate on your process.

Sample Structured Interview Questions

It might be hard to conceptualize what types of questions go into structured interviews. That’s why we’ve gathered a few we like, separated below into situational, behavioral, and job-specific categories. Each of these questions is meant to assess a candidate’s experience, personality, and technical expertise.

How to Get Started With Structured Interviews

Now that you have a basic understanding of what structured interviews are, how they work, and have some examples of structured interview questions, it’s time for you to put structured interviews into practice.

Chatkick provides teams a wide selection of pre-packed structured interview plans to quickly ramp up the hiring process. Our video interview platform prompts your team members with your  planned questions during each candidate conversation.  Running structured interviews has never been easier.

Curious to learn more about how Chatkick can help your team start using structured interviews? Book a personal demo today!