A Practical Guide To Structured Interviews With Tips and Questions
Structured interviews help you to demonstrate that you're the right candidate for a job position. They can reveal your hard and soft skills to the interviewer in a fair and unbiased way. The questions are specifically designed to compare each candidate with the others, but you must learn how to do it well. In this article, we explain what a structured interview is, give some real example questions and tips for preparing and conducting an effective structured interview.
What is a structured interview?
A structured interview is a series of predefined standardised questions every candidate answer in the same order. The recruiters collect all candidates' answers. Then, they score these answers based on the same rating system to easily compare you to all the other candidates. Therefore, you must know how it works and what are the possible questions.
The main advantages of a structured interview are:
Efficiency and effectiveness: the interviewer can get the most important information to understand your hard and soft skills
Consistency: the recruiter reduces possible errors in evaluating your responses
Fairness: the structure minimises bias
Comparability: the employer can easily compare you to the other candidates since the questions are based on the same scheme
Related: [10 Valuable Soft Skills That You Need to Succeed in Your Career](https://uk.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/soft-skills)
Most common structured interview questions
During a structured interview, the recruiter will ask you questions related to the job profile, selection criteria, and your hard and soft skills. Hard skills are job-specific measurable and teachable abilities. Some examples are writing, reading, translation, drawing, data analytics, Java programming, accounting, cake art, French cooking techniques, etc.
Soft skills, instead, enable you to fit in at a workplace. Some common soft skills are initiative, resilience, diligence, creative problem-solving, ability to take criticism, team-working, positive attitude, written and verbal communication, adaptability, leadership, time management, ability to resolve conflict, self-confidence, critical thinking, honesty and integrity.
Here are some real examples of structured interview questions, grouped by type:
Job-specific questions for a structured interview
Structured interview job-specific questions help recruiters understand whether you have the right hard skills and experience for the role. The questions can be somewhat general or more specific. Some questions that reveal hard skills are:
What is your experience in a customer-focused role?
In your opinion, what's your best skill for lead generation?
Can you tell us about your experience in sales calls?
What are the pros and cons of the drawing software you used in your last job?
What photo editing software do you prefer and why?
How do you take and remember large orders?
How do you organise a beer tapping event?
Behavioural questions for a structured interview
Through behavioural questions, the recruiters use your work experience as a predictor of future behaviour. They ask you to describe a problem, how you solved it and what you learned. Answering behavioural questions can help you highlight your soft skills. Some examples are:
Can you tell me about a time when you had to give negative feedback to colleagues about their performance? What did you do?
Can you describe a situation when you had to give a verbal warning to an employee? How did you handle it?
Can you tell us about a time when some team members refused to do a task? How did you make them change their mind?
What was the most challenging social media campaign you designed? What did you do?
Have you ever experienced a situation with no apparent solution? How did you solve it?
Have you ever missed a deadline? How did you deal with that?
How do you check your work quality?
Have you ever felt disappointed in yourself? How did you cope with this problem?
How did you handle a negotiation with a supplier who was focused just on pricing?
Can you tell me about times you had to impress demanding clients? What did you do to please them?
What is your favourite thing about designing websites for auction houses?
Can you tell us about times when some customers complained about the food? How did you keep them loyal?
Situational questions for a structured interview
Recruiters use situational questions to understand your problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. The interviewers describe a specific challenging situation and ask you what you would do to overcome it. Here is a list of some situational questions examples your recruiters may ask you:
The company is facing a difficult problem in the supply chain. What is your first step?
You are the restaurant manager, but half of your team is sick and unavailable for the upcoming wedding dinner. What is your first step to guaranteeing the success of the event?
Imagine the company gives you a new project, but employees have little faith in you as this is your first assignment. How do you make them follow you?
Some of your team members are complaining about the tight deadline and refuse to collaborate. What do you do?
An important client gives you a big project, but you have just a few days to deliver it. What do you do to keep the client happy?
You are failing the delivery deadline for your market report because you are still waiting for your co-worker to give you the last benchmarking results. How do you proceed?
Imagine you have competing projects with the same deadline? How do you prioritise them?
You have almost completed the software development, and two days before the deadline, the client asks you to change the features? How do you handle this situation?
Generally, structured interviews use open questions to encourage the interviewees to talk. In case the answer is too detailed or is missing some critical information, probing questions can clarify things. Here are some open and closed follow-up question example:
What was your role in the new project?
What assistance did your supervisor give you on this?
You told me you have staff management experience. How do you manage poor employees performance?
How many full-stack developers did you manage?
Did you design the campaign alone?
Did you write the business plan alone?
How to create an effective structured interview
If you're in a position where you need to prepare a structured interview, you need to make sure it's properly planned and share it in advance with all interviewers. Here are the five steps to preparing an effective structured interview:
1. Define the hard and soft skills
Write a detailed job description identifying and listing all the job-related and behavioural abilities you want the candidate to possess. The interview questions must reflect them following a specific method.
2. Write the job-specific, behavioural and situational questions with the skills in mind
Thinking about hard skills and experience help you write job-specific questions. The STAR method, instead, is a common way to create behavioural and situational questions. It focuses on these four elements:
Situation (a challenging circumstance)
Task (the tasks you need to complete to overcome the challenging circumstance)
Action (what you did to reach the goal)
Result (the outcome of your action)
3. Create a rating system
The rating system goal is to evaluate the answers to each question and the quality of the interview. The common rating systems are the five-point scale and seven-point scale. Each point must correspond to a certain skill level and reflect what you are looking for in your candidates.
For example, in a per-competency rating, a typical scale can be as follows:
5 = Superior skills in this competency/could teach others
4 = Good skills in this competency/above-average ability
3 = Adequate skills/no additional training is needed
2 = Marginal skills/some training necessary
1 = Unqualified in this area
4. Train all the interviewers
Organise group training courses and distribute the questions and rating system in advance to the recruiters. They need to follow the same procedures and familiarise themselves with the questionnaire and rating system.
5. Collect feedback from all the interviewers as soon as possible
To better analyse your structured interview results, you need the most accurate information. For that, schedule a meeting with your interviewers for a day or two after the interview. They can provide you with the data and feedback about the candidates while it's still fresh in their minds.
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