Interviewing

Structured Interviews: What are They and Structured Interview Questions

December 1, 2020

Conducting a structured interview is an excellent way to screen job applicants and find the best candidates. Asking set questions in a structured interview format helps you collect useful information from each interviewee that you can easily compare with other candidates' responses. In this article, we will provide a structured interview definition, offer examples of structured interview questions and teach you how to prepare for, conduct and rate structured interviews.

What is a structured interview?

A structured interview is a conversation where an interviewer asks an interviewee set questions in a standardized order. The interviewee collects the responses of the candidate and grades them against a scoring system. Asking the same questions in the same order helps interviewers collect similar types of information delivered in a uniform context from interviewees. A structured interview has several advantages over an unstructured interview, including:

  • The interview experience is more consistent and less prone to errors.
  • The interview experience is more effective as questions are formulated in advance to collect the most important and relevant information.
  • The interview experience is less likely to be biased as interviewers work from a script.
  • Interview responses are easier to compare.
  • Interviews and evaluations are more efficient as the interviewer asks set questions designed to collect useful information and evaluate the same question responses for each interviewee.

Structured interviews were originally developed for qualitative research but they are becoming more common during the hiring process.

As structured interviews are more efficient and effective they can benefit businesses experiencing rapid growth. They can also help businesses find the best candidates by reducing bias. As structured interviews become more common, human resources employees and other professionals involved in their employers' hiring processes should learn how to conduct and evaluate these interviews.

Read more: 125 Common Interview Questions and Answers (With Tips)

Example questions for structured interviews

Structured interviews in the workplace typically feature job-specific, behavioral and situational questions. They help businesses assess whether candidates have the technical skills, education, experience and personality traits to excel in the vacant position and workplace culture. Here, we discuss these three types in-depth and offer examples of each:

  • Job-specific structured interview example questions
  • Behavioral structured interview example questions
  • Situational structured interview example questions

Job-specific structured interview example questions

Job-specific questions ask candidates about the duties and responsibilities related to the open position. Including questions like these in a structured interview can help a hiring manager determine whether candidates have the skills and experience required to succeed in the role. You can customize the following examples of structured interview questions to suit your vacant positions:

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of accounting software you used in your last job?
  • Are you comfortable using a telephone with several lines and handling high call volume?
  • What do you like and dislike about working in advertising?
  • What is your favorite coffee to make and drink?
  • What is your process for remembering a large order?
  • Why are you interested in working at this restaurant?
  • How do you suggest new treatments and skin therapies to clients?
  • What is your preferred programming language and why?
  • What steps do you take when approaching a new project?
  • Can you work flexible hours?

Related: Top 10 Accounting Interview Questions

Behavioral structured interview example questions

Behavioral questions ask candidates to share their professional experiences. Including behavioral questions in a structured interview can help recruiters determine what the candidates have done well and struggled with in the past. Ask a mix of questions to gain information about each candidate's professional successes and challenges and the way they interacted with their clients, coworkers and superiors.

  • What are you most proud of in your career?
  • What was the most important goal you reached in your career? How did you achieve this?
  • Can you tell me about the best manager you worked for?
  • What has your biggest professional challenge been?
  • Can you describe a time you identified a problem in your department and how you resolved it?
  • Do you remember a time you made a mistake at work? How did you handle it?
  • Can you tell me about a time you did not agree with a coworker? How did you handle the situation?
  • What has been your most rewarding experience working as part of a team?
  • Can you tell me about a time it was crucial for you to make a good impression on a client? What did you do to achieve this?
  • Can you tell me about a time when your department or company was undergoing some changes? How did you adapt to those changes?

Situational structured interview example questions

Situational questions ask candidates to imagine what they would do if they faced different scenarios working for a company. Including situational questions can determine candidates' critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. You can ask a variety of questions that assess how candidates would interact with clients and employees, their teamwork skills and how they would react to workplace challenges.

  • How would you handle a customer unhappy with the service they received?
  • How would you pitch our new lipstick to customers?
  • How would you prioritize multiple assignments from different clients?
  • How would you manage an unmotivated employee?
  • What changes would you make if you ran our business?
  • How would you handle things if you had almost finished a project, but the scope changed?
  • How would you respond to criticism from your line manager?
  • How would you handle things if you could not complete a project on time because you were awaiting information from coworkers?
  • What steps would you take to make an important decision at work?
  • What would you do if you were assigned to work with a difficult client?

How to prepare a structured interview

Following a clear series of steps can help you prepare structured interviews. You can scale these steps for large and small hiring operations.

  1. Determine important hard and soft skills for the role.
  2. Write behavioral and situational questions for evaluating relevant hard and soft skills.
  3. Add job-specific interview questions.
  4. Create a candidate rating system.
  5. Train hiring managers on structured interview procedures.
  6. Distribute structured interview questions and a rating system.
  7. Schedule feedback meetings with hiring managers.

1. Determine important hard and soft skills for the role

Compiling a list of the hard and soft skills your ideal candidate should possess can help guide your interview questions. Consider the hard and soft skills required to work in the vacant position and fit in with the workplace culture. You may also like to consider abilities that could help your new hire advance within your organization.

For example, if you were hiring a chef, you should look for someone who has strong culinary skills and business aptitude. In addition to these hard skills, soft skills including creativity, organizational and a motivational management style are also beneficial.

Related: Top Questions to Expect During a Sales Interview

2. Write behavioral and situational questions for evaluating relevant hard and soft skills

Once you know the relevant hard and soft skills for your position, write questions that test whether your applicants have these qualities. Writing behavioral and situational questions will give you insight into your applicants' experiences and their problem-solving skills.

For example, you could ask applicants for your chef role what business software they are familiar with, to test their business aptitude. You could ask them what they would do to motivate an unmotivated sous chef to test their management style.

3. Add job-specific interview questions

Adding job-specific questions to your structured interview can help you determine whether your candidates have the experience and skills required for the specific vacant position.

For example, if the open position is in an Italian kitchen, you might ask candidates what their favorite Italian dish to cook is and why. Their answer will provide insight into their experience with Italian food.

4. Create a candidate rating system

A candidate rating system will help you score each applicant based on their answer to each question. Totaling the scores can help you find the best applicant for the position. A five-point scale, which awards candidates between one and five points based on the quality of each answer, is a simple system that works for many hiring managers. However, you could use any rating system that makes sense to you.

5. Train hiring managers on structured interview procedures

Training hiring managers on structured interviews helps you get consistent results for all hiring processes. Consider conducting a group training session, rather than one-on-one training to ensure all hiring managers get the same information. Encourage your hiring managers to ask questions if they are unclear about any part of the process.

6. Distribute structured interview questions and rating system

Before your interviews, distribute your questions and rating system to your hiring managers. Distributing these documents a few days before the interviews lets your managers familiarize themselves with the questions and ratings.

7. Schedule feedback meetings with hiring managers

Scheduling feedback meetings before beginning interviews ensures all parties can discuss the candidates in a timely fashion. Scheduling meetings for a day or two after the interviews when candidates are still fresh in the minds of managers, is ideal.

How to conduct a structured interview

Conducting a structured interview also requires a methodical approach to ensure consistency. Take the following steps when conducting a structured interview:

1. Greet your applicant verbally and with a handshake

A warm greeting helps put your candidate at ease and builds a rapport, making them more likely to offer genuine responses.

2. Ask each question on your list in order as written

Asking each question as it is written makes sure each interview is standardized.

3. Give your applicant time to answer

Giving your candidate time to answer each question ensures they can get the maximum points they are capable of. Continue to the next question once you are sure your applicant has finished speaking.

4. Score each answer immediately

Scoring each answer before moving on to the next question gives the most accurate result, as it allows you to grade based on your immediate reaction rather than trying to recall their response later.

5. Close the interview

Once your candidate has responded to your questions, say goodbye and offer another handshake. You may also tell the candidate when they should expect to hear from you regarding the next steps.

Rating applicants during a structured interview

A five-point scale is a simple system for rating applicants. Using this system, you award between one and five points to each response the applicant provides. Very low-quality responses receive a single point while very high-quality responses receive five points. Other responses receive points between these values, depending on their quality.

Distributing a rating key to your hiring managers can help them determine how to score responses. Your rating key should outline what you are looking for with each question or question type. For example, a high-quality response to a question related to attention to detail may show that the applicant takes time for planning and has processes for tracking tasks.

A low-quality response may show the applicant rarely or never uses tracking procedures. High-quality answers typically use some form of the STAR method as well.

After each interview, total your scores for an overall grade. These grades can be used to compare the overall performance of all your applicants.