How to Conduct a Structured Interview

Building an inclusive work environment starts before your employees even come on board. Your company’s recruitment and hiring process is the foundation of workplace culture, and implementing inclusive practices in these stages is key to creating a culture where employees thrive.

The best way to beat unconscious bias in interviewing is to take an objective approach known as structured interviewing.

Why does inclusive interviewing matter?

You probably already know that inclusion matters in the workplace. There’s a wealth of research that shows that inclusive workplaces consistently outperform their competitors in all aspects of business. According to a study from Deloitte, organizations with inclusive cultures are two times as likely to meet or exceed financial targets, three times as likely to be high-performing, six times more likely to be innovating and agile, and a whopping eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes.

Imagine trying to build a home without first laying a foundation. There would be very little structural integrity, and the home would probably collapse after a short time. Similarly, you can’t build a diverse and welcoming workplace without implementing an inclusive hiring process. 

Unfortunately, it’s common for hiring managers and recruiters to be swayed by biases in interviews— oftentimes unknowingly. These unconscious biases that occur outside of your conscious awareness have a powerful impact on decision-making, leading you to make choices that may not be the best for your organization.

How to Create a Structured Interview

What is a structured interview?

Structured interviewing is a proven method that can help you overcome common interview biases and identify the best candidate for the role you’re filling. 

This interview method takes a standardized approach that is focused on assessing all candidates using predetermined format. This ensures that your hiring decisions are based on relevant facts, not “gut feelings” or implicit biases. This method also helps you avoid asking a question that could get you into trouble— legally or socially.

When you think structured, you probably think of a spreadsheet or similar tool— and that’s exactly what this entails. Structured interviewing allows you to track the exact questions you’re going to ask each candidate, what you’re looking for in an answer before you begin asking, and how each candidate responds. 

How to conduct a structured interview

Structured interviewing isn’t just what happens when a candidate is sitting in front of you. The strategy also takes careful planning before the candidate arrives and thoughtful consideration after the candidate leaves.

Phase 1: Preparing your structured interview

Structured interviewing involves careful planning, standardized questions, and systematic evaluation criteria to ensure consistency and eliminate bias. 

Here are some important steps you need to take before candidates come through your door.

1. Define the job requirements.

Before conducting interviews, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of the job role you’re hiring for. This involves a thorough analysis of the job description, including its responsibilities, required skills, qualifications, and any specific competencies that are essential for success. 

This clarity will guide the development of your interview questions and evaluation criteria.

2. Select or create standardized questions.

Develop a set of standardized interview questions that are directly tied to the job requirements. 

These questions should be designed to elicit specific information about the candidate’s qualifications, experiences, and competencies. Open-ended questions are typically more effective as they encourage candidates to provide detailed responses. 

3. Create a scoring system.

Establish a clear and objective scoring system to evaluate candidates’ responses. This system typically assigns numerical values or ratings to different aspects of a candidate’s answers, such as their knowledge, skills, and ability to communicate effectively. The scoring system helps you compare candidates’ performance consistently and make data-driven hiring decisions based on their scores.

4. Put together an outline of your plan.

A structured interview plan serves as your roadmap for the entire interview process. It outlines the interview format, including the order of questions, who will be present, and the estimated duration of the interview. 

5. Train other interviewers.

If multiple interviewers are involved in the process, it’s essential to provide training to ensure consistency in the interview approach. Training should cover the interview plan, the questions to be asked, and the scoring criteria. Interviewers should understand the importance of fairness, objectivity, and avoiding bias in their assessments.

If multiple interviewers will be present, establish roles and responsibilities within the interview panel. Determine who will ask which questions, who will take notes or lead the discussion, and how the panel will collaborate to assess candidates effectively.

How to Lead a Structured Interview

Phase 2: Leading a structured interview

Now it’s time for the interview! The following is a general breakdown of 

1. Start with an introduction.

Interviews can be an intimidating process! Make the candidate feel comfortable by easing into the interview. 

Ask if the candidate needs a drink or restroom break. Sit directly across from the candidate, introduce yourself, and explain your role at the company. Let them know that you might be taking notes so you can provide effective post-interview feedback. 

2. Stick to the questions you prepared.

Be natural, but stick to the questions you and the hiring team agreed to in advance for the role. 

3. Practice active listening.

Truly engage with the candidate (listen to their answers, make eye contact, nod, etc.) If their answer is unclear, feel free to ask one or two follow up questions but move on if they’re really struggling 

4. Take notes.

Take detailed notes during the interview, recording key responses and observations. These notes serve as a valuable reference when making hiring decisions and providing feedback to candidates. Documenting the interview ensures that you have a record of each candidate’s performance and can support your evaluation with specific examples.

5. Take questions from the candidate.

Lastly, ask candidate if they have any questions about the role, team, or company. Give honest answers that will give the candidate a strong but realistic sense of what to expect if they join the team 

Wrapping up the interview

Highlight the reasons you like working at your company Try to tie how their skills and interests would fit in well at your company, so they can envision themselves working here Thank the candidate for their time If it feels appropriate, give them your work email address to send follow up questions 

What to Do After a Structured Interview

Phase 3: Assessing the interviewed candidate

Once you’ve interviewed the candidate, it’s time to take your findings to your team, review scores, and rank your interviewees.

1. Debrief and share feedback with your team.

Hold a debriefing session with the interview panel or team members to discuss each candidate’s performance. Share your observations and insights, comparing them against the predetermined scoring criteria. This collaborative discussion helps ensure a well-rounded assessment. 

Remember to use actual examples from the interview. (This is where note taking comes in handy!) Don’t get distracted by personality or “fit.” Stay focused on how well the candidate performed based on the agreed-upon attributes of success.

2. Review and compare scores.

Review the scores or ratings assigned to each candidate based on the established scoring system. Compare these scores to identify top candidates who align most closely with the job requirements and organizational needs.

3. Rank and prioritize the candidates.

Create a ranked list of candidates based on their performance during the interview. This ranking helps you make informed decisions about which candidates should move forward in the hiring process.

Trust the process

Remember, your first structured interview may not be perfect. You may have to rework your questions a few times in order to get the information from candidates that is most relevant. If you stick to the method, however, you and your organization will soon start to reap the benefits of a more inclusive and diverse workplace.

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