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Structured Interview: How to Hire the Best Talent

One of the most used hiring tools is the interview. The best type of interview is a structured interview, where candidates are asked the same questions in the same order that are scored using a standard rating scale. Information collected through a structured interview can help you to make reliable, valid, and legally defensible hiring decisions.

The behavioural-based structured interview approach


A Behavioral-Based Structured Interview uses interview questions that ask a candidate to describe how they have acted or behaved in a specific situation in the past. We ask these types of questions because the best predictor of future success is past success. These questions are linked to competencies that are tied to the requirements for successful performance on the job. Each candidate is asked the same questions to ensure consistency and fairness of the interview.

When conducting a behavioural-based structured interview, we recommend the following four steps:

Step 1: Prepare for the structured interview

If you have never conducted a structured interview before then we would recommend some training that allows you to practice your interview skills. If it has been a while since you have last conducted this type of interview, then a shorter refresher may be useful. Before the interview, it is also a good idea to review the requirements for success for the job (e.g., experience, education, knowledge, competencies). This may be as simple as reviewing the job description and competency profile. You will want to review the structured interview guide to ensure you are familiar with the format and questions. Lastly, you will want to review the candidate’s resume and/or application.

Step 2: Conduct the structured interview

You will want to open the interview by introducing yourself and role within the organization. Next, you will need to explain the purpose and structure of the interview. It is especially important to explain how you would like them to structure their responses (e.g., describe the situation, the action that you took, and the result). This will make it easier to gather detailed information to rate their answers. Don’t forget to leave time at the end for the candidate to ask questions. Lastly, you can end the interviewing by clearly explaining the next steps in the hiring process.

Step 3: Rate the candidate

Often it best to try to rate the candidate’s response immediately following each question using the standard rating scale. Assign a rating for each question and provide a brief rationale for the rating. This is where having detailed notes will come in handy. If you are conducting the interview as a panel (2 or more people) then you will also need to reach a consensus in terms of your ratings at the end of each interview.

Step 4: Make a hiring decision

Compare the interview ratings to the requirements of the job. Did the candidate meet or exceed the requirements? If yes, depending on your hiring process, you may decide to hire the candidate or you may decide to move the candidate onto the next stage in your hiring process, such as another interview or a reference check. Ultimately, the information you collect through the interview is a powerful tool that can inform your hiring decisions.

What Should a Behavioural-Based Structured Interview Question Look Like?


Questions should be tied to competencies

A good behavioural-based structured interview question will relate directly to the competencies. The questions should not be leading and should allow the candidate to describe a situation when they recently (within the past 1-2 years) were able to demonstrate the competency in question.

Questions should include standard probes

You should include some standard probing questions or follow-up questions to ensure that you gather enough detail from the candidate to be able to score their answer. For example, to learn more about the specific actions that they took, you may ask probing questions such as, what was your role? or what were you thinking at the time? You may also want to ask them probing questions around what the result or outcome was as result of their actions. Again, these probes should be standard and not lead the candidate to assume that there is a right answer.

Include space to take notes

Detailed note-taking is an important part of the structured interview because it allows you to document the process and support your ratings. For behavioural-based interviews, you want to take notes on the situation/task, the action that the candidate took, and the result. These notes can be helpful for justifying the rating scores that you give.

Include a standard rating scale: Behaviourally Anchored Rating Scale (BARS)

This type of rating scale uses behaviours or behavioural indicators to describe what effective and ineffective performance looks like. This ensures that candidates are more accurately and fairly rated. Subject rating scales are prone to interviewer bias and should be avoided.

Below you will find an example behavioural-based structured interview question, probes, and rating scale for the competency, Continuous Learning, so that you can see these four points in action.

competency based interview


Competency based rating scale

Conducting a behaviourally-based structured interview is challenging work and requires proper training to do effectively. Fortunately, we offer structured interview training so that you can equip all your hiring managers with the skills and expertise to start conducting high-quality structured interviews today!