Posted on May 4, 2021 by P.K. Maric
Interviews are a staple of the hiring process, but there are 2 different types of interviews that vary in their ability to accurately predict the job performance of candidates: structured interviews and unstructured interviews.
The Most Common Interviews Are Unstructured
When you think of a job interview you probably think of a typical unstructured interview where the interviewer asks the candidate various questions ranging from professional to personal. The purpose of this type of interview is to get a general idea of what a candidate is like. But it doesn’t do much in terms of verifying their job knowledge or skills. The problem is that candidates may be asked different questions, and there is no standardized rating system for evaluating their answers. Unstructured interviews are also highly subjective, which reduces their accuracy and makes it difficult to compare different candidates.
Worst of all, unstructured interviews are highly subject to confirmation bias, as interviewers tend to favor candidates that are similar to them. One psychological study concluded that unstructured interviews harm accuracy and shouldn’t be used at all.
Structured Interviews Are More Accurate
Structured interview questions are carefully constructed. They have a defined scope, expected answers, and scoring criteria, all prepared in advance. You ask all candidates the same questions, in the same order, and score each answer based on the predefined rating system. This way you can accurately compare all candidates much more objectively than with unstructured interviews.
Six benefits of structured interviews:
- Minimizes bias: since both the questions and criteria for scoring answers are prepared in advance, any bias the interviewer may have toward a candidate is reduced significantly.
- Objectivity: all candidates can be compared fairly since they all answer the same questions and are scored using the same criteria.
- Comprehensiveness: all the information you need from candidates can be compiled into questions beforehand.
- Effectiveness: structured interviews have a higher validity when it comes to predicting job performance compared to unstructured interviews. In fact, structured interviews are one of the most effective methods you can use in your hiring process.
- Legal compliance: because the interview session is prepared in advance, it’s easier to make it compliant with local laws governing hiring.
- Saves time: though it requires time to prepare, it saves time in the long run since the number of questions and the broadness of the answer you expect is decided in advance.
Some candidates may perceive structured interview questions as cold and impersonal, but the point of a structured interview is to focus on the candidate’s knowledge and qualifications, not have a friendly chat. The benefits far outweigh any perceived shortcomings.
A Note on Semi-structured Interviews
Semi-structured interviews are sort of a midpoint between unstructured and structured interviews. They generally follow the principles of a structured interview but allow the interviewer to tailor questions to specific candidates as long as the questions remain within a defined framework. But they are less accurate compared to structured interviews while requiring almost the same level of preparation.
How to Conduct a Structured Job Interview?
There are four steps to developing a good structured interview:
- Choose which abilities the interview will assess (based on job requirements).
- Decide on the interview format and come up with relevant questions.
- Develop rating criteria for answers.
- Document and evaluate the process, so you can improve the questions or format if needed.
Structured Interview Question Examples
Here are some structured interview questions we used when hiring a Product Manager:
|Describe the job position and responsibilities.||Does the candidate understand our job description?
Correct them if they have the wrong perception.
|What drove you to apply for this position?
What will motivate you to do this job?
|Why did they choose us?
Salary shouldn’t be the only motivation. The candidate should see this job as a good fit for them, something they would love to do. They should be motivated to grow the business, not just execute tasks.
|Give examples of good books you have read about the business of software, SaaS, the Internet, and startups?||Does the candidate have relevant business knowledge and are they curious to learn?|
|Relevant experience designing mockups (examples to show)||Would the candidate be able to create good B2B SaaS mockups?|
|Your experience with programming?||Does the candidate understand programming and how modern software development works?|
And here are some more structured interview questions that we used when hiring a Senior Developer:
|Explain your understanding of the position and what it takes to be successful at it.||How well did the candidate understand the position? Clarify what they didn’t get.|
|What is the most relevant experience that you have?||How relevant is the candidate’s experience?
Red flag: Taking credit for other people’s work.
|What do you like the most and the least about your last job?
Why did you decide to leave your last job?
|Is the candidate able to get things done?
How trustworthy does the candidate feel so far?
Red flags: likes learning new things but doesn’t finish tasks. Bad-mouthing their last employer.
|We would like to contact your previous employers for reference checking. Can you give us the contact of your previous two bosses? Is there something we should know before contacting them?||Is the candidate willing to go through reference checking? Were they honest in the previous question or did they suddenly remember something that was a problem at their previous job?
Red flags: not being honest, not willing to go through reference checking.
|Do you prefer to have colleagues available on Skype 1-2h a day, the whole day, have only scheduled calls, or something else?||How independent is the candidate?|
All candidate answers are written down and then scored after the interview, using a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being the worst, 5 being the best).
Unstructured interviews are the most commonly used type of interview, but unfortunately, they’re not very good at finding good candidates. A more structured approach to interviews can be one of the most effective tools in your hiring toolbox. Structured job interviews take less time than traditional unstructured interviews while being more effective and leading to better results.