How to Conduct an Effective Structured Interview

A structured interview is a systematic approach to hiring where recruiters leverage a predetermined set of questions and standardized assessment criteria to determine whether a candidate is right for a role.

Unlike other types of interviews, such as unstructured ones, structured interviews require a hiring team to develop a clearly defined purpose for each interview, along with a specific set of questions for each interviewer to ask.

This includes a scorecard that helps interviewers assess answers to each question.

We’ve all experienced an unstructured interview — one where the conversation is free-flowing and the interviewer asks whichever questions they like, often based on the direction of the conversation or the candidate’s resume. 

However, structured interviews operate by ensuring:

  • All candidates are asked the same predetermined questions, in the same order
  • All candidates’ responses are evaluated using the same criteria or scale 

We’ve already covered everything you need to know about structured interviews, but what about conducting these interviews? Let’s take a look at how it’s done.

structured hiring for recruiters

Create your structured interview kit

The first step in conducting a structured interview is to first create or compile your structured interview kit. This starts by determining which questions you and every stakeholder involved in your interview process will ask.

For example, if you’re a technical recruiter who frequently hires developers or engineers, you can create predetermined lists of questions to use time and again.

You may need to refresh these lists every so often, but these questions are a cornerstone of your team’s interview kit. 

Typically, there are two types of questions that interviewers ask candidates most often: behavioral and situational. Chances are, you’ve been asked these types of questions, whether you’ve experienced structured or semi-structured interviews.

What are behavioral interview questions?

Behavioral interview questions focus on how a candidate has handled various situations in the workplace in the past.

Their purpose is to seek to understand a candidate’s past behavior and experience relevant to the job and often reveal insights about a candidate’s skills, personality, and character. 

The idea here is that past behavior can help predict future job performance and whether a candidate will be a culture add versus a detractor.

Keep in mind that behavioral questions are best used to assess traits and skills. 

What are situational interview questions?

Situational interview questions are those that present candidates with hypothetical or potential scenarios. The purpose of these types of questions is to help the interviewer determine a candidate’s problem-solving or analytical skills. 

Like behavioral interview questions, situational ones can help predict a candidate’s future job performance, but be careful with how you use these questions.

If they’re not properly structured, they can lead to open-ended responses from candidates.

interview scorecard

Next, standardize your skills or competency tests

Skills tests or assignments are growing in popularity for many organizations whose hiring processes are a tad more nuanced than they once were. 

These tests or assignments usually occur after the verification stage where candidates have an initial interview, meet with one or two strategic stakeholders, and then participate in a test or assignment they present to a panel or group.

These assignments are evaluated in different ways, but they must be standardized. 

You want to give each candidate who moves forward to this stage of the hiring process a fair opportunity while eliminating any subjective assessment from interviewers.

If each candidate has a different assignment, it can skew evaluations and feedback from interviewers (especially in a panel interview). 

Then, create prescriptive feedback forms or scorecards

A significant part of your structured interview kit will be your feedback forms. These can comprise your rubric or ‘scale’ for assessing candidates, but these forms should not just serve the purpose of rating candidates on a scale of 1-4. 

Instead, feedback forms should encompass notes and feedback on responses from candidates (based on predetermined criteria or questions), notes on why interviewers have scored or rated candidates as they have, and any scorecards that hiring managers can review. 

And, bear in mind, feedback should be objective and free of influence from other stakeholders.

For example, the feedback one interviewer gives shouldn’t be used as a basis for the feedback another interviewer provides.

In LeverTRM, for example, when feedback is provided, feedback forms are kept hidden so that interviewers can only view others’ feedback once they’ve completed their own.

The goal in leveraging prescriptive feedback forms like this is to eliminate groupthink so your hiring team makes objective and data-driven decisions that aren’t influenced by unconscious or confirmation bias.

interview process steps

Finally, build out your candidate feedback surveys

Structured interviews don’t just benefit organizations — they’re also helpful for candidates in providing inclusive and equitable hiring experiences. But how do you know whether your structured interviews are effective in the eyes of those you’re interviewing? 

A simple way of determining this is leveraging candidate feedback surveys.

You can use these surveys to ask candidates about their interview experience while gathering insights into how fair, welcoming, and effective the interview was.

Say, for instance, that you’ve just wrapped up a day of interviews with candidates, and you’d love to know how they felt about their interviews and what your team can improve upon.

Using a feedback survey like those available in LeverTRM, you can ask follow-up questions to gauge sentiment and, further, determine whether your interviews were a positive experience for those you spoke with.

Examples of structured interview questions

Crafting the right questions to ask candidates can be confusing if you’re moving from something like unstructured interviews to more standardized ones.

We mentioned earlier that most structured interviews ask behavioral and situational questions; coming up with those types of questions can be challenging.

So, let’s take a look at a few examples.

talent acquisition recruiting benchmarks

Verification questions

Think of these questions as the ‘yes or no’ questions you would typically ask at the outset of an interview — especially your first touchpoint with a candidate. For example:

  • Do you have experience using Adobe Creative Suite?
  • Have you managed a distributed team before?

Behavioral questions

As we mentioned early on, behavioral questions help you gain insight into past performance. Here are some examples: 

  • Can you give me an example of a time you had to prioritize certain projects over others, and how you managed them?
  • What was one of the more difficult decisions you’ve had to make that impacted your team, and how?

Situational questions

Situational questions seek to dive deeper into a candidate’s problem-solving and analytical skills. Let’s look at a couple of sample questions: 

  • How would you handle a project whose scope of work requires multiple stakeholders from different teams? 
  • Describe how you would support a difficult or dissatisfied customer?

Keep in mind that the questions you ask in a structured interview should always align with the role you’re interviewing candidates for.

The core competencies you look for in hires, and ultimately how you see a hire contributing to your business, are important factors to consider when developing your interview questions.

Learn how you can enhance your interviewing techniques and recruiting strategy at large with LeverTRM, our native ATS + CRM. Schedule your demo with our team today.

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Further reading