What is a Structured Interview?

K. Testa

A structured interview is one of several potential types of interviews for a professional position. The format normally depends on the goals of the hiring committee. There is usually a predetermined set of questions that are asked in the same order to all of the job candidates. The interviewing process often includes a standard guide for recording and rating the candidates’ responses as well. Generally, the interviewers have agreed beforehand on what constitutes a satisfactory answer. This kind of interview can have both advantages and disadvantages.

A structured interview involves asking the same questions to different candidates.
A structured interview involves asking the same questions to different candidates.

Typically, the purpose of a structured interview is to provide a “level playing field,” in which all candidates are asked the same questions in the same order. Ostensibly, this method of interviewing can help the hiring organization avoid bias in its hiring process. The interviewers can collect basic data quickly and compare the candidates’ answers to each question. Many human resources professionals feel that a structured interview is more reliable and valid than an unstructured interview, which tends to be more subjective.

A structured interview may require the candidate to talk to a panel.
A structured interview may require the candidate to talk to a panel.

A possible disadvantage of a structured interview is that it does not normally allow for casual conversation. It might be challenging for the interviewers to move the discussion in a different direction, despite the candidate’s answer. Since the interview is limited to specific questions asked in a particular order, it might also prove difficult to assess the candidate’s creativity or communication skills.

Prior to creating the structured interview questions, most hiring committees or interviewers perform an analysis of the open position and its overall function within the organization. This can help them decide on the criteria for evaluating a candidate’s answers. They might, for instance, identify the competencies sought by the organization and then design relevant questions for assessing those competencies. Most interviews include behavioral or situational questions, or a combination of both. Short, clear question are usually asked, and then the responses are typically rated using a points system.

Various types of organizations utilize structured interviews in their recruitment processes. National and local government bodies are one example of agencies that often use this type of interview to screen candidates. When preparing for a structured interview, it often helps to practice responses to different types of questions. Job candidates should usually be ready for either a single interviewer or a panel. Candidates can sometimes request the questions beforehand or at the beginning of the interview. Finally, it is normally helpful to be familiar with the hiring company, or at least be aware of the general expectations of the job.

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