The Importance of a Structured Interview Process and How to Do it Well
Even though the idea of a structured interview process has been around for quite some time, you may not have heard of it, or may not have understood fully how to apply it appropriately to help increase the odds of making sound hiring decisions.
What Is a Structured Interview?
A structured interview is a method of assessing job candidates by both:
- Asking about examples of past experience related to the types of tasks and situations they will encounter in the job (this is also often referred to as behavioral interviewing)
- Presenting hypothetical situations and asking candidates to explain, in detail, how they would respond in these situations
Structured interviews are just that—structured. They’re designed to provide a framework to ensure that all of those involved in the interview and applicant assessment process are working from the same set of expectations and outcomes.
Benefits of Structured Interviews
According to OPM.gov, structured interviews offer benefits in employee selection because:
- They can offer insights into competencies that can be hard to assess using other forms of assessment. They offer interpersonal skills as an example—hard to assess in a quantitative way, but probing for examples of past behavior or asking candidates to detail how they would respond to specific situations can lend some relevant insights.
- All candidates are asked the same questions in the same order—that’s the “structured” part of the interview.
- All responses are evaluated using the same rating scale and standards; this helps to ensure reliability of evaluations across candidates.
If you’re not already using a structured interview process, it’s something you certainly should consider. Here’s how you can put the process in place.
Putting a Structured Interview Process in Place
Throughout your applicant search process, alignment should be top-of-mind. It starts with your job description which should outline the critical requirements for employees doing the required work for a specific job. Those requirements then serve as the basis for the job requisition and advertising related to finding potential candidates. The requirements also serve as the basis for the questions you will ask of applicants during the interview process.
The first step, then, is developing questions designed to elicit information that will help the evaluation team assess interviewees.
The questions you develop, as we indicated previously, should be focused either on asking applicants to describe a time when they have handled a situation similar to what they will encounter in the job, or to provide hypothetical example of how they believe they would handle such a situation.
You will have a standard list of questions that all members of the screening team should be provided. You may also want to prompt additional input through probing questions based on how the candidate responds:
- Could you tell me more about…?
- Could you give me more detail on…?
- How might your approach be different if…?
The next step is preparing an evaluation form for all screening team members to use.
Create an Evaluation Form and Rating Guidelines
Again, each applicant should be evaluated based on their perceived ability to meet the expectations of the job. Those expectations should be specifically outlines, based on the job description, and included in an evaluation form. Evaluators will rate each factor on a scale—perhaps from 1-5 with 5 being the high point on the scale. For a customer service representative, for example, that form might look like this:
It’s also helpful to create a guide, or what educators would refer to as a rubric, to help evaluators “grade” candidates consistently. For instance:
- 1—shows no evidence of possessing the skill or competency
- 2—shows some evidence of possessing the skill or competency
- 3—appears to have a baseline, or average level of ability to demonstrate the skill or competency
- 4—appears to demonstrate the skill or competency better than many other employees or applicants
- 5—appears to demonstrate the skill or competency better than most other employees or applicants
The more specific you can be about describing the competencies, the greater the likelihood of achieving inter-rater reliability.
Train the Evaluators
Don’t just assume that those you include in the hiring team will have the knowledge or ability to participate in a structured interview. Take the time to provide training and guidance to them. Ways you might do this could include:
- Shadowing experienced interviewers
- Practicing mock interviews
- Watching or listening to recorded interviews
- Using cheat sheet or reading prior evaluation forms
Taking these steps can help you move toward a screening process that is objective, that minimizes bias, that ensures alignment to job requirements and that boosts the odds of hiring an employee with the potential to excel in the position.