Creating structure is a time-tested approach to become great at a process. Structuring interviews scales the hiring process without compromising on quality.

Unstructured interviews offer you more freedom, which can make these interviews more enjoyable but comes with some serious tradeoffs. Since you're rallying questions and answers in an off-the-cuff manner, it allows for a more casual rapport. Unfortunately, this relaxed interview format is also fertile ground for unconscious bias.

To help you hire in a more standardized way for the best possible candidates, I'll unpack what a structured interview is, how to conduct an interview in this format, and the best structured interview questions to help you evaluate candidates. 

What Is a Structured Interview?

A structured interview uses the same set of questions to create a consistent, repeatable process for every candidate. The hiring manager or recruiter collects the answers for each candidate and measures them against a scoring system.

​The structured interview questions are developed from the job description and revolve around the job requirements. 

There are many advantages to a structured interview process. We’ll review some of these below.

  • This interview technique helps reduce bias by recreating a standardized way of evaluating candidates.
  • The repetitive nature provides scheduling predictability.
  • The interview process is highly organized, as interview questions must be prepared in advance.
  • Job performance (not likability alone) becomes the most important aspect of the interview process, which reduces personal bias.
  • Interviews can be more efficient, as the structured interview questions serve as an interview guide.
  • It makes it easier to provide relevant feedback to candidates.

The disadvantages of structured interviews are few. However, it’s important to discuss these as well so you can decide if this style is right for you. Let’s take a look.

  • They involve more time spent preparing the questions.
  • They’re not as exciting to conduct since the interviewer must stick to a script.
  • Candidates may perceive the process as formal.

As routine as it seems, consistency enhances workplace diversity and efficacy.

Running Structured Interview: 6 Steps for Success

Now that you've decided you want to explore using structured interviews in your hiring process, it can help to have a few pointers. Read on for six steps that will help you plan your structured interview process.

1. Identify the Most Important Hard Skills and Soft Skills

At the heart of every hiring decision is a list of mandatory skill sets and “nice-to-have” skill sets. 

Some examples of hard skills:

  • Technical training
  • Certifications 
  • Educational background 

A few examples of soft skills:

  • Communication skills
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Creative aptitude

Knowing what’s crucial to the job applicant’s success ahead of time will help you categorize whether these skills are mandatory or just nice to have.

2. Create Relevant Situational and Behavioral Questions

Both these interview styles uncover how a candidate thinks and behaves based on past experience. Behavioral interview questions can help clarify whether the candidate’s values align with the company’s.

3. Ask Questions That Center on Job Performance

To provide an unbiased overview of candidate abilities, include interview questions that will give you greater detail regarding their performance metrics, knowledge, and training.

4. Create a Rating Scale

The rating scale is a crucial part of the structured interview process because it creates a benchmark score for candidate answers. 

Some hiring managers find a four-point scale that ranges from “strong no hire” to “strong hire” is good enough. You can get more detailed if you like — the rating scale structure comes down to preference.

5. Train Hiring Managers Accordingly

The goal of structured interviews is to have as standardized a process as possible. 

Before the interview, give hiring managers the questions and rating scale required. To make sure they’re adequately trained, check out Prelude’s interviewer training workflow. This feature helps new interviewers schedule “shadow” sessions where they can gain confidence by watching experienced colleagues conduct the interview. 

6. Schedule Debrief With Hiring Managers

Ideally, these debrief meetings are scheduled before the structured interviews take place so everyone can plan to provide their feedback while it's still fresh. Prolonging the debrief poses a bias in the favor of candidates who interviewed most recently.

Prelude can bundle scheduling activities and create efficient scheduling by ensuring the right people are called into those meetings at the right stage of the hiring process.

Types of Structured Interview Questions

The trick to unlocking structured interview questions is to thoroughly understand the job description for the role you're hiring for. To do so, create a list of questions to help you evaluate candidates’ hard and soft skills.

All structured interview questions should have the following traits:

  • Objective and direct
  • Free from complex or internal jargon
  • Focused on the job-related tasks over frivolous details
  • Open-ended
  • Based in real-life scenarios

Ask one to two questions per category. Once you have scored the candidate’s response, guide them to the next question to stay within your time allotment.

Questions to uncover a candidate’s motivations

1. What achievement are you most proud of from your previous position?

2. Can you share a time when you not only met but exceeded a goal?

3. Please share a time you went above and beyond for your team.

Questions about the candidate's ability to advocate for themselves

1. If your manager asked you to complete a task you weren't comfortable with, how would you respond?

2. Can you share a time you identified an issue within your team? How did you communicate the issue?

Questions about a candidate's eagerness to learn

1. Tell me about a time you had to teach yourself or somebody on your team something new, and walk me through the approach you took.

2. What do you hope to learn more about in your role here?

3. What was the best lesson you learned from a past failure?

Questions about their desired leadership style

1. Describe the two to three characteristics of a former manager that made you feel supported.

2. What's a piece of feedback you received from a previous manager that helped you to improve in your role?

3. What helps you when you're feeling unmotivated at work?

Questions that determine how much candidates know about the company

1. Do you know who our major competitors are? 

2. Have you ever used our products or services? 

3. What aspects of our values attracted you to our company?

Structured Interviews Are a Balanced Way to Hire

Let’s review the steps for creating a structured interview. Start by thinking about how to rank candidates by reviewing the qualities you value within your existing team. Produce a similar ranking system for evaluating your future candidates via structured interviews, and schedule a time to train hiring managers.

Just because a candidate keeps up a good conversation or provides a more memorable job interview experience doesn't always mean they're the best fit for the role. By creating a uniform and balanced hiring process using structured interview questions, your personal feelings towards the candidates and your poor memory of early interviews won’t get in the way of making the best possible hiring decision. 

The best candidate should always win, and the standardized approach of structured interviews is a fair way to determine who is the best fit.