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    Conducting Structured Interviews: Tips & Best Practices


    “Hiring the wrong people is the fastest way to undermine a sustainable business.” – Kevin J. Donaldson, Entrepreneur, Author, and Business Coach

    Structured interviews are an effective way to assess candidates for job fit, overcoming the limitations and biases of traditional interviews. Research shows that interviews have limited reliability in predicting on-the-job performance. Thus, by adopting a structured approach, managers can reduce personal bias and make fairer hiring decisions.

    What is a Structured Interview?

    Structured interviews are designed to be systematic and standardized. To maximize the utility of the process, interviewers should ask the same predetermined questions to all applicants in the same order and then rate them with a standardized scoring system. Evidence shows that a structured interview process achieves better and fairer hiring outcomes than traditional interviews, reducing the chances of an unsuitable hire.

    Why Use Structured Interviews?

    “Structured interviews have been proven to predict performance about 26% of the time, much better than unstructured interviews (14%)or background checks (7%)” – Wired.

    Structured interviews are designed to be objective. Creating standardized questions and assessment methods reduces opportunities for interviewer bias to influence hiring decisions. The structured nature of the process allows Interviewers to make fair comparisons between applicants. 

    What is Interviewer Bias?

    Interview bias occurs when the interviewer’s expectations or opinions influence the assessment of a candidate. Biases can stem from appearance, personal affinity, value judgments, or other preconceptions. 

    Side note: To mitigate interviewer bias, organizations can provide interview training

    Preparing for a Structured Interview?

    A step-by-step process helps identify the essential requirements for a job, develop relevant questions, establish a scoring system, and conduct interviews in a structured manner. The goal is to improve the effectiveness of the hiring process and select the most qualified candidates for the job. The following is an example process used for preparing for a structured interview:

      1. Match skills to job tasks and gather necessary information.
      2. Define the qualifications needed for the position.
      3. Develop questions that assess the required skills and attributes.
      4. Determine a scoring system to make objective evaluations.
      5. Conduct the interview: Follow the structured process, be friendly and respectful, and take clear notes.
      6. Remember that structured interviews may lack personal connection and can be subject to biases.
      7. Combine interviews with other assessments (work samples, tests) to ensure a comprehensive evaluation.

    Types of Interview Questions

    Structured Interview Scoring System

    The aim of a scoring system in structured interviews is to make evaluations fair and consistent. It helps remove bias and subjectivity, allowing for objective assessment of candidates. Additionally, the scoring system ensures interviewers stay on track, evaluate qualifications, and remain unbiased. It is important to note that, there is more than one way of scoring an interview. Here is a basic example:

    The interviewer should have a copy of pre-determined optimal answer for each of the planned interview questions. This copy can be used to compare the candidate’s response to each interview question. Using a 1 to 5 rating scale, 1 being a weak answer, 5 being a perfect answer, the interviewer can assess how the candidate performed. At the end of the interview, the score is totaled, and this number becomes a reference point.

    Side note: It is critical that the HR department and hiring managers work together to design an appropriate scoring system that represents hiring and organizational goals.

    Types of Interview Questions

    Interviewers use various types of questions to assess specific skills, abilities, or work experiences. Recruiters can thoroughly evaluate a candidate’s suitability and fit by employing a diverse range of questions. Each type of question allows candidates to demonstrate if they are qualified for the job and compatible with the organization. 

    Credential Verification Questions

    These questions verify a candidate’s resume information, such as employment history, education, and other qualifications. 

    • What did you learn while completing your XYZ certificate?
    • What courses did you take to complete your HIJ qualification?


    Experience Verification Questions

    Similar to credential verification questions, these questions subjectively evaluate past work experiences. The purpose is to determine if the applicant is qualified for the position. 

    • What are the top 3 skills that learn at your previous role?
    • What are the top 3 most important skills for this position?


    Opinion Questions

    These questions analyze decision-making skills by presenting scenarios or asking about the applicant’s strengths. The response provides insight into thought processes and approaches to different situations. Examples:

    • What do you think is your biggest career success to date?
    • What’s your preferred leadership style?


    Behavioral Questions

    These questions ask about your behavior in previous workplaces or situations. The aim is to evaluate past behavior to predict how a candidate will respond to similar workplace circumstances or conditions in the future. Examples:

    • How do (have) you handled setbacks at work?
    • What makes an ideal coworker (for XYZ job)?


    Competency Questions

    These questions assess specific skills and experiences required for the job. 

    • Tell me about a time when your communication skills improved a situation.
    • Describe a situation where you were asked to do something that you’d never attempted previously.

    Case Questions

    Case questions involve problem-solving scenarios related to the job. They assess an applicant’s ability to handle potential work-related cases. It allows interviewers to evaluate case-specific problem-solving skills. 

    • How would you redesign the a job to make it more accountable and efficient?
    • In ABC industry, which companies are the main competitors in XYZ?

    Hypothetical Interview Questions

    These questions test an individual’s ability to identify and address common workplace challenges, such as interpersonal skills. Examples:

    • How would you respond to a problem that you discovered?
    • What if a coworker is slow to respond to the information you need to carry out a certain task?

    Brain Teaser Questions

    These questions test your logic, math skills, critical thinking, and creativity. Candidate responses provide insight into communication, decision-making, and problem-solving abilities. 

    • If we hired you for this position, what is the first issue you would address?
    • Describe your ideal work environment.

    Outside-the-Box Interview Questions

    These unconventional questions test your ability to think creatively and generate original thoughts. There is no right or wrong answer. The goal is to see if the candidate can think on their feet and react decisively.

    • If a catastrophic event happen, explain what you would do?

    Conducting Structured Interviews: Do’s & Don’ts 

    Do’s for conducting structured interviews:

      1. Prepare a set of standardized questions in advance.
      2. Ask each question in the same order to all candidates.
      3. Listen attentively and give candidates time to answer each question.
      4. Score each response immediately based on a predetermined rating system.
      5. Conduct the interview in a friendly and professional manner.
      6. Close the discussion by thanking the candidate and providing the next steps. 

    Don’ts for conducting structured interviews:

      1. Don’t deviate from the predetermined set of questions.
      2. Avoid rushing through the interview or interrupting the candidate.
      3. Don’t let personal biases or assumptions influence your scoring.
      4. Avoid asking leading or biased questions.
      5. Don’t overlook the importance of active listening and observing non-verbal cues.
      6. Don’t forget to provide timely feedback and updates to candidates regarding the hiring process.

    “Hiring is the most important people function you have, and most of us aren’t as good at it as we think. Refocusing your resources on hiring better will have a higher return than almost any training program you can develop.” – Laszlo Bock

    Structured interviews can effectively assess job fit, reduce biases, and improve hiring decisions. By utilizing standardized questions and assessment methods, interviewers can mitigate interviewer bias and promote fair comparisons between candidates. Following the step-by-step process outlined above and adopting best practices for conducting structured interviews, organizations can select the most qualified candidates for the job.

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