Striking a Balance with Structured Interviews

Research has told us for some time that structured interviews used in the hiring process provide for a better quality of hire.  They present a scenario that keeps decision makers targeted and on track during the interview, enabling them to focus on key pieces of information that matter in making a sound selection for their organizations.

But much of what you hear surrounding the interview process today involves a conversation between the interviewer and the job seeker.  It is less of a straightforward test or collection of data and more of a give and take exchange between each side, sizing up the opportunity presented in front of them.

Many interviewers practice the basics of structured interviewing, probably without realizing it, but at the same time opening it up to this more  updated approach of having an open dialogue with the candidate.

The question arises, then, does all of this added information to the conversation distract the decision maker from making errors in judgment based on data that is not necessarily relevant, or do we now infer that all data captured in the interview is relevant to the hiring decision?

Some of the characteristics of structured interview practices include:

  • Ensuring finalization of the job description  (which includes verifying that it is accurate and up to date)
  • Conveying a realistic job preview and overview of the organization to each candidate.
  • Utilizing an measurable rating scale to evaluate core skill sets or areas of knowledge.
  • Identifying a core set of questions (including behavioral interview questions) based the job description in question.
  • Posing the same set of questions, in the same order, to all candidates considered for the role.  Which enables each response to be viewed in the same context from candidate to candidate as it would have been influenced by the same preceding questions.
  • Engaging more than one interviewer in the candidate evaluation process. (As they say in carpentry, better to measure twice, and cut once.)
  • Coaching interviewers to delay any decision making until after all the candidate data is reviewed allowing for time and reflection to override any gut reactions.

All of these techniques make practical sense in their application, but the consistency in which we utilize them may not be in sync with their effectiveness.  As interviewing techniques change and evolve, and we introduce new methodologies, has your process maintained structure over time or have you become more loose as you’ve honed your interviewing skills?

How structured is your organization’s interview process?  Do you keep a standardized process or just a framework to go by and allow the interview itself to guide the direction?  Are you striking a balance with structured interviews in order to make your definitive hiring decisions?

Let us know your thoughts on structured interviewing and how you approach the interview process to making sound hiring decisions.

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About Robin Rayburn

Robin L. Rayburn is the Editor & General Manager of Robin was introduced to the recruitment industry in 2007 and her passion for people has never let her stray far from it since. In her spare time she manages her blog,, tweets from @interviewingcom and @chitowntexan, and is always striving to help those around her who have a vision for success. You can also find Robin on LinkedIn and Google+.

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  1. Cristy CarrollMay 13, 2012 at 5:44 pmReply

    Structured interviews are very important. It keeps the interviewer from going off on a tangent and not having sufficient information to compare the candidates. I do think that probing in areas where you want more clarity or have a hunch that something isn’t quite right is very helpful as well. The deeper you dig will only get you to more and perhaps more real information than a “standard inverview question answer.” Adding to the structured interview a skills test or exercise helps as well.

  2. Jeff EllmanMay 11, 2012 at 9:16 amReply

    Great article. Having structured interviews that lead to data based hiring decisions helps a businesses process improve over time. Asking questions in an interview is easy but knowing what answers to look for that predict success in the role are critical.

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