Unstructured vs Structured Interviews: Which is Better? – Built-in | Region & Cash

The tight job market these days can make it particularly difficult to find the right candidates for open positions. That’s why it’s all the more important now to have well thought-out plans for the interview process, said James Durago, director of people operations at database platform company Molecula. Through planning, hiring managers can tailor interviews to the positions they are hiring for and find the best candidates for them.

“Don’t make it difficult for yourself,” Durago said. “It’s actually something you can control.”

One aspect of the interview process that companies can plan for is whether the interviews will be structured or unstructured. Structured interviews are characterized by a predetermined list of questions that interviewers ask all candidates, while unstructured interviews are more like free-flowing conversations and take different directions depending on the candidate.

Both unstructured and structured interviews have their pros and cons. Read on to find out which one works best for your hiring process.

Structured interviews vs. unstructured interviews

  • Structured interviews: Structured interviews are characterized by a predetermined list of questions that the interviewer asks all candidates. An overall structuring of the interview process provides a consistent experience for all candidates. Structured interviews also help interviewers avoid redundant questions.
  • Unstructured Interviews: Unstructured interviews are more like free-flowing conversations. Unstructured parts of interviews allow interviewers to understand candidates on a deeper level. Unstructured interviews are particularly useful for assessing behavioral parts of the interview process.

Structure is important to the interview process

Durago swears by the structured interview process.

As a candidate, he’s been on the receiving end of poorly conducted unstructured interviews and has seen firsthand how disorganized they can be. Interviews are already stressful for candidates, and completely unstructured interviews can make them even more stressful. Even if you give candidates an overview of what to expect, e.g. B. Who they speak to and what skills they are tested on can take away a lot of the anxiety caused by insecurity.

“For example, if I know that this interview is going to focus on interpersonal skills or teamwork, then at least I can put myself in that frame of mind and do my best,” Durago said.

Structured interviews are also better for interviewers, Durago said. It is common for companies to involve several different internal employees in the hiring process, and not all of them have the same level of experience and interview preparation. Establishing a well-defined interview structure helps improve the experience for candidates and makes the hiring process — which can be expensive — worthwhile for the company.

“You don’t want to just throw it to the wind and hope and pray it lasts. This is not a good use of your money or time.”

“Maybe you go through 10 candidates — that’s 10 hours of your own personal time, and then you have to ask other people to interview that person,” Durago said. “You don’t want to just throw it to the wind and hope and pray it lasts. This is not a good use of your money or time.”

With a completely unstructured interview, there is always a risk that an interviewer will try to fill 60 minutes with random questions, or that different interviewers will ask the same candidate the same questions. A predetermined structure can help each interviewer understand their role and the purpose of each interview, which in turn can help them better evaluate candidates and compile a clearer understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.

Interviewers often have non-interview tasks, making it difficult to switch context quickly. A structured process like a written checklist helps interviewers get their bearings at the start of each interview and ensure they don’t miss anything important.

A sloppy application process is not only a waste of time for the candidate, but can also be detrimental to the company in the long run. Job applicants are also consumers and may share their bad interview experiences with other consumers, which can negatively impact a company’s reputation.

“These candidates, whether we hire them or not, have a platform, and that platform is powerful,” Durago said. “If you don’t have one [established] brand that can carry weight, then exponentially complicate your task of growing your business.”

MORE ABOUT EMPLOYMENTThe ideal interview template for software engineers

Unstructured interviews have their own advantages

According to Ani Khachatoorian, VP of People at e-commerce health food company Thrive Market, it’s best to include both structured and unstructured components in the interview process. Unstructured parts of interviews allow companies to get to know candidates more deeply, while a structured overall process prevents interviews from getting out of hand.

“A framework ensures that you’re not attacking questions, but attacking categories of areas you want information on,” Khachatoorian said. “The unstructured part can sit within these categories.”

Structuring interviews with a set list of technical questions usually works well when hiring for technical positions, such as software developers or database administrators. But even these interviews shouldn’t stick to a strictly structured format. In particular, interviews for senior engineering positions are moving away from curated coding questions and focusing more on conversations about process and software design, said Sonali Moholkar, engineering manager at blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis.

“It’s not just about the results – it’s just as important how you break down a complicated project… Because we also want diversity of thought and diversity of experience.”

“Of course, when you have systems design and behavior rounds, they tend to be a bit more semi-structured,” Moholkar said. “Because there is no one way to design a system. Depending on [candidate’s] experience, the conversations can go in very different directions.”

Unstructured interviews can help interviewers Evaluation of a candidate’s approach problem solving and understanding how to make decisions. For Khachatoorian, this comes in handy when hiring for senior management positions. She asks them standard questions about how many employees they’ve managed and their department’s org chart, as well as open-ended questions about their experiences and career path.

“It’s not just about the results — it’s just as important how you break down a complicated project,” she said. “Because we also want diversity of thought and diversity of experience. And if we don’t ask about your experiences, just about that bottom line, we won’t have a team that could tackle really big, difficult problems in multiple ways.”

Derive interview questions from company values

But while it’s important for companies to have structured parts of the interview process with predetermined questions, how should hiring managers decide on their interview structure and the questions they choose?

Everything should flow from the company’s hiring philosophy, Durago said. The hiring process should reflect all of the values ​​that are important to the company by compiling questions that trace back to those values. Questions can then be optimized for different positions so that they still address the same values.

“If it’s a teamwork question, I can ask a software engineer, ‘Tell me about a time when you had a disagreement with one of your co-workers – how did you resolve it?'” Durago said. “In sales, you can say something like, ‘Tell me about a time when you had a particularly challenging relationship with one of your existing clients—how were you able to salvage that relationship and turn it into a fruitful one?’ ”

Hiring managers should also think about what types of employees are successful at the company, he said. All companies are different and have different business environments. Therefore, hiring managers should tailor interview questions to the types of candidates who would do well in their particular environment. For example, if employees are expected to work in close-knit teams, the interview should include questions about their teamwork experience and communication skills. If employees are expected to be self-directed, interviewers should ask about their time management strategies and methods of prioritizing tasks.

MORE ABOUT EMPLOYMENTThis is how you find diverse talent

Preparation goes a long way

Interviewers should be prepared regardless of whether they are conducting structured or unstructured interviews. For structured interviews, Durago recommends creating a list of interview questions and going through them with all interviewers before including candidates.

“It could be as simple as just creating a document and then using that document as a template for future roles,” he said.

Hiring managers can go through examples of what good and bad answers might look like and also discuss interview timing, e.g. B. How much time is spent on job interviews, interviewer questions and interviewee questions.

Preparation is also important for unstructured interviews, Khachatoorian said. All interviewers should be trained in basic interviewing skills such as: B. Understanding what is appropriate and relevant to ask during the interview process. If the hiring process consists of multiple interviews with different people, make sure they don’t interview candidates for superfluous skills.

“Get the entire interview team involved and make sure everyone knows which leads to focus on,” she said. “If there are areas that are very structured, what are they?”

It can also be helpful to communicate the general structure of the interview process to candidates in advance. Companies shouldn’t share specific questions, but telling candidates how many interviews there will be, who they’ll be speaking to, and what general types of questions to expect can help candidates prepare.

“I’m just letting them know that we use graphs about the company a lot, for example, so be aware that you have to go through a graph,” Moholkar said. “It’s a huge area to be aware of because the job doesn’t necessarily mean writing algorithms on a daily basis. So it only helps if the interviewers prepare the candidates a bit.”

Leave a Comment