No matter how many books there are about talent acquisition best practices, one conclusion appears again and again: structured interviews are better than unstructured ones if you want to identify the most qualified candidates. However, the understanding of what is a structured interview, can differ considerably. In this post, therefore, we would like to show you what structured interviews actually are and why they are important for effective recruiting.
1 What’s the basis of the interview questions?
Structured interviews differ from unstructured interviews in two aspects: first, how questions are derived, and second the use of proven question types.
In structured interviews, the questions are based upon a requirements analysis or a competence profile that serve as orientation for creating an interview guideline. This guideline will contain a package of competence dimensions that the candidates needs to meet and that will be checked by specific questions (We recommend reading: Recruiting Guide – In three steps from the job profile to the appropriate selection method).
The next structural aspect refers to the wording of the questions. While open questions are typical in unstructured interviews, structured interviews primarily contain situational or behavioral questions. Let’s take the competency dimension of “teamwork” as an example:
An open question type would be: “Do you prefer working in a team or on your own?” or, more directly, “Are you a team worker?” A behavioral descriptive question can test this same competency in the following way: “Please describe the biggest success you have achieved together with your team. How did you contribute to achieving this?”
2. How standardised is your interview process?
This point refers to the standardisation of the interview itself. The more it is fixed in detail (for example, by having an interview guide), the more structured the interview gets. There are different ways to achieve this. One of the best known is, for instance, the Multimodal Interview (MMI) by Heinz Schuler, which is constructed as follows:
- Informal start of conversation (“icebreaker”)
- Self-introduction of the applicant
- Open conversation part or questions on CV
- Questions concerning interests, professional experience
- Biographical questions
- Realistic job preview
- Situational questions
- Final conversation to discuss open questions and next steps of the process
3. Standardised evaluation and decision-making [methods]
The third structural aspect relates to the assessment and evaluation during the interview and after the interview. A completely unstructured approach would be to rely on your overall impression or deceptive “gut feeling”. In contrast, a fully structured approach would be to establish behaviourally anchored rating scales (BARS). That’s the way you can assess a candidate’s behaviour in a specific and job-relevant situation and base your decision on this assessment.
Why is structure so important?
Structure is not nice-to-have, but a real must-have if you want to avoid bad hires. It ensures that interviews are job-specific and reliable (i.e. different evaluators come to the same conclusion concerning a candidate’s qualification). Structure is intended to counteract unwanted distortions and make the interview as valid and fair as possible.
With the above points, you will soon realize that it is not always possible to meet all structural aspects. However, introducing more structure into your recruiting and interviews in particular will help significantly increase the validity of an interview and enable you to identify the real talents among your candidates.
Chapman, D. S., & Zweig, D. I. (2005). Developing a nomological network for interview structure: Antecedents and consequences of the structured selection interview. Personnel Psychology, 58(3), 673-702.
Campion, M. A., Palmer, D. K., & Campion, J. E. (1997). A review of structure in the selection interview (vol 50, pg 655, 1997). Personnel Psychology, 50(4), 926-926.