A structured interview is a standardized way to interview. Interview questions are determined ahead of time and are asked in the same order and manner for all the candidates. The questions normally relate directly to a competency or skill that is required on the job and are designed with specific keywords or answers in mind.
One of the benefits to a structured interview is the ability to effectively rank all the applicants using the same grading scale, with the purpose of reducing unintended bias. Not only is this fairer to the candidates, it actually makes it easier for the interviewers to know if the candidates’ answers meet the requirements of the job.
Although not a direct requirement, there is usually more than one interviewer, which helps further eliminate bias. In many cases, the interviewers will take notes as the candidates answer the questions and then will “grade” the answers on a rating scale to determine how close they got to the “optimal” answer. A final tally or average is then calculated and the candidates are ranked highest to lowest.
A structured interview is often used to screen out candidates that don’t meet the minimum requirements for the position. In addition, the structured interview may be the first interview in a series of events, which may include unstructured interviews, skills testing, scenario interviews and second (or third) interviews.
Some Questions You May Hear
Most questions in a structured interview will relate to background, education, experience, job requirements and job knowledge. Examples of such questions are:
- Education: Do you have a degree from a university? What is your degree in?
- Education: Have you ever taken classes related to project management?
- Experience: How many years have you been using agile project methodology?
- Experience: How many years have you been programming in java?
- Job knowledge: How many words per minute can you type?
- Job knowledge: Describe the basic process for setting up a new workstation on a local area network.
- Hypothetical: What would you do if you were going to miss a very important deadline?
- Hypothetical: What would you do if you got instructions for a new project, but didn’t really understand what was expected of you?
- Scenario: Tell me about a time when you didn’t get along with a co-worker or a supervisor. What did you do?
- Scenario: Tell me about a time when you failed a customer. What happened?
- Job requirements: You may have to travel every couple of weeks for this job for up to 3 business days at a time. Is this an issue?
- Job requirements: There will be times when you have to lift up to 40 pounds. Are you able to meet this requirement?
Let’s look at an example of how an answer can be rated.
Suppose the question is one of the job requirements questions: “You may have to travel every couple of weeks for this job for up to 3 business days at a time. Is that an issue?”
The interviewers will have a rating scale of answers along with their rating. Let’s further suppose the answers and ratings are as follows:
- 10 points – “I love to travel and can go anytime.”
- 7 points – “I’m not a big fan of travelling – I prefer to stay home; however, I can travel when needed.”
- 4 points – “I have no problem travelling but there may be instances a couple times a year when I would not be able to go.”
- 1 point – “I am unable to travel every other week because of family obligations.”
- 0 points – “I hate travelling and refuse to go.”
In this case, the scale is set up so that the higher the points awarded, the better the candidate meets the requirements of the job. Also, in this case, even though one point was awarded for being unable to travel every other week, the minimum required in order to be considered for the position might be a four.
Structured interviews can include both questions that require short, concise answers, and open-ended questions. Let’s take the scenario question, “Tell me about a time when you failed a customer. What happened?” The interviewers can’t possibly predict all the possible answers to this question.
In this case, the interviewers are looking for keywords or an expression of an idea that relates to how they would like the question to be answered. They may give points if you tried to contact the customer or did your best to make it right. They may give additional points if you discussed it with your supervisor and didn’t try to hide it. They may also give points if you put together or recommended a process so that the situation would not ever happen again.
When you are called by HR, you will not necessarily be told that you will be attending a structured interview. As you’re in the interview, if you notice the interviewers going through a list of questions without veering off topic, you’ll know.
Understand that if you’re in a structured interview, you need to be thorough and provide enough details to fully answer the questions. Further, you need to show that you have the experience and background in relation to the competencies required for the position. This means that you need to know the job posting very well. Read all the keywords and position responsibilities in the job posting and prepare to show that you meet all of those qualifications.
A structured interview is very good for a qualified candidate because everyone is treated fairly and measured exactly the same. Applicants would have a very hard time trying to bluff their way into a position for which they are not qualified.
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List of the different interview types:
- The Video Interview
- The Informal Interview
- The Technical Interview
- The Phone Interview
- The Structured Interview
- The Scenario Interview
- The Assessment Event
- The Second Interview
- The Panel Interview
- The Lunch Interview
- The Group Interview
- The Behavioral Interview