Structured Interview – An Excellent Way To Find The Best Candidates

Structured interview - WeCP (We Create Problems) Blog

Subconscious or not, interviewer bias is a big issue that creeps its way into the hiring process. This is only natural – humans are biased creatures; it’s part of our instincts. When it comes to technical hiring, though, minimizing interviewer bias is necessary for guaranteeing fair evaluation. This is where structured interviews come in strong – they act as a potential gateway for recruiters to minimize bias and collect meaningful information about candidates.

This interview type brings a lot to the table beyond minimizing interview bias – it also provides the interview process with clear direction, ensuring that candidates are evaluated properly. Additionally, having a preset, predetermined framework prevents recruiters from going in blind. 

What is a structured interview? 

A structured interview is an interview that operates on a predefined template; the interviewer questions the candidate from a prepared list of questions in a defined order. Thus, it is also known as a planned interview.

They are quantitative in nature, paving the way for companies to perform statistical analysis and compare candidates accurately and fairly. For example, in a planned interview, a candidate’s response to each question can be scored with the help of a rating scale. Let’s take a five-point scale –  a response that shows awareness is awarded a 1, whereas one that showcases expertise gets a 5. This scoring tactic provides a quantitative means of comparing the competency of various candidates.

So, what sort of questions do tech recruiters actually ask during these interviews?

Well, here are some standard structured interview questions:

  • What did you learn from your last training session? How did you apply your knowledge practically?
  • Tell me about a time you failed at a project. How did you learn from the experience?
  • How do you fare at explaining technical concepts to non-technical fellow employees? Please follow your answer up with an example.

What are the different types of structured interviews?

There are three core types, all conducted through different mediums. They are as follows:

1) Structured face-to-face interviews. This type of planned interview involves the physical exchange of information between the interviewer and interviewee through direct communication. Face-to-face interviews pave the way for more thorough evaluation – interviewers can assess the candidate’s body language, expressions and use visual aids to help conduct the interview. However, this type of interview is time-consuming and resource-exhausting, so there is a trade-off in choosing it over other types.

2) Structured video interviews. As the name suggests, these are conducted via a high-definition video call and offer some key benefits over face-to-face interviews. Structured video interviews are less time-consuming and are not subject to geographical constraints – making them ideal for remote hiring. Structured video interviews are also cost-effective as they are less resource-demanding.

3) Structured tests. A structured test or questionnaire is a type of structured interview that acts as a quantitative research method. In this type of interview, a series of standardized questions are presented in sequence. The test questions are usually closed-ended and can be in the form of MCQs, short answers, or longer responses. Structured tests are both time and cost-effective, and they make data collection and analysis convenient.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of conducting structured interviews?

We have mentioned a few of many advantages already. Here’s a quick run-down of the key benefits of planned interviews:

  • Minimal Interviewer Bias. As mentioned previously, a structured way of conducting interviews is ideal for minimizing interviewer bias. The interviewer’s focus is on the questions, rather than personal judgments and opinions, making for a fairer and more effective interview process. 
  • Paced interview environment. With a structured approach, each interview takes around the same time to conduct – and less than an unstructured interview. This helps save time and also makes for more accurate scheduling.
  • Better preparation. Structured interviews have an underlying framework and a set of relevant questions. This saves interviewers from forgetting to ask important questions and helps maintain the focus of the interview.
  • Analysis and comparison. Conducting interviews in a planned way yields quantitative results, which recruiters can use to compare candidates reliably. 

While there are many benefits, this type of interview format is not without fault. Their drawbacks include:

  • Restriction. They require interviewers to stick to pre-defined questions, limiting the scope of the interview. If the interviewer wants to learn more about something the candidate discussed, then they are unable to without violating the structure.
  • Unfair Play. If a company’s set of predefined questions are leaked or made publicly known, then candidates may synthesize responses to each question in advance. This can taint the authenticity of the interview process and adversely affect the evaluation results.
  • Planning efforts. The format and set of questions for a structured interview require time and effort to perfect. Moreover, companies may need to update their questions and interview process as they gain new insights.

Using an online tool to conduct structured tests and video interviews, however, can solve the aforementioned.

How to prepare and conduct an effective structured interview

Sold on this idea but don’t know where to start? Maybe you’re thinking, “hey, exactly what is the first step in constructing a planned interview?” Well, let’s take a look at how you can put together one yourself. 

5 steps to conduct a structured interview

  1. Prepare and develop. The first step to conducting a planned interview is to prepare a standardized interview sequence, including predefined questions and an order to ask them in. 
  2. Develop a grading scale. After developing the interview questions, it’s time to decide how to rate the responses. A standard rating scale such as the five-point scale can be used to grade responses. 
  3. Decide on the mode. What mode will you use to conduct the interview? For example, will it be an online video interview, a face-to-face interview, or an assessment test?
  4. Conduct and assess. Now it’s time to conduct the actual interview and score each answer according to the grading scale. Again, we advise scoring each response immediately – otherwise, you may forget elements of the response later on, resulting in inaccurate scoring. 
  5. Compare. After conducting a sufficient number of these interviews, it’s time to compare the results and see which candidates stand out best.

Top tips for conducting structured interviews 

In the previous section, we took a quick look at the general framework for conducting a thoroughly planned interview. But how can you optimize the process and make sure it’s well-executed? Well, here are some golden structured interview tips:

  • Make the candidate feel welcome. A drawback of such interviews is that they are quite impersonal, and the interviewee may perceive your company as cold. Thus, it’s important to try and make candidates feel welcome – in a face-to-face or online video interview, try to smile professionally, welcome the candidate in, and seem relaxed in your body language.
  • Don’t rush the interviewee. Interviewers should focus on the quality of answers and not on the speed with which they are delivered. Providing candidates ample time to respond between questions is crucial – it helps the candidate feel comfortable and prevents them from messing up responses due to stress.
  • Keep improving. With a planned structure, there’s no guarantee that your set of questions are the best for evaluating candidates and identifying the right person for the job. This is why it’s crucial to continuously analyze the results and data and see where improvements can be made. Using an online skill assessment tool can save you from this hassle.

What other types of interviews are there?

Structured interviews are not the only type of interview – there are also unstructured interviews and semi-structured interviews that are more of a middle-ground between the other two. 

Unstructured interviews – should you use them?

As the name gives away, unstructured interviews have no underlying structure; there are no pre-prepared questions, grading scales, or sequences. Instead, the interviewer asks spontaneous questions and the interview itself progresses in turn. More questions arise from responses, and the interviewer has free reign. 

While unstructured interviews clearly offer more freedom and creative scope than structured ones, this is seldom a positive aspect. They often lack direction, and without predefined questions to evaluate specific skills, candidates may not be adequately screened for their competency. Moreover, with unstructured interviews, each candidate’s interview will vary significantly – this makes comparing interviewees difficult and comparing them fairly almost impossible. So while the lack of restrictions makes unstructured interviews seem appealing, we’d advise against them.

Semi-structured interviews – an ideal middle-ground?

A semi-structured interview is also known as a hybrid interview – it fuses elements of structured and unstructured interviews. Semi-structured interviews include pre-set questions but additionally grant the interviewer flexibility to deviate and ask unplanned questions. This way, interviewers can engage the candidates on a more personal level while keeping the interview focused. Semi-structured interviews typically adhere to the same grading scales as structured ones, using rubrics or five-point scales to rank responses. 

Semi-structured interviews combine the best of both worlds, but there is a cost. While a planned process minimize bias commendably, interviewer bias may creep into semi-structured interviews. In turn, this may affect the scoring of candidates and result in somewhat unfair evaluation. 

Conclusion

Of the three types of interviews, unstructured ones offer the least merit. While they guarantee flexibility, unstructured interviews are prone to biased evaluation and typically lack direction. Moreover, the lack of quantitative results makes them difficult to analyze and compare. This is why we advise tech recruiters to take their pick from structured and semi-structured interviews.

Planned interviews minimize bias, and thus their results can be reliably interpreted, analyzed, and compared. Semi-structured interviews grant more flexibility than wholly structured ones, at the cost of possibly introducing interviewer bias. The choice of which to go for depends on your company’s needs – if your objective is to hire at scale, then a planned interview is ideal. But if you’re looking for a little more flexibility in the interview process, then a semi-structured format serves well.

WeCP (We Create Problems) offers a huge library of pre-built interview tests to evaluate over 2000+ developer skills with a database of over 0.2 M+ questions (and counting..). Get in touch to give structure to your technical hiring process.

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