Many hiring managers prefer to use conversational interviews to evaluate potential new employees. Why? Without a structured interview’s rigid script, you can be yourself and encourage applicants to let their guard down. Perhaps even get to know them before making a decision.
Fans of unstructured interviews point out that applicants tend to feel more at ease without the pressure of pre-set questions. Plus, candidates report forming higher overall impressions of companies using this technique.
How Unstructured Interviews Can Lead to Bad Decisions
Despite the fact that this style may feel more comfortable to interviewers and interviewees, unstructured interviews do a really bad job of predicting future performance. It’s great when you hit it off with a candidate based on a shared interest or experience. Not so great to realize later that you know a lot about his taste in music but next to nothing about his management philosophy.
Allowing interviewers to improvise questions also increases the risk of stereotypes or unconscious bias creeping into the talent-acquisition process. These biases arise from beliefs you sometimes don’t even know you have. So, while you think you might be learning more about the candidate you could be reinforcing your own biases.
Unconscious biases can also impact the ways managers evaluate responses to unstructured interview questions. We like to hire people who look and sound like us – which means we tend to be more generous or rigorous depending on whether a candidate shares our experience or not.
Switching to Structured Interviews Reduces Bias
In a structured interview, each applicant responds to the same questions in the same order. Answers are then evaluated against a set of pre-determined criteria for success.
Sound a bit robotic? Not necessarily.
Structured interviews can include behavioral and situational questions designed to assess ‘fit’ and allow an applicant’s personality to shine. The key is in the consistency.
If both Jill and Jack receive identical questions about a time they dealt with a difficult colleague, and the hiring manager assesses each response against a single rubric, you’ve successfully conducted a structured interview. Jill can talk about her time as a college basketball player while Jack discusses a conflict with his daughter’s piano teacher without the interview veering off-course.
Carefully chosen questions ensure that applicants have a chance to warm up before confronting tough questions, and managers leave each interaction confident that they’ve given each individual an opportunity to share as much relevant information as possible.
Implementing structured interviews not only ensures that you hire the candidate most likely to succeed in their role but that you reduce the role of unconscious bias in the process. For more tips on reducing bias in hiring, read more here.