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The Importance of Structured Interviews

Structured interviews lead to a more equitable hiring process and more qualified hires. Here's what they are, along with the details of why they should be a part of your hiring process.

It’s unfortunately all too common for hiring teams to interview candidates without any formal structure in place for determining how qualified they are compared to their peers. This casual approach to interviewing is harmful on many levels. For one, a lack of structure during the process invites bias because interviewers are forced to rely on "gut feelings" rather than facts. What’s more, not having a standardized method for assessing candidates creates challenges around identifying the best person for the job. That's where structured interviews play a critical role. We'll use this post to explore how this interviewing method leads to a more equitable hiring process—not to mention more qualified hires. 

What Exactly is a Structured Interview? 

A structured interview is a standardized method of vetting candidates. While every company’s approach will look slightly different, the process typically involves creating a list of questions that align with specific skills or qualities you want the ideal candidate to have. These questions can assess hard skills, soft skills, values-alignment, or culture-add; and you’ll ask the exact same questions to every candidate in the same order. Why so? Because when all qualified candidates answer the same set of questions, they begin on an even playing field—and you have an easier time comparing their answers to each other, to ultimately choose the most qualified candidate. 

Structured interviews also typically include a candidate scorecard that uses a standardized method of assessing candidates based on the questions you decide upon. However, structured interviews go beyond just developing questions and scoring systems. They also require additional, continuous investment, including: 

  • Testing questions to make sure they’re valid and effective
  • Training interviewers to follow the structured interview
  • Refreshing questions to ensure they stay up-to-date

Why Structured Interviews are Critical for Your Hiring Process

While structured interviews require a lot of work, they’re well worth the investment because of the benefits they introduce to your hiring process. Specifically, structured interviews: 

They Provide More Objectivity

Structured interviews introduce more objectivity into your hiring process—even when there are multiple interviewers involved. By creating a standardized list of questions and assessment methods, you can make equitable comparisons between candidates because you’ve left less room for common interviewer biases

If you’re not sure what we mean, consider what happens when an interviewing panel makes decisions based on "gut feelings." Let’s say you have two candidates who are interviewing for the same role. One of them shares the same hobbies, comes from a similar background, and even graduated from the same university as one of the interviewers. Without structured interviews in place, guess which candidate likely to get the job—regardless of how well the other candidate would perform in that role? Yup, you guessed right. This is called affinity bias, also frequently referred to as “similar-to-me” bias. And it’s one of many that can trickle into the interviewing process if you don’t have a structure in place to prevent it. 

Without operating on hard data and structured processes, your interviewing team will be vulnerable to these biases. This, in turn, will lead to the hiring of homogenous teams, which is detrimental to your company’s culture and performance. 

They Lead to Better Hires

Structured interviews demand that the interviewing team come to the conversation with crystal-clear expectations. With the proper preparation, everyone should be able to answer the following questions consistently: 

  • What are the essential qualities and skills we want in this new hire? 
  • What type of impact do we want this new hire to have in their role? 
  • What questions should we ask the candidate to best determine whether or not they will have the skills and impact we want them to have? 

Creating alignment through structured interviews leaves little room for personal preferences, biases, or favoritism. This, in turn, significantly increases your chances of hiring the right person for the role. Given that the average cost to hire a new worker is $4,000 and takes around 24 days (not to mention many hours the hiring team could be spending on other business-critical tasks), this is something you want to get right on the first try. 

Structured interviews also allow organizations to make improvements to their interview process over time. By looking at the performance reviews of their hires over time, teams can determine whether or not they chose the right candidate and identify gaps in their existing interviewing methods. For instance, they may discover that certain questions weren’t helpful indicators of success after all, or that they failed to consider an essential skill set for a role. Comparing expectations with reality in this way allows talent acquisition teams to continuously iterate on their interviewing process and make even better hires in the future.

They Create Diverse Teams

With structured interviews, you’re much more likely to build diverse teams. The process has guardrails in place to ensure you don’t just hire people who look, think, and act like you (remember the “similar-to-me” bias?). Instead, your focus will be on hiring the best person for the job—a decision you glean from their answers to your thoughtful and probing questions—which naturally expands your pool of candidates. 

When you bring together diverse backgrounds, ways of thinking, and experiences, you see better outcomes for your organization and your employees. And there’s an overwhelming amount of evidence to support this. For instance, one study found that diverse teams produce 19% more revenue. Diverse organizations also see better employee engagement, which increases retention by 19% and collaboration by 57%

Structured interviews are about more than just agreeing on a predetermined set of questions. They’re a tool that, when utilized correctly, can introduce more objectivity, diversity, and alignment to your hiring process. If you’re curious to learn how Gem can make your recruiting efforts more equitable, reach out. We’d love to hear from you.