What Is a Structured Interview?
A structured interview is a conversation in which interviewers pose pre-determined questions in order to evaluate an interviewee. In a structured interview, every question is based on the role's specific competencies. This ensures that interviewers get a truer sense of a candidate’s abilities and allows them to make more educated and less biased decisions about each candidate.
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 have been around for a while but were primarily used in a quantitative research context. Because the same questions are asked in every survey and responses were graded on the same scale, answers could be accurately aggregated and compared with a high level of confidence一a crucial aspect of publishing in academic journals.
But recent research on the efficacy of structured interviews has convinced household name companies like Google to adopt this methodology. Structured interviews not only make the hiring process more defined and repeatable, they also decrease bias, lead to better hiring decisions, and increase candidate satisfaction.
Why Should You Use Structured Interviews?
Structured interviews have many distinct advantages over an unstructured interview, namely:
- Preparedness - Interviewees can sniff out a disorganized hiring 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 interviews, 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 interviews 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 hiring 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 hiring process.