Five Steps to Optimize Your Hiring through Structured Interviews

Written by Scaleocity

On March 4, 2022

HR leaders and organization executives alike are struggling with the challenge of filling critical openings on their teams as the global talent pool has evolved and competition has increased. The statistics shown below from the Society for Human Resource Management have not been updated to reflect the recent change in staffing trends, and at this point may even be optimistic. However, it goes without saying that if an organization is going to have a critical position open for an average of 36 days before filling it, they likely have interest in optimizing the process as much as possible.

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While many leaders and hiring managers may like the idea of unstructured interviews in order to put the candidate at ease in a more casual environment, structured interviews provide a much more precise approach to hiring. As shown above, in slower-moving organizations, it can take close to a month to screen applicants, interview applicants and make a final decision. Structured interviews provide firmer guidelines for assessing candidates, streamlining the decision process. Additionally, structured interviews help to protect your organization legally in compliance with regulations, as each candidate will have an equal and fair review process, with equitable information and less built-in bias.

Read on for steps to include in a structured interview process.

1. Write a detailed job description, with defined qualifications


While this may seem premature to include in an interview process, it is essential to plan early to achieve the best results. As you’re crafting your job description, consider the qualifications that are truly necessary to accomplish the objectives of the position. Be sure they are measurable and clear to prospective applicants. Not only will this provide you with a better, more-qualified applicant pool, it will assist you with Step 2.


2. Assess your candidates according to the qualifications in the job description


Using the qualifications included in your job description, assess your candidates. If it is helpful, rank-order or assign weights to the included qualifications. At a minimum, group your candidates according to whether they fail to meet the qualifications, meet the qualifications, or exceed the qualifications, and then narrow your pool from there. Sticking to the qualifications, rather than your “instinct”, will ensure you’re taking a more systematic approach to selecting the best candidates and eliminating potential bias. Many Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) can assist with this process, and help you track the candidates throughout the hiring process.


3. Write a series of behavioral interview questions


With your job description still handy, consider what you’ll need to assess in an interview, and  write a series of behavioral interview questions. Behavioral interviewing asks a candidate to provide actual experiences to answer questions, which allows you to more accurately assess their competency and ability to perform the position. An easy way to think about a behavioral interview question is one that begins with “Tell me about a time when…”. Rather than asking your candidate to provide you a hypothetical answer to a question, they will provide you with actual evidence of their ability to accomplish the objective at hand.

To write your questions, review your critical competencies in your job description, and consider how a candidate may have shown an example of that competency. A few examples are provided below.


Competency to Measure Behavioral Interview Question
  • Project Leadership or Managing Conflicting Priorities
Tell me about a time you led or were part of a complex project. What was your role, and how did you navigate challenges along the way?
  • Data Analysis or Problem Solving
Think about the last time you were faced with a difficult problem at work. What data did you use to solve the problem? How did you identify the data, and who did you work with to implement the solution?
  • Customer Relationship Building
Think about a time you had a customer with very complex needs. How did you work with the customer to understand their needs and ensure they were met?


As you can see, any competency can be measured using a behavioral interview question, which will allow you to better understand your candidate’s experience and thought process. As you listen to their answers, be sure they are providing you four key pieces of information in each response:


  • A description of the Situation
  • Detail surrounding the Task at hand within the situation
  • The Actionthat they took to move forward
  • The Result of their action (including, if applicable, what they may have learned or might do differently next time)


Because of the structured format of these answers, behavioral interview questions are sometimes referred to as STAR questions.


Once you have your questions written, create a scale to assign weight to each question, to assist you with your evaluation later.


4. Conduct your interviews


Continuing the “structured” format of these interviews, ensure that the interview itself is structured, beyond the interview questions. Each interview should have consistency in the interview panel, information provided to the candidate, and any additional communication or resources provided. If possible, try to schedule the interviews at the same time of the day to ensure there is no unintentional bias in scoring due to a comparatively stressed or tired interview panel.


5. Evaluate and recap your interviews


Allow your interviewers to independently assess the candidates using the assigned scale to avoid groupthink. Ensure this is done as quickly as possible following the interviews, while the experience is still fresh. Shortly thereafter, schedule a recap meeting to compare findings. Did the interview panel agree on the results? Use the data from the process to arrive at the best decision for your organization.


While this may seem like a lengthy process, it should be similar to an unstructured interview process, but with built-in tools and framework to assist with your decision process, which can be particularly helpful if you’re making your decision with a team. If you are using an ATS, you may have the ability to set up customizations within it to align very closely to your process, assisting you in your evaluations, candidate communications, and final decisions. Regardless of your method, following a structured interview process will assist you in finding the best candidate for your position as efficiently as possible.

Photo credit – Photo by Linda Eller-Shein from Pexels

About the Newsletter

One actionable tip on hiring employee #1 and beyond, the steps to build your Proactive HR system, and how to develop a high-performing team to help successfully grow your business.

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