How to Develop a Structured Interview

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“A lot of times (an) interview relies not so much on the interviewee, but on the interviewer.”

Ernie Johnson Jr., American sports commentator

Interviewing is an important strategic process — not just for human resources (HR) professionals, but for organizations overall. The ability to attract and retain strong candidates for critical roles is what distinguishes sustainable organizations from those that merely struggle to survive. It all begins with a carefully planned hiring process. In this article, SIGMA’s experts outline how to develop a structured interview. For a deeper understanding of structured interviews and their importance, read our blog What Are Structured Interviews and Why Should We Use Them?

The process of developing a structured interview involves three structured phases:

  1. Pre-interview
  2. During the interview
  3. Post-interview


Before administering a structured interview, organizations will need to conduct a few preliminary tasks. These include conducting a job analysis, crafting structured interview questions, developing rating scales, and selecting and training interviewers. These foundational tasks ensure a thorough and effective interview process.

Conducting job analysis

Developing questions for a structured interview requires an alignment with the specific demands of the job in question. Therefore, conducting a thorough job analysis is a critical step, offering a comprehensive insight into the role’s required knowledge and skills, its key tasks and responsibilities, and the characteristics of the work environment. A great way to gain insight into the demands of the job is to engage with those who possess firsthand experience in the position, such as former incumbents, current supervisors, and subject matter experts. This collaborative approach ensures that interview questions are not only relevant, but also reflective of the actual challenges and expectations of the role. To maintain the highest levels of accuracy and effectiveness, organizations should undertake a distinct job analysis for each role, tailoring the recruitment process to the unique aspects of every position.

Developing interview questions

In contrast to unstructured interviews, where interviewers might generate questions during the interview itself, structured interviews feature a detailed list of questions that have been developed prior to the interview. This ensures uniformity, as all candidates are asked identical questions, offering each candidate an equal chance to highlight their knowledge, experience, and competencies. It also eliminates the risk of introducing subjective questions for specific candidates. There are two main categories of structured interview questions:

  1. Behavioral questions.
  2. Situational questions.

Behavioral questions encourage candidates to recount specific experiences and how they responded to them. For example, a question might ask a candidate to describe a situation where they resolved a conflict at work, illustrating a behavioral inquiry. Situational questions, on the other hand, ask candidates to consider how they would address hypothetical scenarios in the workplace, such as managing a future conflict among team members.

Creating Rating Scales

Rating scales are an effective way to standardize responses and to ensure that all candidates are objectively assessed in a structured interview. The Behaviorally-Anchored Rating Scale (BARS) stands out as an innovative hybrid, merging the precision of traditional rating scales with a detailed look at specific examples of good and bad job performance. It is designed to provide a more objective and accurate measure of an employee’s performance or to assess potential job candidates in structured interviews. BARS provide behavioral examples of poor, average, and exceptional performance for each job-relevant question that is asked in the interview. These examples are anchors that help interviewers decide whether the behaviors discussed by the candidate are adequate or not. BARS are most commonly presented in a 5-point Likert scale with intermediate options that interviewers can select from. A sample 5-point Likert BARS scale is included below:

Examples of poor behavior
Examples of average behavior
Examples of exceptional behavior

Figure 1. Sample 5-point Likert BARS scale.

Unlike the sample above, a complete Likert BARS scale would include behavioral examples for each anchor. These examples are created by asking job experts to provide critical incidents that exemplify each level of performance. These examples are drawn from genuine workplace situations, offering a tangible demonstration of performance related to each interview question. Observable behaviors are then distilled from these incidents to enrich the anchors, providing a concrete basis for evaluation.

For every interview question, this approach equips interviewers with a nuanced rating scale, outlining clear benchmarks for poor, average, and exceptional performance. As a result, interviewers can assess candidate responses with precision, translating subjective impressions into quantifiable data. This methodology not only enhances the accuracy of candidate comparisons, but also ensures fairness, as all candidates are evaluated against the same well-defined standards.

Using multiple interviewers

It is strongly recommended that structured interviews are conducted using a panel of interviewers rather than relying on a single interviewer. This approach significantly minimizes bias by incorporating diverse viewpoints into the evaluation process, ensuring a more balanced and comprehensive assessment of each candidate.

Training interviewers

Structured interviews require comprehensive training for all interviewers on key aspects of the process: posing questions effectively, taking detailed notes during the interview, and accurately utilizing rating scales. It is crucial that interviewers develop a deep understanding of the structured interview methodology, ensuring all related materials are thoroughly reviewed and understood. Additionally, it is essential for interviewers to become well-acquainted with the job and its requirements, so that they can accurately assess candidates’ suitability. This preparation helps to ensure consistent and effective evaluation of all candidates.

During the Interview

During a structured interview it is important that interviewers communicate consistently with candidates and take detailed notes.

Communicating with candidates

A key requirement of structured interviews is ensuring that all candidates are asked the same interview questions in the same order. While this is a very systematic approach to interviewing, it does not mean that rapport can not be developed with the candidate. Before formally starting the interview, it is helpful to engage in some informal conversation with the candidate to make them feel more comfortable. It’s also beneficial to begin the interview with an overview of the structured interview process, as this helps to set clear expectations.

During the interview it is important to adhere to the pre-determined questions, however, follow-up questions can be used to gain deeper insights or clarify responses. It is critical that follow-up questions do not hint at preferred answers. Leading questions should be avoided so as to not compromise the integrity of the interview process.

At the end of the interview, candidates should be given the opportunity to ask questions.

Taking detailed notes

Structured interviews require careful documentation of candidate responses through comprehensive note-taking during the interview. Active listening plays a crucial role in precisely recording what each candidate articulates. Should any part of a response be ambiguous, reflective listening techniques can be used to seek clarification. A phrase like, “I heard you say this, is that accurate?” demonstrates reflective listening. It’s important to focus on recording information pertinent to the job vacancy, avoiding the documentation of details that are not relevant to the job, such as hobbies or personal history, to maintain the professionalism and relevance of the interview.


Following a structured interview, interviewers need to add to their recorded notes and score their responses. Based on this information, an objective hiring decision can be made.

Adding to recorded notes

Immediately following the interview, interviewers should supplement their notes with any relevant observations or details that weren’t captured in real-time. Given that these notes will be reviewed by various stakeholders, including hiring managers, maintaining accurate and comprehensive records is vital for facilitating informed and effective hiring decisions.

Scoring responses

Candidate responses should be scored after each interview. To avoid bias, interview questions should be evaluated individually. Using notes taken during the interview, match candidate responses to the behavioral anchors established prior to the interview. Try to find the best fit possible, but also use intermediate scores when stuck between two behavioral anchors. If an interview panel was utilized, members of the panel should meet to discuss responses and scoring. Remember that disagreement is acceptable, however, a consistent method of settling disagreements should be used — voting is an effective method. Finally, amalgamate individual scores to create a total score for each candidate. All collected information should then be distributed to the decision-makers in the hiring process, and they will examine candidate responses, scores, and total scores to decide who is the best candidate for the role.

Beyond the Interview

It is important to recognize that the value of structured interviews extends beyond the interviews themselves. The systematic approach of structured interviews empowers organizations to navigate the entire talent acquisition process fairly and objectively. In addition to streamlining the hiring process, following structured interview guidelines also helps to build a skilled team, capable of making equitable decisions that will propel the organization forward.

Transforming Talent Acquisition with Structured Interview Techniques

In the quest to find ideal candidates, structured interviews offer an effective and reliable approach to the recruitment process. This guide has covered essential steps for developing structured interviews, including creating specific questions aligned with job requirements, utilizing BARS for detailed assessments, arranging panel interviews, and providing thorough interviewer training. Each of these steps helps to refine the recruitment process, enabling a fair and consistent evaluation of candidates, and increasing the chances of finding the right fit for the role.

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Glen oversees SIGMA’s sales and marketing activities. As a skilled presenter and trainer, he has designed and delivered engaging workshops and webinars for senior managers and HR professionals. Glen knows our material inside and out, and can tell you first-hand stories of the work SIGMA has done with its clients. If you are interested in learning more about SIGMA’s succession planning services, schedule a call with him today.

[1] Gawande, A. (2009). The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, Profile Books.

About the Author

Helen Schroeder

Marketing Coordinator

Helen completed a dual degree with Ivey Business School’s HBA program and Western University’s Honours Specialization in Psychology. As a Marketing Coordinator and Consultant she creates and manages content for SIGMA’s webpages, blogs, and coaching resources. Helen also assists in new product development, go-to-market strategy, and client consultation.