When and How to Use Different Interview Techniques

In most organizations (if not all), interviewing candidates is an imperfect practice. Interviewing can help you find your ideal hire, but it also sometimes results in the downright wrong hire. While it can be nearly impossible to completely eliminate all bad hires, trying different interview techniques can certainly help you reduce them. If you want to improve your overall quality of hire, give these interview techniques a try:

Structured interviews

Structured interviews are those in which you prepare the interview process and questions ahead of time to ensure that all candidates have the same experience. Prepare by reviewing the job description to determine the criteria you’ll use to evaluate candidates, and come up with interview questions that will help you screen for must-have qualifications. Doing this ahead of time puts each candidate on a level playing field so you assess them all the same way. Structured interviews should always be used instead of unstructured interviews.

Behavioral interviews

Behavioral interviews are those in which you ask candidates questions to learn how their past behavior might predict their future behavior. Behavioral interview questions should be used within structural interviews so each candidate will be asked the same questions.

For example, you could start by asking each candidate to walk you through their resume, then layer on follow-up questions to dig deeper into the candidate’s story. Follow-up questions may include, “What was your proudest accomplishment in that role?” and “What was the impact of that accomplishment?” This is a great opportunity to learn more about your candidate’s skills fit. If you thoroughly review your candidate’s resume ahead of time, jot down some follow up questions based on the information provided. Behavioral interviews are an interview technique that should be used most of the time.

Work sample test

A work sample test can go a step further than a behavioral interview to give you a better idea of the candidate’s skills fit. A work sample test may also be known as a problem-solving interview, presentation interview, coding challenge, or technical interview, depending on the position. This interview technique allows you to see firsthand how a candidate could perform in your open role, rather than simply hearing about how they’ve performed in the past. The goal is to have the candidate work on a project representative of a project they’d work on once hired.

For example, an engineer could be asked to complete a coding challenge, a content marketer could be asked to provide a writing sample, and a designer could be asked to create wireframes for a website redesign. A work sample test should be part of a structured interview, so all candidates for a given role are evaluated on the same project, in the same environment and timeframe, using the same tools. It should be used whenever you want a stronger understanding of a candidate’s skill level for a must-have qualification, and when it’s plausible to ask for a sample of the candidate’s work.

Cultural interview

You can include culture fit interview questions throughout your normal interview process to gauge whether or not your candidate’s values match your company’s. Rather than looking for ‘culture fit‘, prioritize cultural alignment. For instance, when walking through a candidate’s resume, ask “Why did you leave that role?” or “How do you like to be managed?” in order to learn about the candidate’s motivations. You could also ask questions like, “Tell me about a time you exhibited [organizational value].”

However, a dedicated cultural interview may also be included in your interview process to allow the candidate to experience your culture firsthand. A lunch interview, or other casual get-together, can be a great opportunity for your candidates and other employees to get to know one another outside the pressures of the interview process. Hold a dedicated cultural interview if your organizational culture is better suited for certain types of candidates, and whenever you need to sell a really great candidate on your opportunity.


These interview techniques can help you thoroughly assess candidates on a level playing field to ensure that you hire the very best one. However, you should compare your interview evaluation forms to employee assessments to ensure that you’re using them properly. For instance, you may find that someone aced your work sample test, but was unable to complete a similar project on the job. This may be an indication that your test is listed on Glassdoor or being discussed via word of mouth, and should be changed the next time you interview for that role. You may also find that the criteria you’re screening for aren’t indicative of a good skills or culture fit, and that they should be re-evaluated. These learnings can help you fine-tune each interview technique to work better at your organization.

Learn more about interview techniques and best practices in our eBook:Top Interview Tips: The Employer’s Essential Handbook.