In previous blog articles, we’ve defined what structured interviews are, as well as the biggest benefits of using structured interviews. Now, we’d like to walk through some of the most important steps for designing structured interviews. We’ll discuss every step that should go into your interview creation process, from the pre-interview planning stages, to how to conduct the interview itself, and the best practices for post-interview communications. Whether you’re conducting live in-person interviews or pre-recorded video interviews, these steps will enable you to maximize your success with structured interviewing.
Before the Interview
Prior to interviewing your first candidate, you should have a good idea of the competencies required for the job, as well as an effective way to measure those competencies. To accomplish this, interview questions should be derived from a thorough job analysis and evaluated via an anchored rating scale.
Step 1: Conduct a Job Analysis
A job analysis gives managers and recruiters a baseline for employee selection by cultivating an understanding of the tasks, behaviors, and outcomes that correspond with a specific job. The general purpose of a job analysis is to determine which competencies are most critical to the job being done successfully, as well as the essential KSAOs (Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, and Other Characteristics) for an employee in that job role.
There are a few basic steps that make up a job analysis. First, catalog the key actions and responsibilities of the job, including decisions and other behaviors. Second, for each item on the list, determine what conditions need to be met to accomplish the particular action. Finally, summarize the types of tasks, behaviors, and competencies that form the basis of the position.
Step 2: Define Requirements and Competencies
Now that you have a well-defined role, it’s time to identify the most important job requirements and competencies to be assessed in the interview. When designing structured interviews, it’s best to stick to a few key competencies, rather than try to measure everything all at one.
You should leverage the job analysis here – what stands out? Does the role require leadership skills? Interpersonal communication? A high tolerance for stressful environments? Think about the most important qualities your ideal candidate will possess.
Step 3: Develop Interview Questions
With the key competencies in mind, you can now begin to craft some structured interview questions. A good practice is to include a mix of situational and past-behavior questions to assess the desired competencies.
Past-behavior questions are meant to elicit specific, concrete examples of a time in which the candidate was required to demonstrate the competency being measured. For example: “Tell me about a time you had to balance multiple projects simultaneously. What did you do, and what was the result?”
Situational questions are hypothetical and encourage the candidate to think about how they would react to a given scenario. For example: “Imagine you are assigned an important new project that is going to conflict with some of your existing deadlines. How would you approach this situation?”
Step 4: Create a Rating Scale
The goal behind designing structured interviews is to get the most useful information out of the interaction with the least amount of bias. To achieve this in your interview, each answer should be evaluated on a pre-determined rating scale. A five-point rating scale (1=low and 5=high) is typically sufficient to yield accurate results. It is also highly beneficial to have each point on the rating scale “anchored” with a written definition, similar to a grading rubric. For pre-recorded video interviews, these definitions should be incorporated into the evaluation screen whenever possible. This promotes the validity and reliability of the rating, as evaluators are less likely to assign an arbitrary score when they are provided with a written example of the type of answer that corresponds to each point on the scale.
Step 5: Build Confidence with Interviewers
The preceding steps will have little value if interviewers are not comfortable with the process! At minimum, interviewers should have time to review the questions and rating scales prior to meeting with any candidates. In a perfect world, interviewers will receive training on best practices, as well as general tips for avoiding bias and rater error. Some organizations even opt to develop a comprehensive interview guide that includes the above items.
During the Interview
Once you've finished designing structured interviews for your organization, the next step is bring your hard work to life. Now that you've made it to the interview with an evaluation system and a plan, it’s time to stay on topic - and stick to the script!
Step 6: Give the Candidate an Overview
Before diving into the questions, it’s a good idea to introduce yourself and give a little background on the job role and the organization. You can also provide an overview of how the interview will be structured – e.g., let the candidate know that they will be answering a series of pre-determined questions and that they’ll have time to ask their own questions after the interview has concluded. This type of introduction also works well in a pre-recorded video interview, as it tends to put candidates at ease and improve overall candidate perceptions of the process.
Step 7: Stick to the List!
After your introduction, dive right into the structured questions. To maximize the benefits of a structured interview, every candidate should receive the same questions in the same order. You may even want a hard copy of the questions and the evaluation rubric on hand as a reference. Any deviation from the agreed-upon list of questions can skew the evaluations and increase the potential for unconscious bias.
Step 8: Evaluate Responses in Real Time
Take a few seconds to evaluate each response before moving on to the next question, and be sure to lean on your anchored rating scales when doing so. This strategy will help to counteract the dreaded “halo effect,” in which a positive impression from one response can unduly influence our assessment of other unrelated factors. Treat each question and answer as its own mini-interview – it’s also a good idea to take notes so you have something to reference later!
Step 9: Allow the Candidate to Ask Questions
Once every pre-planned interview question has been answered and scored, you can then give the candidate a chance to ask any questions they have about the position. This is a good practice to increase candidate perceptions of a fair and welcoming process, and since you have already evaluated the interview in real time, it will not impact your overall rating of the candidate. If you are using an asynchronous, pre-recorded video interviewing platform to conduct your interviews, you can allow the candidate to record their questions or provide written feedback with the understanding that you will follow up with them after you view the recording.
After the Interview
Maintaining structure post-interview can be difficult. Here are a few additional steps to bring the entire process home!
Step 10: Provide a Timeline
Either during the interview or shortly after, it’s a good idea to give candidates as much information as possible about your timeline for the job opening. Job seekers are often applying for multiple positions at the same time, so setting a clear expectation for your decision-making timeframe can help ensure that a desirable candidate does not abandon the process to move forward with a different offer. Good communication also speaks to candidate perceptions of your organization as a whole.
Step 11: Collect Feedback
When using multiple interviewers, make sure you collect feedback from each individual before they discuss the results with others. Similarly, in a video interview setting with multiple evaluators, you’ll want to hide other evaluators’ ratings. People have a natural tendency to be swayed by the opinions of their peers – with interviews, this can lead to less reliable evaluations. The value of having more than one evaluator is to gain additional perspectives on the interview; this value is lost when interviewers give up their individual evaluations in favor of a group decision.
Step 12: Keep Candidates in the Loop!
This is a continuation of Step 10: “Provide a Timeline.” An effort should be made to inform candidates of where they are in the process at all times. For one, you do not want good candidates to drop out because they are unsure of their status. If you are down to the last few candidates, and the timeline is stalled because you had to reschedule some interviews, or a key decision-maker is out of the office, let them know!
This also means informing candidates when you will no longer be moving forward with their application. People who interview with a company and never hear any feedback until after the position is filled are more likely to come away with a negative perception of the organization, which can then spread to their peer network and other contacts.
The Bottom Line
Designing structured interviews is an important part of reducing bias and improving the predictability of your hiring process. Structured interviews are a valuable tool for identifying candidates who are most likely to be successful on the job. By following the above steps, you can create a fair experience for candidates while also increasing the effectiveness of your selection process.