Structured Interviewing: How to do it effectively

7 minute read

Posted by Chris Platts on 8 June 2021

Everyone knows how stressful interviews can be, but although they commonly cause sweaty palms for interviewees, they can cause stress for recruiters and hiring managers too. Interviewing entails a lot of time and effort on both sides and often still results in failed hires. A CareerBuilder survey states that a staggering 74% of employers have admitted to hiring the wrong candidate for a position. So what can we do to minimise the number of new hires that fail? Well, one simple but effective approach is to conduct structured interviews.

Structured interviews are proven to be more effective and reliable than unstructured interviews and this results in fewer bad hires. In this article, we’ll explain how to conduct a structured interview and how you can implement them into your hiring process.

What is Structured Interviewing, and Why Does it Matter?

Structured interviewing (sometimes known as structured hiring or structured assessment) is a systematic approach to candidate assessment in which interview questions are predetermined and are used uniformly for every interviewee. After the candidate has been interviewed, their answers are rated on a specific scoring system based on predetermined desired responses. 

According to HR Toolkit, structured interviews are nearly twice as effective as the traditional unstructured interview, in which the interviewer makes up questions on the fly and allows the conversation to dictate what questions are asked. Though they are unable to predict future job performance as consistently as realistic job assessments, they are a key component to a fully functional recruitment strategy.

Here are a number of benefits to conducting structured interviewing:

  1. Higher Job Relevance – Structured interviews are typically more job-related than unstructured interviews. When interviewers ask questions spontaneously, they could potentially be asking questions that have nothing to do with the role requirements. This will elicit responses that don’t actually predict job performance, but rather confirm the interviewer’s existing biases. Structured interviews, however, should be pre-determined to only assess job-relevant characteristics identified in a prior job analysis. 
  2. Reduce hiring Bias – Because all interview questions are the same for every candidate, they are more objective and reduce the risk of hiring bias and discrimination. Promoting equal opportunities for all candidates is not only ethical, but it can help your business maximize its productivity and success. 
  3. Less stressful for the interviewer – For many hiring managers interviewing is a part-time skill. They’re not experts and many find it difficult without clear guidelines. A structured interview can help reduce stress for interviewers and allows them to spend less time preparing for an interview or deliberating how well someone did afterwards.
  4. Legal compliance – Not only does an unstructured interview risk hiring bias, but it can also lead to the interviewer unintentionally asking discriminatory and in some cases illegal questions. By using a structured approach, employers can ensure that they are remaining legally compliant with laws governing hiring practices. Structured interviews are also much more easily defendable in court.
  5. Save time – In the long run, structured interviews save time for interviewers. While the initial formulation of a structured interview script and scoring system can be time-consuming, it ends up saving time on interview preparation. It also increases the chances that interviews run on time.
  6. Increased hiring confidence – Structured interviews have been proven to be more effective in evaluating hard to measure capabilities such as soft skills than unstructured alternatives. If formulated correctly, a structured interview can give recruiters more confidence in assessing more abstract abilities such as problem-solving, communication and interpersonal skills.

How to Conduct a Structured Interview

For a structured interviewing process to work well, you need to formulate an interview script and an interview scorecard that evaluates candidates for each job role.

Here is a step-by-step guide to developing structured interview tools:

  1. Perform a job analysis. Before you get started on writing interview questions, you need to know exactly what KSAs (knowledge, skills and attributes) are necessary for the position and, subsequently, what to look for in candidates. Following the correct steps in job analysis is also important when writing job descriptions. That way, you are sure to attract the best applicants for the position. If you’re new to job analysis then you may want to use our Job Analysis tool to help.
  2. Determine role requirements. Based on your findings in your job analysis, write out a list of hard and soft skills necessary for an employee to be successful in the position. At ThriveMap we tend to group attributes into 3 main areas: “Capability” – can they do the job? “Commitment” – do they really want to do the job and “Environment” – what makes someone a good fit for the working environment. Make sure to define each of your key attributes so that every interviewer knows exactly what to look for in each candidate.
  3. Rank your requirements. In our experience in designing pre-hire assessments, attributes rarely have equal weightings in hiring decisions so you’ll need to rank attributes in order from most important to least important for each role – this will be important when it comes to designing your candidate scorecards as you’ll want to weigh them differently.
  4. Draft job-relevant interview questions. Work together with hiring managers and other key stakeholders to create a list of questions that relate specifically to the attributes listed in the job description/role specification. We recommend working with a diverse group of role experts, hiring managers and recruiters (we call this a Creation Team) on the development of these questions – specifically asking how these attributes show up in the context of the role.
  5. Develop positive and negative indicators. After you have written your questions, you’ll need to create a list of possible responses of indicators that someone has or hasn’t demonstrated the attribute you’re looking to assess. These will be fed into your candidate scorecard.
  6. Create your candidate scorecard. Using the positive and negative indicators for each question to create a variety of score options usually either 0,1,2,3 or 1,2,3,4,5. It’s important that each score has clear descriptors or indicators. Then, reverting back to your attribute weightings (See point 3. Rank your requirements), you’ll need to assign a multiple for each question. For example: let’s say resilience is twice as important as customer service then answers to the resilience questions should get double the points than answers to the customer service questions. Be sure to also test the criterion validity of your scale before moving on to the next step.
  7. Train your interviewers. Take the time to run through the interview process with your hiring managers so they know exactly what to ask, how to score responses, and how each question relates to the job position. Getting their buy-in is critical to a successful roll-out – if managers don’t see how the questions will help them make decisions they simply will revert back to unstructured hiring.
  8. Conduct your structured interviews. While conducting structured interviews, create an atmosphere where the candidate is comfortable and relaxed. Give an overview of the interview process before you begin and inform them afterwards about the timeframe of your hiring process. Be sure to stick to the script and take notes during the interview.
  9. Grade the candidate with your rating scale. Once you have finished grading all of your interviewees, add up their scores and use them in your hiring process. If you notice any problems with any of the questions, or indicators, you should propose changes to the team. Remember that roles change over time, so scheduling a regular review to ensure your interviews are still role relevant is a good idea.


Even with the increased sophistication of recruitment technology, interviews are likely to be part of most hiring processes. Instead of allowing biased, and inconsistent unstructured interviews, be sure to hire the best candidates for your jobs using more objective and effective structured interviewing.

Want help improving your recruitment strategy? We’re here to help. Contact us at ThriveMap or request a demo today!


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