What Are Structured Interviews and Why Should We Use Them?

Home » Blog » What Are Structured Interviews and Why Should We Use Them?

Hiring the right people through the right hiring practices is crucial for ensuring that employees are successful in their roles. Effective interviewing is the cornerstone of this process, yet the efficacy of interview techniques can vary significantly across organizations and even internally among different interviewers. This variance is based on multiple factors, including broad approaches to candidate interviews, as well as specific interview tools or styles. In this article, SIGMA’s experts examine two principal approaches in the hiring process, structured and unstructured interviews, and explain why structured interviews are more effective.

Structured vs. Unstructured Interviews

In the realm of talent acquisition, two principal approaches to candidate interviews stand out: structured and unstructured interviews. Structured interviews, with their systematic approach to assessing job candidates, are broadly acknowledged as the most effective strategy for conducting interviews.

Structured Interviews: A Standardized Approach to Candidate Evaluation

Structured interviews offer a clear and consistent method to evaluate candidates, wherein each applicant is asked the same set of carefully designed questions. This ensures a uniform assessment framework, which is crucial for the fair and equitable treatment of all candidates. By aligning questions with the job’s core competencies, structured interviews target specific skills, knowledge, and abilities essential for success in the role. Moreover, the use of a consistent and predefined rating system across all candidates guarantees uniformity during the evaluation process, which helps minimize the influence of personal bias. This structured approach not only supports legal compliance, but also significantly reduces the risk of discrimination claims, highlighting its objective and equitable process.

Unstructured Interviews: Flexibility vs. Fairness Concerns

In contrast, unstructured interviews offer a more flexible but less standardized approach. The questions in an unstructured interview may vary between candidates, potentially compromising the fairness and comparability of the evaluation process. Such interviews rely heavily on the interviewer’s subjective judgment, which can introduce personal biases, affecting the objectivity and reliability of hiring decisions. In unstructured interviews, an interviewer’s first impression of a candidate can disproportionately influence the assessment.[2]

While the unstructured format allows for a dynamic conversation, the lack of standardized questions and a consistent evaluation framework can lead to discrimination claims, increasing the organization’s vulnerability to legal challenges. Additionally, the reliance on subjective impressions over quantifiable skills and competencies increases the likelihood of hiring underqualified candidates.

Objective Criteria: The Key to Effective Hiring

Structured interviews help employers more effectively identify and select the most suitable candidates for the position. By basing decisions on objective criteria rather than subjective impressions, structured interviews minimize the impact of personal prejudices, ensuring a more reliable and equitable hiring process. In doing so, they not only foster a fair evaluation environment, but also enhance the overall quality of hiring decisions. These two significant benefits make structured interviews the preferred choice for organizations that want to optimize their recruitment strategy.

The Future is Blended

With advancements in data-driven decision making, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning, the future of interviewing may include a blend of structured and unstructured elements, using tools that both mitigate unconscious bias and promote diversity.

Through data analysis, organizations can identify potential biases in questions or evaluation criteria and adjust their processes accordingly, aiming for a more inclusive hiring practice. By incorporating the use of AI and machine learning, interviewers can become more adaptive, dynamically adjusting their questions based on a candidate’s previous responses.[3] Although this approach begins with a structured framework, it allows the interviewer to explore areas of interest or concern in depth, similar to an unstructured interview, but within a guided and measurable context.

Speak with a Consultant


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] Schmidt, F. L., & Hunter, J. E. (1998). The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology: Practical and theoretical implications of 85 years of research findings. Psychological Bulletin, 124(2), 262-274.

[2] Dipboye, R. L., & Gaugler, B. B. (1993). Cognitive and behavioral processes in the selection interview. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 54(2), 414-422.

[3] Naim, I., Tanveer, M. I., Gildea, D., & Hoque, E. (2018). Automated analysis and prediction of job interview performance. IEEE Transactions on Affective Computing, 11(1), 97-111.

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.