Tips to conduct a structured interview

It is most likely to be effective in obtaining specific information against a set of clearly defined criteria

Most jobs are filled through interviews. The interview has two main purposes – to find out if the candidate is suitable for the job, and to give the candidate information about the job and the organization. All candidates should be offered the same opportunities to give the best presentation of themselves, to demonstrate their suitability and ask questions of the interviewer.

A structured interview designed to discover all relevant information and assess the competencies of the applicant is an efficient method of focusing on the match between job and candidate. It also means that there is a consistent form to the interviews, particularly important if there are a number of candidates to be seen.
Unstructured interviews are very poor for recruiting the right person. The structured interview is most likely to be effective in obtaining specific information against a set of clearly defined criteria. However, not every manager is skilled at interviewing, and may not be able to judge efficiently the applicant’s skills and competencies. Ideally all interviewers should receive training, including equal opportunity aspects of recruitment and relevant legislation.

Interviews need not be formal. The length and style of the interview will relate to the job and the organization. Some vacancies may call for a formal interview panel, some for a less formal, one-to-one interview. The interviewers should consider the job and the candidates when deciding on the nature of the interview. All interviews, whether formal or informal, need careful preparation if they are to be successful. Each candidate should leave with a sense of being treated well and fairly and having had the opportunity to give their best.

Preparing the interview
The interviewer should prepare by
1). Reading the application form, job and person specifications to identify areas which need further exploration or clarification
2). Planning the questions. In some interviews it is appropriate to ask only one or two questions to encourage the candidate to talk at length on certain subjects. In others, it may be better to ask a series of short questions on several different areas. If there is more than one interviewer, different people can cover different topics, such as job knowledge, training, qualifications, etc. Do not ask for personal information or views irrelevant to the job. Do not ask potentially discriminatory questions such as “Are you planning to have children in the next five years?”

Conducting the interview

Conduct the interview in an environment that will allow candidates to give their best. Arrange for there to be no interruptions, divert telephone calls and welcome the candidate(s). if possible, let the candidate have a brief tour of the place. This is particularly useful in the case of people new to the job market – school-leavers, returning men and women – who may have little or no experience of what to expect in a workplace. It may also prove valuable in offering an additional opportunity to assess the candidate’s interaction with possible colleagues.

Consider whether any adjustments need to be made to accommodate an interviewee who has indicated a disability on the application form – it is easy to overlook simple adjustments that may be reasonable to make. It is common that both interviewer and candidate are nervous. Thorough preparation will help both. Be careful not to fill silences by talking too much – the aim of the interview is to draw information from the candidate to decide if they would suit the job. The candidate should do most of the talking.

The interview process

Introduce yourself (and other interviewers if present). This gives the candidate time to settle down.
Give some background information about the organization and the job, so that everyone focuses on the objective.

Structure the questions to cover all the relevant areas, and do not ask too many ‘closed’ questions. Open ended questions will encourage the candidate to speak freely – they often begin with ‘what’, ‘why’, ‘when’ or ‘how’.

Avoid leading questions.

Listen, and make brief notes as necessary on salient points.

Have a time frame and keep to it, allowing sufficient time for candidates to ask any questions they might have.
Make sure the candidate is familiar with the terms and conditions of the job, and they are acceptable. If not, and the candidate is the best one for the job, then some negotiation may be necessary – be careful to avoid inadvertent discrimination.

Tell the candidate what will happen next and when to expect to hear from the organization.


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