How To Create an Effective Interview Structure

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated March 18, 2021 | Published January 13, 2021

Updated March 18, 2021

Published January 13, 2021

When you work in a leadership role or as a member of the HR department, you have a responsibility to interview and hire candidates that reflect your department's needs or company values. Interviewers and hiring managers use structured interviews to ensure productive and fair conversations with job candidates. By researching how to create and effectively use an interview structure, you can make sure that you select the most qualified candidate for a position.

In this article, we define interview structure, review why it's important to use structured interview formats and provide a list of steps to help you determine how to create an interview structure.

Related: How To Conduct a Job Interview

What is an interview structure?

An interview structure is an interview format where interviewers ask every candidate the same questions about a job position. These are pre-planned questions and usually include ones about a candidate's skills and professional experiences. Interviewers also create questions about specific job duties to gauge a candidate's comfort level or relative experiences. In a structured interview format, interviewers tend to refrain from asking a lot of follow-up questions or having off-topic discussions with candidates so they have time to ask each question on their list.

Related: Structured Interviews: What are They and Structured Interview Questions

Why is using an interview structure important?

Using an interview structure is important to interviewers for several reasons. Here are some examples of how using an interview structure can benefit you:

  • Gives each candidate a fair evaluation: By asking each candidate the same questions, you give them each the opportunity to provide their own unique response. Also, by asking the same questions to everyone, you ensure that each candidate gets the chance to answer questions about an important skill or responsibility of the job. In an unstructured interview format, you might not remember to ask a candidate an important question, making it easier to evaluate the candidates you did ask.

  • Ensures interviewers connect candidate skills to specific job duties: A key part of structured interviews is evaluating candidates in connection with the job position in question. Creating an interview structure forces you to review the job description and create questions about what skills or experiences a candidate can contribute to the job.

  • Helps employers make candidate decisions quickly: When interviewers use more unstructured interview formats, this prompts a series of additional interviews to learn everything they need to know about a candidate. In contrast, structured interviews encourage interviewers to stay focused on specific topics, potentially allowing them to learn more about a candidate during one interview than they would following an unstructured format. Therefore, structured interviews help employers interview and hire candidates at a quicker pace to fulfill position vacancies.

  • Encourages the interviewer to prepare topics in advance: Structured interviews inspire interviewers to start developing questions and a format well before the interview date. This ensures that they have a range of good questions to ask to evaluate job candidates properly. It also ensures interviewers stay within time limits if they need to interview multiple candidates on the same day.

Related: A Guide To Structured Interview Questions

How to create an interview structure

To lead an effective interview, you need to make sure you have a set structure to properly evaluate each candidate and provoke a productive discussion. Here is how to create an interview structure that aligns with an available job position:

1. Leave space for an introductory period

When creating a structured interview, you need to make sure you provide time at the beginning of the interview for introductions and initial conversations with a candidate. This helps the candidate become more comfortable before beginning the actual interview. Here are some good examples of introductory questions to ask:

  • How are you today?

  • Did you find us okay?

  • Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

  • What hobbies do you enjoy outside of your job field?

2. Review the job description

Read through the job description and highlight the key skills and qualifications an eligible candidate should have. Also, look over the job duties or daily tasks for the role. Using this information, make one list of skills and one list of job duties. Then, consult with internal employees already employed to give you more insights into specific skills and job requirements.

3. Determine how necessary skills translate to job duties

Referencing the information you learned about necessary skills and job duties for the role, cross-compare which skills candidates need to fulfill individual job duties. For example, a marketing manager determines that a marketing specialist candidate should have good interpersonal communication to create audience-tailored content and complete cross-department projects with the sales and customer service teams.

4. Create questions that reflect skills in specific job duties

Depending on the allotted time for each interview, create a list of at least 10 questions or more that you can ask each candidate. These questions should help you identify a candidate's ability to perform specific job duties while using interpersonal or technical skills. Here are examples of interview questions about job duties, grouped by skill:

Questions to evaluate computer software proficiency:

  • What software programs do you have experience using?

  • How did you use software programs in previous job roles?

  • Are you comfortable with the software programs you'd need to use in this role?

Questions to evaluate teamwork capabilities:

  • Can you tell me about a time you went above and beyond to help a teammate?

  • What role do you usually assume when working as part of a team?

  • Have you ever disagreed with a coworker on a project decision? How did you resolve it?

Questions to evaluate problem-solving skills:

  • When pulling data for one of our email lists, you notice that two have extremely low revenue. What are your initial thoughts and reactions?

  • Can you tell me about a time you couldn't solve a problem?

  • Have you ever had to make a decision quickly to solve a problem? What were the results?

Questions to evaluate dependability:

  • Can you provide me with an example that demonstrates your punctuality at work?

  • What would you do if a conflict came up on the same day we had an important client presentation?

  • You haven't finished an important task by the end of the workday, but the deadline is tomorrow. What do you do?

5. Make a grading scale to rate each candidate answer

Once you've developed the necessary questions to ask each candidate, you need to create a grading scale to rate each answer a candidate provides. Interviewers usually use a five or seven-point scale. This allows you to review which candidate's received high scores and also allows you to compare your scores with other interviewers if conducting a panel interview. Here is an example of a five-point grading scale that highlights an interviewers satisfaction with a candidate's answer and skill-level:

1 - Very unsatisfied

2 - Unsatisfied

3 - Neither unsatisfied nor unsatisfied

4 - Satisfied

5 - Very satisfied

6. Include a section at the end for candidates to ask questions

Getting to know the candidate and their qualifications are just as important as the candidate getting to know more about the company and what it has to offer them. Be sure to include a note at the bottom of your question sheet that reminds you to ask about what questions they have. This is also a great way to signal the conclusion of the interview.

Related: How To Hire People: Step-by-Step Guide With Tips

Tips for using an interview structure

Here are some helpful tips on how to use the interview structure while conversing with a candidate during a job interview:

  • Use active listening: Active listening includes small nods, verbal acknowledgments, smiling, eye contact and other positive body signals. This is important, especially during structured interviews, to make the candidate feel more comfortable and demonstrate your engagement in the conversation even when reading off pre-determined questions.

  • Take notes during each response: Note-taking conveys your interest and gives you a reference point when comparing candidate responses later on. You can include brief notes under each question on a piece of paper or use the candidate's resume to highlight certain qualifications.

  • Take detailed notes following each interview. Taking extensive notes or giving ratings to candidate responses during the interview could distract you and the interviewer, so be sure to use the time immediately following the interviewer to rank candidate responses and elaborate on brief notes. This is especially helpful if you're interviewing multiple candidates on the same day as it allows you to recall more information about each of them.

  • Include small comments or praises to aid authenticity: Although you're using a structured interview format, it's important to communicate your interest in their responses. This helps the candidate feel valued and also helps promote a more natural conversation.

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