The Ultimate Guide for Conducting Structured Job Interviews

Structured interviews are up to twice as effective at predicting job performance than unstructured ones! In this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know to develop and conduct an effective structured job interview. 


Structured job interviews: The best way to hire 

At first glance, conducting a job interview can seem pretty straightforward

You find candidates, sit down with them and ask them questions. Based on their answers, you choose a candidate who seems the best.

➡️ Download The Ultimate Candidate Interview & Employee Onboarding Checklist!

However, your first impression and gut feeling often aren’t enough to make an effective hiring decision. 

As recent CareerBuilder survey has shown, nearly three in four employers (74 percent) say they've hired the wrong person for a position.


Choosing the best candidate for a position and your company culture is hard. However, a structured interview process can help.

According to extensive research, only structured job interviews can accurately predict job performance

Through structuring interview procedures, you can significantly improve the reliability and validity of your hiring process.

 A structured interview process also reduces hiring biases.

In this blog post, you’ll learn exactly how to conduct a professional, effective job interview

We prepared a detailed step-by-step guide that will help you develop, prepare and conduct an effective structured job interview - from scratch.

Let’s get started! 🙂

Definition: What is a structured job interview?


Simply put, a structured job interview (sometimes also called a standardized, planned or patterned job interview) is a job interview in which all candidates are asked the same questions and compared on the same scale.

This means that the interviewer has to choose the interview questions and decide how to evaluate candidates’ answers in advance - before the interview with the first candidate begins!

A structured job interview has 2 key determinants: 

  1. All candidates are asked the same (predetermined) questions in the same order

  2. All candidates’ responses are evaluated using the same (predetermined) rating scale.

Difference between a structured and unstructured job interview

A structured interview is a standardized, consistent method for comparing job candidates, unlike unstructured or semi-structured interviews.

In structured job interviews, all the candidates are asked the same questions and their answers are rated on the same scale. Unstructured interviews, as their name suggests, lack this structure and consistency. 

Unstructured interviews are the ones in which interviewers come up with questions spontaneously. As a result, each candidate is asked different questions, which makes it much harder to compare candidates fairly. 

Structured job interview advantages and disadvantages

Like any other candidate assessment method, structured job interviews have certain advantages and disadvantages. 

Let's examine the key pros and cons of using structured job interviews:


✅ Advantages of structured job interviews

Here are the key advantages of structured job interviews. According to research, structured interviews are:

  1. Better at predicting job performance
    This has been well documented by academic research over the last 20+ years.
    Meta-analysis research shows that structured interviews are up to twice as effective at predicting job performance than unstructured ones!

  1. Fair
    In structured interviews, all candidates are asked the same questions. Thus, all candidates are treated more objectively and fairly. 
    Research also shows that structured interviews tend to be more fair to diverse groups of candidates. 

  2. Legally compliant
    Since structured interviews inherently treat all candidates in the same way, they reduce recruitment biases and risk of discrimination. 
    Structured interviews are also more easily defensible in court. They can provide a legal defense for hiring practices, if you ever need one.

    Jane Mason, HR Operations Manager for HR software and support providers citrusHR, highlights why structured interviews are so important during the recruitment process:

    "Even with the best intentions, there’s always a risk of inadvertently asking something in an interview that could be construed as discriminatory. Holding structured interviews, with a pre-set list of questions, is a helpful way of minimising this risk as you’re not thinking up questions on the spot and you can take care in selecting questions to remove the potential risk of discrimination. It is also essential to be fair to all candidates; asking everyone the same questions will help you do this. Documenting the questions you ask and the candidates’ answers will also help you to evidence the decisions you make during the recruitment process and, if necessary, disprove any accusations of discriminatory treatment."

  3. Save time
    Google did internal research and found that using pre-made, high-quality questions, guides, and rubrics saves their hiring managers on average 40 minutes per interview.

  1. Provide better candidate experience
    Google has also found that their rejected candidates who had a structured interview were 35% happier than those who did not have a structured interview.
    Candidates prefer structured interviews because they perceive them as more objective and fair.

⚠️ Disadvantages of structured job interviews

Here are the key disadvantages of structured job interviews. Structured interviews:

  1. Require preparation
    Structured interviews take time to develop and prepare. You have to write them, test them and train your interviewers to stick with them.

  1. Need to be refreshed
    From time to time you need to refresh your structured interviews with new questions. Otherwise, candidates can find out the typical questions you ask in your interviews and come prepared with all the right answers.

  1. Lack personalization
    Structured interviews have a standard set of predetermined questions, which means that they don’t allow you to completely personalize your approach to each candidate. 


Structured job interviews are a bit more complicated to develop. However, they have many advantages for both employers and candidates. 

Using structured interviews in your hiring process can help you choose the best candidate and provide a better candidate experience

How to develop and conduct a successful structured job interview?

Here is how you can develop and conduct an effective, structured job interview in 5 easy steps:


Step #1: Determine key competencies

Before you start developing a structured job interview, first you need to establish a clear understanding of what you’re looking for in candidates. What key competencies should your ideal candidate for the position you are looking to fill have?

In order to answer this question, turn to your job description. There you should be able to find a list of the most important job tasks and job requirements. Make a list of the key skills, abilities and behaviors that a person needs to successfully manage required tasks. 

You will end up with a list of key competencies, attributes and qualities that would make a person successful in the position you are looking to fill. These are the competencies you should look for and evaluate in your candidates during the interview process.     

Step #2: Choose interview questions

The next step in developing a structured interview is to make a list of the best interview questions to ask job candidates. 

There are 2 types of open-ended interview questions that are most commonly used in structured interviews: 


  1. Behavioral 
    Behavioral interview questions are the type of interview questions that require candidates to describe their previous experience and behavior relevant to the job.
    The premise is that specific past behavior is a good predictor of future job performance.
    Behavioral interview questions usually start with “Tell me about a time…” / ”Give me an example of a situation in which you…”

  1. Situational 
    Situational interview questions are the type of interview questions that present candidates with a hypothetical scenario. 
    Candidates are asked what they would do in a certain job-related situation. In other words, you ask candidates to predict their future behavior in a certain situation.
    Situational interview questions usually start with “What would you do in a situation…” / “Imagine a situation…”

How to choose the best situational and behavioral interview questions to ask in your job interview? Take the list of key competencies you created in the previous step and choose interview questions that best gauge each of these competencies. 

Step #3: Develop a rating scale

Now that you have your final list of interview questions you are going to ask in your structured job interview, you need to develop a standardized ranking system. How will you evaluate answers to each question posed to candidates?

This is where the rating scale comes in. The scale you use is up to you, but a five-point scale is most commonly used in structured interviews. A typical rating scale used in structured interviews will ask the interviewer to rate a candidate’s answer on a scale from 1 to 5 (1 = Poor, 3 =Average, 5 = Excellent). 

The important thing is that you develop an explanation for each of those ratings! Provide illustrative examples for a poor, average, and excellent answer to each of your questions. 

Here is an example of a job task, competency, interview question and appropriate rating scale found in The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Practical guide for conducting structured interviews:


Step #2: Conduct a structured job interview

If you want to make the most out of your structured job interview, you need to develop certain skills in order to become a great interviewer

Here I will list some key practical tips that will help you conduct a great structured job interview:


  1. Create a relaxed atmosphere
    Give your candidates a warm welcome! Upon their arrival, offer them a glass of water or a cup of tea or coffee. Have an ice breaker prepared to help candidates settle in and relax

  1. Give an overview of the process
    Give candidates a quick overview of your interviewing process so they know what to expect. Tell them how long an interview is going to last. Start by introducing yourself, your company and the position. 

  1. Stick to your questions list
    Make sure that you stick to your questions list and ask all candidates the same questions in the same order. Allow each of your candidates the same amount of time for answering your questions.

  1. Take notes
    Take notes during the interview and write down each of your candidates’ answers. This is a crucial step in your interviewing process so make sure that you’re focused. Taking detailed notes will help you decide the scores later and ensure each candidate is assessed fairly

  1. Provide closure 
    At the end of the interview, ask candidates if they have any questions for you. You should also explain the next steps and the expected timeframe in your hiring process. Finally,  thank the candidate for coming and if time permits, provide a quick tour of your office.

If you’re interested to learn more handy interviewing tips and tricks, check out our guide on How to Be a Good Interviewer [INFOGRAPHIC INCLUDED]!

Step #3: Evaluate candidates’ answers

The final step in conducting a successful structured interview is to evaluate and rate each of your candidates’ answers. If you followed the previous steps, this can be done quickly and easily.

Simply go through your notes and rate each answer according to your rating scale.

Once you’ve scored all your candidates’ responses, you will end up with a list of the best ranking candidates in general. 

And voila - now you can easily choose your best candidate in an objective and transparent way! 🙂

How can you structure your job interviews with TalentLyft?

If you’re looking to make your interviewing process more effective, TalentLyft can help! 💪

TalentLyft Track can make your interviewing process much simpler and more organized.

Here is how TalentLyft’s interview kits and scorecards can help you structure an interview process:

✅ For starters, with TalentLyft you can schedule every interview with just one click! Imagine sending automated emails with an interview appointment that automatically sync with your work calendar. Cool, huh? 

✅ Define your evaluation plan for each open position and set up an interview plan for each pipeline stage.

✅ Browse our interview questions database to choose the interview questions you need and create a list of winning job interview questions in a few minutes!

✅You can also use our existing scorecards to evaluate your candidates or create your own based on your specific job interview questions. 

✅ Automatically share scorecards with your team members and easily aggregate your team’s feedback!


➡️ Sounds interesting? 🤔

Schedule a free, personalized demo with our team know and we will help you set up a winning interview process! 🙂

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The Ultimate Guide for Conducting Job Interviews

The Ultimate Guide for Conducting Job Interviews

Use this guide to master your skills as a job interviewer, and make sure that you always hire the best job candidates!
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