Is ‘structured interviewing’ a key to hiring success?

For a number of reasons, hiring talent today is more challenging than ever.

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That’s a theme that surfaced from a survey by Criteria Corp., a talent screening and job assessments provider, which collaborated with Lighthouse Research & Advisory (LHRA) on the study, which surveyed 500 talent leaders and 500 job candidates.

Primarily, the survey found that today’s HR professionals are juggling pressure to source talent, deliver an enjoyable candidate experience, improve quality of hire, increase productivity and comply with a range of laws mitigating bias. And HR is often doing these tasks with smaller teams and tighter budgets, according to Josh Millet, Criteria founder and CEO.

To meet those challenges, the Criteria survey found that many employers are shifting toward so-called “skills-based” hiring, giving rise to the popularity of a “structured interview” approach. This enables HR and recruiting professionals to use a standard set of questions across interviews to evaluate candidates based on specific job-related skills, reducing much of the subjectivity present in traditional job interviewing processes, according to Millet.

Millet warns, however, that the structured interview process must be supported by a well-articulated strategy, including training for those conducting the interviews.

“The best intentions for skills-based hiring can rapidly be undone by laissez-faire interviewing from poorly trained hiring managers,” Millet says.

Strategizing for a structured interview approach

Recruiters, HR professionals and hiring managers can’t improve at structured interviews by osmosis, Millet emphasizes; they need the tools and training to be capable of crafting and asking job-relevant questions that don’t vary across interviews.

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“They also must use detailed rating scales for scoring responses so their interview decision-making is based on accurate data, not subjectivity,” he says.

See also: What is skills-based hiring?

However, Millet notes that a surprising 30% of talent leaders who took part in the research say their organizations offer no training on conducting interviews, despite only one in four talent leaders saying their hiring managers consistently pick high-quality candidates.

Josh Millet
Josh Millet

“Clearly, there’s room for improvement,” he says.

Equipping recruiting professionals with the tools to conduct structured interviews can also strengthen the candidate experience.

Contrary to common HR thinking, Millet says, candidates actually prefer structured interviews, as seven out of 10 candidates surveyed said they would rather have a set of structured, consistent interview questions than a more open approach. However, there is a “substantial disconnect” in how candidates and employers think about structured interviewing, as three-fourths of employers surveyed said structured interviews are disliked by either candidates or hiring managers.

“Structured interviews are polarizing,” Millet acknowledges. “Some organizations swear by them, others swear never to use them.”

Millet cautions that a more structured approach to interviewing is not necessarily a panacea for every hiring challenge. However, if employers are genuine in their desire to conduct hiring in a way that predicts job performance, reduces susceptibility to bias and delivers an experience that is fair and repeatable for all candidates, structured interviewing offers the obvious advantage.

“Structured interviews provide candidates with an opportunity to showcase their skills, experiences and personality traits in a structured manner; they don’t have to be rigid or impersonal,” he says, adding that candidates may appreciate a mix of questions that assess both technical skills and interpersonal abilities, rather than leaning too heavily on one or the other.

“As long as candidates have the chance to present their best selves and be evaluated accordingly, structured interviews are well-received,” Millet says.

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Tom Starner
Tom Starner is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia who has been covering the human resource space and all of its component processes for over two decades. He can be reached at [email protected].