A structured interview is a set, repeatable interview process that provides each candidate with the same questions in the same order. Using this process allows for less subjectivity when reviewing applicants, hopefully leading to hiring the best and most qualified person.
The central piece of a structured interview is the preplanned questions you ask every candidate. Keep your list of questions, which should cover skills, job duties, and company culture, to about a dozen. Having a list ensures you ask the same questions of each candidate and can evaluate them fairly. It also ensures you don’t get off-topic and waste valuable and limited time.
Structured Interview Process
The point of a structured interview is to improve efficiency and enable successful hiring by following a process. However, don’t be so rigid that you come off as interrogating a candidate instead of having a conversation with them. A two-way conversation often prompts a more fruitful discussion.
Your process should include the following.
Whether you’re interviewing someone in person or on video, take a few minutes to greet the candidate, build rapport, and make them feel comfortable. When candidates feel comfortable, they’re more likely to be open and honest with their answers, giving you greater insight into their abilities.
You should introduce yourself and let the candidate know what your job title is and how that relates to the company and the position they have applied for. It is also a good idea to give a brief introduction to the company and what type of business/service your company provides.
For the most structured interviews, ask each question in the same order for every candidate. This will take some of the bias out of the interview. You can find some examples of job-focused and cultural-based questions to ask further in this article.
Using your prepared list of questions will also keep your company from treading into regulatory issues. Questions regarding age, sex, gender, race, religion, disability, or nationality cannot be asked. Avoiding even the appearance of illegal interview questions is the best way to conduct interviews.
Don’t be afraid to follow up with a candidate’s answer to your questions. While you don’t want to go down a rabbit hole and discuss topics unrelated to the job, asking pointed follow-up questions can help you gauge a candidate’s level of skill and interest. If you think they’re giving you vague answers, probe more and ask for more detail. It’s important that you get a complete understanding of the person’s ability to do the job; if you’re not getting adequate answers, that’s telling.
Take brief notes during the interview. These can be simple words or phrases that you can come back to after the interview and expand on. You will not remember everything that was said and discussed during multiple interviews, so write it down while it is happening but keep it brief. After every interview, take the time to review your notes and add relevant details about the candidate.
Allow time for the candidate to ask questions. During the earlier parts of the interview, you will naturally respond to some of their questions, but this also gives you time to address any additional questions they may have about the position or your company. You can determine how much research they did and their interest in the job through their questions, two indicators of what they’ll be like as an employee.
Consider requesting a pre-employment assessment from each candidate prior to interviewing. This will help you determine the type of questions you should ask during the interview.
Structured interviews often use a rating system to make comparing candidates at a glance easier. Most candidate rating systems evaluate each answer on a five-point scale, making it imperative that every question is asked of every candidate.
Some companies like to have interviewers rate each question during the interview before moving on to the next question. We recommend waiting until the interview is over and you’ve had a chance to review your notes taken during the interview and add details, then give a score on each question.
You can get an overall evaluation of each candidate by rating their response to each question. If you had one candidate score a 4.7 and the rest scored below a 4, then you have one standout candidate. More likely, candidate scores will be grouped closely together, some better than others. That helps you eliminate certain candidates who score too low.
Download our free interview evaluation form and scorecard to make the process easier.
Structured Interview Questions
Before you sit down to interview candidates, you need to prepare your questions. You may even want to have your list of questions prepared when you write the job description, especially if several interviewers will be involved.
Having your list of questions to ask every interview candidate ensures you evaluate all the applicants on responses to similar questions and hypothetical situations. While some companies prefer to hold unstructured interviews and allow interviewers to ask whatever questions they deem relevant, we recommend structured interview questions. Here’s a brief breakdown of the differences.
Structured Interview Questions
Unstructured Interview Questions
Keep you focused on core duties of the job
Wandering topics unrelated to the job
Easier to evaluate multiple candidates on answers to the same questions
Difficult to compare candidates when asking different questions in each interview
Objectively reach the best hiring decision
May lead to a poor hiring decision
Avoid illegal interview questions
Could stumble into prohibited topics
Provides more consistent results
More prone to errors in hiring
Click through the tabs below for specific questions to ask around skills, culture, and behaviors.
Many interviewers think there’s no middle ground in interviews—they either have to be completely rigid (structured) or totally fluid (unstructured). But the best approach is in the middle. Make a list of examples of structured interview questions that you ask all candidates but listen to their answers and ask follow-up questions to help guide your conversation and hiring decision. Knowing how to structure an interview not only keeps you out of regulatory hot water but also streamlines the hiring process.