Blog Article

How to Design Structured Interview Questions  

Woman conducting a structured interview with a candidate

Structured interviews have emerged as the single best predictor of job performance, earning them a powerful place in the hiring process. In another blog article, we discussed how to conduct structured interviews, and at the heart of it lies the art of developing job-relevant questions. When used effectively, these thoughtfully crafted questions form a standardized set that helps to assess a candidate's qualifications, skills, and competencies for a specific role.  

Why Structured Interview Questions Matter 

When it comes to implementing structured interviews, one of the most common objections from employers is the perception that they are too formal and rigid. However, the reality is quite different. Structured interviews provide a level playing field that many candidates actually prefer, offering transparency and fairness throughout the evaluation process. In fact, seven in ten candidates prefer to be asked a set of structured questions because it makes them feel that they’re being evaluated fairly.  

Contrary to popular belief, structured interviews do allow for flexibility within the defined framework. As an interviewer, you still have the opportunity to create a welcoming atmosphere by warmly welcoming candidates, explaining the interview process, and sharing insights about your company culture. You can also ask for more details after a candidate responds to a question and address any questions they may have at the end of the interview. 

Structured Interview Question Design in Practice 

In this blog, we’ll show you how to design structured interview questions to help you make informed hiring decisions and ensure that your interview process is fair, consistent, and aligned with the competencies required for the role. 

1. Conduct a job analysis  

To ensure effective questioning during interviews, it’s essential to base the questions on the role itself through a thorough job analysis. This analysis helps uncover the key aspects of successful performance in the role and the specific job-related behaviors and competencies that need to be measured. By aligning the questions with this in mind, you can effectively target your desired competencies and qualities. 

To conduct a comprehensive job analysis, it is crucial to gather information from multiple sources. Start by engaging with the hiring manager to gain insights into the specific requirements and expectations for the role. It is also beneficial to align the analysis with your company’s existing competency framework (Don’t have one? You can use Criteria’s existing framework). This provides a structured approach to identify the competencies and traits necessary for success in the role.  

By combining input from the hiring manager, the job description, and a relevant competency framework, you’ll gain a better understanding of what success looks like for the role. This enables you to formulate interview questions that accurately assess the candidate’s suitability for the job. 

2. Select the necessary competencies  

When selecting key competencies for a role, it’s important to identify the core competencies that are critical for achieving the role's goals. For example, one competency highlighted in Criteria’s competency framework is the ability to acquire and use verbal knowledge and process verbal and written information.  

To assess this competency, an interview question could be, "Provide an example of a task you have worked on where success relied on communicating information to others in a written format. What did you do to ensure your written communication was high-quality?" Another competency mentioned is writing and reporting, which can be evaluated by asking candidates about their behavioral tendency to produce informative and accurate written information and reports.  

3. Create the questions  

When building out your list of standardized questions, a good practice is to include a mix of situational and past-behavior questions. This will allow you to gain insights into your candidates' work history, as well as their ability to think through future scenarios.  

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?”  

Let’s look at some sample questions for a specific scenario. Suppose you are hiring for a customer-facing position and wanted to design a question around the identified behavior of handling difficult customer interactions. 

Situational: What would you do if an angry and dissatisfied customer confronted you and there was not an easy solution that would satisfy them? 

Past-behavior: Describe a difficult time you have had dealing with an employee or customer. Why was it difficult? How did you handle it? What was the outcome?  

Situational questions can be helpful for understanding how a candidate may react to a common workplace scenario even if they don’t have previous relevant experience, while past-behavior questions can help you understand how they have handled a situation in the past which indicates how they are likely to handle similar situations in the future.  

4. Keep the interview job-relevant  

Lastly - and most critically - questions should only cover material relevant to the job. This focus on job-relevant criteria is what makes structured interviews highly predictive and helps eliminate bias from unrelated factors.  

By aligning the interview questions with the competencies and job requirements, you can block out any noise that could potentially introduce bias into the hiring process. This approach ensures that the interview remains focused on assessing the candidate's suitability for the role, increasing the accuracy and predictive validity of the interview outcomes. 

Asking inappropriate or unrelated job interview questions provides no real insight into how a candidate will perform. Instead, these types of questions can create an uncomfortable or discriminatory environment, potentially deterring both qualified candidates and your selection process. They can also land you in hot water, with potential legal ramifications.  

To make informed hiring decisions, it is crucial to focus on questions that directly assess a candidate's abilities, knowledge, and suitability for the specific role, ensuring a fair and effective evaluation of their potential performance. 


Structured interviews offer a unique balance between consistency and adaptability, ensuring a standardized evaluation while still allowing personalized interactions. By embracing structured interviews, you can create a positive candidate experience and make more informed hiring decisions. And the development of job-related questions plays a crucial role in this process, as it enables you to effectively target the desired competencies and qualities in candidates. This approach ensures a fair and predictable assessment, leading to better hiring outcomes. 


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